Buyers in Eight Countries Line Up for New iPhone


iphoneApple fans in the United States and seven other countries are lining up this morning to be among the first to get their hands on the new iPhone 3GS, billed as the fastest, most feature-laden iPhone yet. The popular phone goes on sale today in six European countries – France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom – followed later by its release in Canada and the United States. About 250 people stood outside the Apple Store on New York’s 5th Avenue – some of them since early yesterday – waiting for the doors to open. Inside the store, employees were seen being briefed about the new phone before selling it to customers.”I got on line at 2 a.m.,” said Luis Palcios, 22, of New York, who was one of the first to emerge from the store with a new iPhone. “It was really early, but it was worth it for the video.”

Joining the would-be buyers were lots of reporters looking to see if the new device, unveiled at the Apple developers’ conference in San Francisco, California, earlier this month, would attract the hubbub of previous iPhone versions.

Apple’s 211 retail stores in the United States were expected to open at 7 a.m. in their time zones to accommodate AT&T customers who pre-ordered the new phone. Other customers were to be admitted to the stores at 9 a.m. to battle over the remaining inventory.

AT&T stores, Best Buy and Wal-Mart also are selling the iPhone 3GS, although preorders through AT&T and Best Buy are sold out. Apple will have a number of the new phones available Friday at each of its stores, said Apple spokesman Steve Dowling.

The new iPhone contains a processor that Apple claims is more than twice as fast as its 3G model, plus a video camera, voice control, longer battery life and a built-in compass. It comes with an upgraded operating system – which Apple released Wednesday for download onto older iPhones – with 100 new functions, including the ability to copy and paste text.

Advance buzz about the iPhone 3GS has been largely positive. In a review, CNET gave it a four-star, or excellent, rating.

“We’re thrilled by the customer response to the new iPhone,” Dowling said.

An iPhone 3GS with 16 gigabytes of storage sells for $199 with a new two-year AT&T contract; one with 32G capacity will cost $299. Since June 8 Apple has been selling the iPhone 3G model for $99 — half its original price.

Friday’s launch comes less than a year after the July 11, 2008, release of the iPhone 3G, which prompted lines of eager buyers at stores around the world. That launch was marred when customers encountered problems activating their new phones because the demand overwhelmed Apple’s iTunes servers.

This year, Apple is again requiring customers to activate their new iPhones before leaving the store, Dowling said.

Apple has sold more than 17 million iPhones since the iconic device hit the market in 2007. Apple’s phones are the second-best-selling consumer smartphones in the United States, according to the NPD Group, an online market-research firm.

The launch comes less than a week after rival Palm unveiled its much ballyhooed Pre smartphone on the Sprint network and Research In Motion announced it will debut the new BlackBerry Tour on Sprint and Verizon in the coming months.

{CNN Ticker/ Newscenter}