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Apple Launches IPhone; New Yorkers Line Up to Buy Gadget

Apple launched its new iPhone in US retail stores Friday to brisk demand as some New Yorkers lined up to get their hands on the latest offering from the computer and gadget maker which packs a cell phone, music player and web browser.

Cupertino, California-based, Apple and its chief executive Steve Jobs hope the iPhone, a sleek lightweight device which fits in the hand, will prove as popular as its best-selling iPod music players.

Eager New Yorkers, some of whom camped out overnight, were lined up at one Apple store which offered the first iPhones for sale Friday morning to be among the first consumers to get hold of one of the pocket-sized gadgets.

Greg Packer, 43, was first in line at the Apple store on Fifth Avenue, one of New York's premium shopping avenues, after setting up camp on Monday at 5:00 am to ensure he would be among the first in the city to grab a new iPhone.

By the time the store opened at 9:00 am Friday morning, an additional 160-odd people had lined up behind Packer eager to make a new technological purchase.

Some people in line said they were hoping to sell on an iPhone for a profit, however.

Jobs said in January, when he unveiled the glitzy gadget, that the company hopes to claim a one percent share of the worldwide market of one billion mobile phones within a year.

The scene at a nearby ATT store was not so hectic as just six people sought to buy an iPhone during the late morning.

"We'll have enough," ATT spokeswoman Ellen Webner said at the store, indicating that she did not expect the store to sell out of iPhones.

"If there are no more, you leave your address and we'll have it shipped to you very fast," she said.

Around 230 million Americans already own a cell phone, but Apple is banking that a handheld portable stereo that is also enabled for calls and e-mail will convince them to abandon their current phones and buy an iPod.

The company recently marked the sale of its 100 millionth iPod personal music device, making it, in Apple's words, the "fastest-selling music player in history."

The iPhone's premium features, however, come at a premium price: The device costs about five times more than a conventional cell phone. The four-gigabyte model retails at 499 dollars, while the eight-gigabyte model sells for 599 dollars.

Potential buyers will also be obligated to sign up for a two-year phone contract with telecoms giant ATT.

Unlike regular cellphones that have dials and small screens, the iPhone features a larger touch-screen.

All commands, from dialing a telephone number to surfing the Internet, are done by tapping or sliding a finger on the screen.

The iPhone includes an iPod music and video player, a two-megapixel camera, and the Safari Internet browser.

Industry analysts say there is one great unknown about the launch which is whether iPhone owners, familiar with cellphone buttons, will like adapting to a touch-screen.

Analysts are divided on whether Apple's "smart" cell phone will be an industry-changing device or be too expensive to compete with other smart phones such as Research in Motion's BlackBerry, which has gained a loyal following among executives.

RIM has sold some nine million Blackberry devices.

Some analysts had projected that Apple would sell around 200,000 iPhones this weekend, which would mark a similar success to the retail launches of the Wii gaming console and Playstation 3.

The iPhone is being sold across the United States through 162 Apple stores and 1,800 ATT outlets.

Overseas consumers will have to wait a few more months to snap up one of the devices. The iPhone is due to debut in Europe in late 2007 and Asia in 2008.

The iPhone is thinner (11.6 millimeters, or 0.5 inches) than many of its competitors and weights 135 grams (4.8 ounces). It is 115-by-61 mm (4.5-by-2.4 inches).


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