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Tech Heads Go Gaga Waiting for Apple's IPhone

Tech-heads camped overnight outside Apple electronics stores in US cities aiming to be the first to own an iPhone, marketed as the coolest gadget on the planet, when they go on sale Friday.

The breakthrough device, which puts a phone, web browser and music player in the palm of the hand, goes on sale at 6 p.m. (2200 GMT) Friday.

Late Thursday some 60 fans armed with umbrellas and rain gear -- and a handful with pup tents and lawn chairs -- braved the elements outside Apple's 5th Avenue store in New York city.

First in line was Greg Packer, 43, who arrived Monday at 5 a.m. -- a whole 109 hours before iPhones would be sold. He became an instant celebrity, and reporters from around the world flocked to interview the paunchy line sitter.

The iPhone "is the combination of everything: you get your iPod, you get your iPhone and you get your internet in one," gushed Packer.

"I want to be the first to get it, the first one to see what it?s like," he said, vowing to buy "at least two" iPhones.

Third in line was David Clayman, 21, who arrived at 2 p.m. on Monday with the explicit goal of using the media attention to advertise the Taproot Foundation, a small NGO he works at.

"Here the press is approaching you to get a story," said Clayman. "The best thing that one can do, is try to redirect some attention to a non-profit that is doing good work in the city."

Clayman said he plans to auction off for charity one of the three iPhones he plans to buy.

Meanwhile at the Apple store in Soho, in southern Manhattan, members of the local charity organization "Keep A Child Alive" took turns holding the first spot in line. They arrived at 7 a.m. Tuesday set on buying an iPhone and selling it at auction to help buy medicine for needy children in Africa.

"We're hoping to be the first in the world," said Johnny Vulkan, who rotates his spot in line with o ther group volunteers. "We had the idea over the weekend. We knew the media would come to cover it."

Some fans have already sold their place in the line for 500 dollars to customers who will show up just before the store opens, Vulkan said.

Tech geeks also lined up outside Apple stores in places like San Francisco and Detroit.

The national iPhone mania is being tracked on gridskipper.com.

"Check out the full map of iPhone line imagery so far, and weep for our nation," reads the intro at iPhone section of the site.

"Of course, there's no reason you can't become part of the problem," it continues, urging visitors to send in their own video and pictures standing outside Apple stores.

Although it brings together several portable technologies -- mobile phone, camera, web browser, music and video player -- the pocket-sized gizmo has no mechanical keyboard and allows almost all controls to be handled by touching a finger on the unit's screen.

All of the iPhone's features come at a premium price: the gadget costs about five times more than a conventional cell phone. The four-gigabyte model will sell at 499 dollars, while the eight-gigabyte model will sell for 599 dollars.

Buyers also will be obligated to sign up for a two-year phone contract with AT&T.

The iPhone is to debut in Europe in late 2007 and in Asia in 2008.


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