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iPhone debut rings frenzy at stores

Excited gadget junkies get their hands on much coveted iPhones as the much awaited cell-phone from Apple finally went on sale on Friday.

business Updated: Jun 30, 2007 10:18 IST

Excited gadget junkies got their hands on much coveted iPhones as the new cell-phone from Apple finally went on sale.

"It was worth the wait," crowed Stephen Easley, kissing the phone and almost dropping it after emerging from an Apple store in Arlington, Virginia on Friday.

The 49-year-old investment banker had arrived on Thursday to be the first of hundreds in the line. They filed in to the store at exactly 6 pm, where they high-fived Apple employees before buying the phones.

Thousands of others had camped out at stores across the US - many of them for more than a day - to make sure of getting one of the most sophisticated hand-held computers ever developed, following six months of unprecedented expectation.

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs said on Friday that the company may have underestimated the extent of interest in the device and supplies could run out.

"We've taken our best guess but it wouldn't surprise me at all if it ain't enough," Jobs told the Wall Street Journal in an interview.

The phone was made available on Friday evening at thousands of stores of the AT&T network and at Apple's retail stores, where extra staff have been added and specially trained to deal with the onslaught of phone-freaks.

"I'm just taking vitamins, doing push-ups and trying to get adequate rest," said Katy Johnson, who works in an AT&T store in Capitola, California. "It's going to be a long day."

The device functions as a cell-phone, internet browser and iPod media player all encased in a slick black tablet that features an innovative multi-touch screen that Apple contends is far superior to the myriad of tiny buttons that have been used to operate so-called smart-phones in the past.

The phone, which costs 500 or 600 dollars depending on memory size, has so far won largely positive backing from reviewers, who say that despite a few shortcomings it is an impressive device.

Apple has set a target of selling 10 million units worldwide by 2008, gaining roughly a once percent share of the cell phone market. It's expected to go on sale in Europe later this year and in Asia in 2008.

The companies have not released figures on how many devices will be initially available.

Industry analysts expect the first iPhone to sell quickly with predictions Apple and AT&T could shift as many as three million handsets within the first weeks.

But it's unlikely to dominate the cellphone market in the same way that the iPod changed the world of music listening. The iPhone has many entrenched competitors who are already ramping up their products to match some of the iPhone's innovations.

That hasn't stopped Apple fans from gushing about the new tech gadget.

"I truly believe this is going to be a revolutionary product," said Joel Bradshaw, a 45-year-old consultant waiting outside Apple's Arlington, Virginia branch.