Fans Line-up in Asia 2 Days Before New iPhone Launch

By Reuters -  |  Posted 2008-07-09 Print this article Print

The July 11 launch will be the first chance for Asian consumers to own an iPhone, and related websites have been swamped with inquiries and early orders.

TOKYO/WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Seeking to be one of the world's first to grab the new-generation iPhone, fanatical Apple (AAPL.O: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) fans around Asia are queuing up two days before its launch, undiscouraged by rain or freezing temperatures.

The July 11 launch will be the first chance for Asian consumers to own an iPhone, and related websites have been swamped with inquiries and early orders.

In Japan, one of the world's most advanced mobile markets, about 20 people were lined up outside Softbank Corp's (9984.T: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) flagship mobile store in Tokyo on Wednesday morning, with a sign at the head of the queue reading "We Love iPhone".

"The big appeal (of the iPhone) is that this is an Apple product," said Hiroyuki Sano, a 24-year-old graduate student who early on Tuesday arrived in rainy Tokyo from Nagoya, 225 miles west of the capital, to be first in line.

He will turn 25 on Thursday while waiting to get his hands on the high-end version of the iPhone with 16 gigabytes of memory. Apple also offers an entry-level version with an 8 gigabyte memory.

"I've told my professor I was going to go buy an iPhone, and he gave me permission," said Sano, wearing a T-shirt with an Apple logo. "He is an Apple-lover too, and he sent me off cheerfully."

The long-anticipated 3G iPhone, which has faster Web links than its predecessor and supports third-party applications such as games and email, will debut in Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand on Friday as part of the global launch in 22 countries.

The original iPhone was only available in the United States and Europe, and the next-generation model is expected to go on sale in 70 countries by the end of the year.

Shares of Apple gained 2.5 percent on Tuesday ahead of the launch. Softbank shares rose 1.9 percent on Wednesday.

Softbank, Japan's third-biggest mobile carrier, will start selling iPhones at its flagship store at 7 a.m. on Friday (2200 GMT Thursday) and expand sales nationwide at noon.

Targeting a far bigger market with its new iPhone, Apple slashed the handset price and is allowing carriers to subsidize the phone this time around, making it easier for users to bring home the device.

Research firm Enterbrain said 6.7 percent of 1,200 people it surveyed in Japan wanted to buy an iPhone immediately.


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