World's First

By Reuters - 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.


Four New Zealanders with deck chairs, sleeping bags and a small tent started queuing on a chilly Tuesday night outside the Auckland shop of Vodafone (VOD.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), which will launch the iPhone at 12:01 a.m. Friday (1201 GMT Thursday), the first in the world.

"I'm really just doing it to be able to say that I'm the first one in the world with one of these phones," 22-year-old student Jonny Gladwell told the New Zealand Herald.

Vodafone, New Zealand's top mobile carrier, is selling the phone for as little as NZ$199 ($150) in the country if consumers sign up for a two-year contract. Demand for pricing details was so heavy it crashed Vodafone's New Zealand website on Tuesday.

In Hong Kong, Hutchison Telecom International (2332.HK: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) was flooded by 60,000 online applications over the weekend from consumers who are hoping to grab one of just 500 phones on sale.

A number of the more desperate would-be users pleaded online they needed the iPhone to appease demanding wives or stressed it was their birthday, according to Hong Kong media.

The only woman in the Tokyo queue said she was securing places in line with her co-workers so that her company, Ubiquitous Entertainment Inc, can own iPhones and develop content for the device.

Despite the hype, analysts say Japan's 108 million mobile subscribers who are already frequent users of Web browsing and email on 3G networks might not be easily wowed by the iPhone.

Most of the people in the Tokyo queue told Reuters they plan to buy the device as their second cellphone.

"We can expect certain demand from core Apple fans and others, but there will be users who would hesitate about buying the iPhone because of the high monthly charges of some 8,000 yen," said Hironobu Sawake, a JPMorgan senior analyst in Tokyo.

"Even though there will be other features that are more attractive than ordinary phones, the fact that the iPhone does not offer some features that are available on most handsets could turn off some users too," he said.

(Additional reporting by Edwin Chan and Vinicy Chan in Hong Kong and Adrian Bathgate in Wellington; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

This article was originally published on 2008-07-09
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