Apple’s iPhone stirs frenzy in United States

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

Thousands of fans line up for latest gadget


Surrounded by cheering Apple Store employees, one of the first buyers of the Apple’s iPhone leaves the packed store on Fifth Avenue in New York on Friday. JEFF ZELEVANSKY/ REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO/ NEW YORK — Thousands of U. S. gadget fans made an orderly pilgrimage to stores on Friday to be among the first buyers of Apple’s iPhone, a music- and video- playing device expected to reshape the mobile industry.

Crowds outside some Apple outlets cheered as the doors opened at 6 p. m. local time, while smaller groups waited outside AT& T stores. AT& T Inc. is the phone’s exclusive wireless carrier for the first two years.

“ It’s the best day of my life. It’s Christmas, birthday, New Year’s all rolled into one,” said Kristian Gundersen, a 23- yearold graphic designer from Norway who flew to New York just to buy an iPhone.

Gundersen was one of the first to walk out of Apple’s Fifth Avenue store with a device. Within two hours of opening, several hundred people had made purchases at the outlet.

The iPhone melds a phone, web browser and media player, and costs $ 500 to $ 600 ( all figures US). It is seen as a test of wider U. S. demand for advanced phones, which have already caught on in parts of Asia and elsewhere.

It has already whipped technology lovers into the sort of frenzy usually associated with a new video- game console.

Judging by its f irst customers, the iPhone drew an older generation of gadget geeks rather than young fans who may have been put off by the price, including a required service contract that starts at about $ 1,400 for two years.

“ The phones out there are just garbage. I’ve gone through several phones, even the expensive ones. This is different,” said Albert Livingstone, in Chicago. “ It’s the newest toy. I’m 62. I don’t have much time left to buy toys.”

Some aimed to make a profit on the iPhone by selling it or getting paid to wait.

“ I’m definitely a mercenary,” said Kyle Laurentine, outside a San Francisco Apple outlet, where the doors had yet to open and about 200 people were waiting. “ I am 17 years old and I don’t need an iPhone. I have an iPod and a cell phone.”

The phones quickly popped up for sale online at inflated prices. At online classifieds site Craigslist, most listings ranged between $ 750 and $ 1,500, with one optimist asking for $ 10,000. One iPhone offered on auction website eBay had 23 bids and a price of $ 1,325.

Apple’s online store posted a message reading, “ We’ll be back soon. We a re busy updating the store for you and will be back by 6 p. m. PDT.”

Apple is expected to sell the iPhone in Europe later this year in the run up to the holiday season. It has not disclosed the price or carrier, though speculation has mounted it may reach a deal with Britain’s Vodafone Group Plc.

Sales in Asia are expected to begin in 2008.

However, the iPhone’s effect has rippled through the wireless industry before even a single unit has been sold.

Rival Palm Inc. has said the iPhone could hurt demand for its Treo smartphone, at least in the short term.

“ It’s likely that as people try [ the iPhone] out. There may be some stall in our sellthrough,” Palm chief executive Ed Colligan told Reuters on Thursday.


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