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TECH SPACE
Apple's iPhone 4 makes world debut
by Staff Writers
San Francisco, Usa (AFP) June 24, 2010


Apple fans mobbed stores in Japan, Europe and the United States on Thursday to become the first owners of the latest-generation iPhone despite early complaints of antenna problems.

Hundreds of people queued up outside the Apple store in downtown San Francisco, where one person reportedly sold a premier place in line for 400 dollars and another swapped a spot for an iPhone 4.

An Apple employee pushed a cart heaped with Krispy Kreme doughnuts, bottled water and coffee for a throng that stretched several city blocks.

Some online complaints about iPhone 4 signal strength being hampered by a troublesome antenna design did not deter those waiting in the queue.

"It's all rumors until we get them," Robert Freedman of San Francisco said as he waited to get his hands on an iPhone 4 to replace a model he had "beat the heck out of."

"People are walking out with them and saying they are using it and everything is fine," Freedman said.

Features feeding the iPhone 4 frenzy include high-definition screens and "Face Time," which uses a forward facing camera to enable video chat.

"I've been an Apple head since I was a teenager," said Richard Polote, a 26-year-old San Francisco man who had been waiting outside the store since 2:30 in the morning.

"I feel pretty confident that whatever problems do arise, Apple will solve them in a timely fashion with upgrades or whatever."

Some new iPhone 4 owners were chagrined to discover that cupping their new smartphones so that their palms covered the lower left corners choked off the strength of the telecom service signals, according to videos posted online.

Apple designed silver edging on handsets to be part of the antenna system to improve signal strength.

The problem could be fixed by moving one's hand or encasing iPhones in rubber "bumper" frames that Apple sells for 30 dollars. Apple did not respond to an AFP inquiry for comment.

In Paris, Senegalese businessman Bassirou Gueye joined some 350 people queuing before the opening of Apple's flagship store in the city, located in the chic underground shopping mall of the Louvre museum.

"I made a special trip to Paris to buy the iPhone 4. I'm interested in its high-tech features," said Gueye, a self-avowed Apple aficionado who already owns half a dozen brand-name devices.

Some buyers in France, however, reported problems activating their new phones because of technical problems with operator France Telecom.

In Germany, there were long queues at Apple stores and phone company Deutsche Telekom complained it did not have enough handsets to meet demand.

"By lunchtime iPhones in the high tens of thousands have already been sold. In Munich we have sold out," said Deutsche Telekom spokesman Dirk Wende.

Some 500 customers waited in line outside Apple's flagship Regent Street store in London when it opened its doors at 7:00 am -- far more than those who queued for the launch of the iPad tablet last month.

First in the doors was Ben Paton, a 23-year-old student, who had queued for 16 hours. He described the feeling of holding the new phone in his hands as "absolutely incredible, amazing."

Japan's eastern time zone put it first in line to sell the phone and hundreds braved sweltering humidity outside Apple's store in the Ginza district to get their hands on the smartphone.

Ryoichi Hoshino was the first to emerge triumphantly clutching the new handset after Apple staff gave a loud countdown ahead of the release.

"I love this design," he enthused. "I'm going to use it to watch movies and use Twitter," he said, referring to the micro-blogging site.

The original iPhone launched in 2007 brought smartphones to the masses. Apple has sold more than 50 million of the handsets in the past three years.

But its latest version enters a crowded market full of rivals boasting bigger screens and running on Google's open-source Android operating system, which is more accessible to developers than Apple's tightly guarded system.

The launch of the latest iPhone has been beset by various problems culminating in the white model being delayed to the second half of July because of unspecified manufacturing difficulties.

Carriers in the United States and France were also forced to suspend early orders because of heavy demand. Apple said it had received a single-day record 600,000 orders for the new smartphone.

The new iPhone will be available in 18 other countries in July and 24 more in August.

burs-gc/cl

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