Apple’s iPhone 4 makes world debut

Eager Apple fans rushed stores around the world Thursday to become the first owners of the latest-generation iPhone as it made its global debut in five countries.

The iPhone 4, which boasts video chat, high-definition video and sharper screen resolution, hit Britain, France, Germany and Japan before going on sale in the United States on Thursday morning.

At Apple’s flagship New York store on Fifth Avenue, hundreds of people had gathered.

“I’m not preregistered, I’m just walking in,” said 19-year-old Kunal Patel, who staked out a spot by the store at 9:00 pm on Wednesday (0100 GMT Thursday).

“I’m just walking in. I hope to buy one and sell the old one,” he told AFP.

Jesus Hernandez said he had registered for a phone online to make sure he would get one on the first day in stores.

“I am so eager to see the higher resolution, HD video, all of that,” he said.

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 brandname devices.

In Germany, there were long queues at Apple stores in Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Cologne and Hamburg and phone company Deutsche Telekom complaining it did not have enough handsets to meet demand.

In Berlin, the main outlet opened its doors at midnight (2200 GMT) while in other cities eager buyers had to wait until 7:00 am (0500 GMT).

“There were hundreds of people waiting (in Berlin). It took us until 4:30 am (0230 GMT) to clear the queue,” Deutsche Telekom spokesman Dirk Wende said.

“By lunchtime iPhones in the high tens of thousands have already been sold. In Munich we have sold out.”

Some 500 customers waited in line outside Apple’s flagship Regent Street store in London when it opened its doors at 7:00 am (0600 GMT) — 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 “absolutely incredible, amazing.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’d love to do it again,” he said.

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, it’s going to beat my expectations 110 percent,” 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.