Apple launches new iPhone 3G S to lines around the world

Apple launched the iPhone 3G S in countries across the world today, and customers lined up in cities from New York to Tokyo to get their hands on the new model. However, the launch of the 3G S appeared to spur a little less fanfare in the U.S. than the iPhone 3G, which launched last June, and the original iPhone, which debuted in the summer of 2007. Many lines were shorter because many customers were able to pre-order their device and have it shipped to them. In addition, many AT&T and Apple stores adopted a new strategy by opening early to accommodate customers with pre-orders, thus alleviating some of the lines.

At an Apple store in the Cherry Creek Mall in Denver, a line started forming at 6 a.m. and by 7:15 a.m. about 30 people were waiting for a iPhone 3G S. However, the line was significantly shorter than it was last year, when people arrived at the mall at 4 a.m. to purchase their iPhone 3G. Likewise, at a nearby AT&T store, a line of about a dozen people waited for a iPhone 3G S.

At AT&T's flagship store in downtown Washington, D.C., a small lined formed in the early hours of the morning for the new iPhone. There were about a dozen people waiting when the doors opened at 7 a.m. Kendrick Brown, 30, of Washington, D.C., said he had been waiting in his car across the street from the store since 1:30 a.m. When a line started forming around 5 a.m., he decided to get in line and was fourth in line.

"As I saw people starting to line up, I was like, OK, being fourth is not that bad," he said. "I'll still get a phone." Brown said he switched from Verizon Wireless to AT&T in March to buy an 8 GB version of the iPhone 3G, not knowing there would be a new iPhone coming out. He said he sold his iPhone 3G and will pay $399 for the 16 GB iPhone 3G S. Brown said he was drawn to the iPhone because of the apps. "It's almost like reinventing your phone constantly," he said.

Missy Lane, 30, also from Washington, lined up for her iPhone 3G S at 6:30 a.m. She said she switched to AT&T a month ago after three years with Sprint to get the iPhone 3G. Lane said she was dismayed that the iPhone 3G did not have video capability and cut and paste functionality, so she decided to get the newer model. "I thought [the iPhone 3G] had all of that stuff, I just assumed it would," Lane said. "And when it didn't, I couldn't believe it didn't."

Lane said because of the updated functionality, the new iPhone would get people to switch to AT&T. "They finally have all of the bells and whistles that most people who look into these things--I didn't, I just assumed it had it," she said. "People who are looking into it will find that this phone has all of those things, and I'm sure they'll switch over for it."

Colin Martin, AT&T's director of sales for company-owned retail for Washington, D.C., and Virginia, said that because customers have been allowed to pre-order the new model, he expects there will be a steady stream of shoppers throughout the day, and not massive crowds in the morning. "There's no need to sit in line" for hours he said. "You can come in any time today, or tomorrow or during the next seven days and get your phone, whereas last year everybody had to wait in line no matter what."

Announced earlier this month at Apple's developer conference, the new iPhone 3G S features increased performance speeds and other tweaks, and is being sold to new customers for $199 for the 16 GB version and $299 for the 32 GB version for customers who sign a two-year contract.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg News article
- see this Reuters article
- see this Fortune live blog from New York City
- see this Fortune blog post
- see these photos 

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