Thousands queue to buy iPhone 4S 'for Steve'

By Jonny Evans

The Apple [AAPL] iPhone 4S is going on sale in multiple countries this morning, met by animated queues of new gadget-buyers as the device stakes its claim as Q4's 'product of the year'.

[ABOVE: Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, is in the queue for the new device.]

Millions dial in for iPhone

Earlier this week Apple confirmed the new device had attracted one million pre-orders during the 24-hours the product was made available for pre-order.

This weekend, some expect the firm may sell four million of the smartphones, prompting Apple to ask Pegatron to raise iPhone S production by 50 percent, to 15 million.

The signs are good. O2 this morning claimed it sold more iPhone 4S handsets in the first hour on sale than the number of iPhone 4s it shifted in 2010.

In London, there's queues at Apple's Regent Street and Covent Garden store, with hundreds -- perhaps a thousand -- people stood in line at Regent Street. Scenes were equally crazed at Covent Garden, where the queue literally went around the famous market square.

[ABOVE: Early morning in Covent Garden.]

Demand is higher than before

These scenes are being repeated at Apple retail stores all across the UK, and also in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Japan, where the product is going on sale today.

Hundreds queued around city blocks in Sydney and Tokyo. In Japan, local media reports claimed demand for the new device to be 60 percent higher than it was for the iPhone 4. And in Perth, Australia, traffic was disrupted by the crush.

Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, is at the front of the queue outside of the Apple store in Las Gatos, California, waiting to get his own iPhone 4S. “The long wait begins. I’m first in line. The guy ahead was on the wrong side and he’s pissed,” he wrote in a Tweet.


...for Steve

For many, the purchase of the new device is also a ritualistic expression of sorrow at the tragic loss of Apple's Steve Jobs.

"I have been waiting for the iPhone 5 for a long time. But since Jobs died, I wanted to make sure I had a new iPhone with some advantages over the old," said Mark Du.

"I am a fan, a big fan. I want something to remember Steve Jobs by," said Haruko Shiraishi, speaking to Business Day.

"I did it for Steve Jobs as a tribute. I was very sad at his passing," said Sydney resident, Tom Mosca.

It is telling that undisturbed outside or near most Apple stores small impromptu shrines to Steve have appeared.

The new iPhone uses chips from Qualcomm, Toshiba and a other smaller semiconductor companies, as revealed by an iFixit teardown of an iPhone 4S. The device contains 512MB DDR2 RAM and includes what appears to be a new Apple-developed power management chip.

Can't touch this

Competitors can't seem to touch Apple's mojo: "Once again Apple is taking a lead and asking a lot of its competitors. I wish those competitors luck, for the better all smartphones are, the happier I am. If Steve Jobs's true legacy is that the devices every other company makes are so, so much better than they otherwise would have been, I don't think he would mind one bit," said Stephen Fry.

This is inevitably going to translate into strong sales of the device in all Apple's markets, with queues understood to be forming across the US this morning as people wait to get hold of the new device, which many have christened as "the iPhone 4S, for Steve".

Apple seems set to see an iPod nano effect on its iPhone sales this season, I'm thinking.

What are your thoughts? Speak up, I'm interested.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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