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Friday, November 9, 2007

Fans descend on UK iPhone launch

Fans descend on UK iPhone launch

Hordes of iPhone fans descended on Apple’s flagship Regent Street store in London yon Friday hoping to be the first to get their hands on the much-hyped mobile device.

The earliest had been queuing since 8am the previous morning, through freezing rain. Many had been in line for at least 10 hours.

When the doors opened at 6.02pm fans ran in to the store between lines of cheering staff. They emerged moments later, like Olympic athletes crossing the finishing line, brandishing their boxed iPhones in triumph.

O2, the UK’s largest mobile phone operator, which secured exclusive rights to supply telephone contracts for the iPhone in the UK, said it had ordered “hundreds of thousands” of iPhone handsets to meet demand over Christmas and into the new year.

Carolina Milanesi, analyst at Gartner, a consultancy, said between 350,000 and 400,000 iPhones could be sold in the first two months.

O2 has taken on 1,427 extra staff to cope with demand, including 700 in its customer service call centres, and 727 sales assistants in shops. This is a nearly 12 per cent increase in the company’s UK workforce.

Charles Dunstone, chief executive of Carphone Warehouse, which is also selling the iPhone, said he expected the handset to be the top-selling product this Christmas. Last week the company forecast it could sell 10,000 devices in the first day.

In the US, 1m units were sold in the first 74 days after the iPhone launched at the end of June. Apple aims to sell 10m units globally during 2008.

The iPhone, whose design, multi-touch screen and web browser have won many fans, costs £269 including tax. Customers are required to sign up to a 18-month contract with O2, ranging from £35 to £55 a month, putting the total cost of the device at up to £1,259.

Ahead of the iPhone launch, hundreds of “grey market” iPhones have already been put up for sale on the internet.

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