Apple iPhone 3G S Friday launch already attracting long lines

Customers around the world eager to get their hands on the iPhone 3G S began forming queues as early as Thursday afternoon.

Apple Stores around the world will open their doors at 7 a.m. local time to accommodate eager shoppers who want to be the first to get their hands on the new iPhone 3G S. The stores will open 1 hour earlier than the company had previously announced at last week's Apple's WWDC -- Few Surprises, Few Innovations - PC World. AT&T stores in the U.S will open at 7 a.m. as well, but only for existing customers who preordered the phone; everyone else will have to wait for AT&T's regular opening time of 10 a.m.

Dedicated iPhone fans began lining up as early as Thursday afternoon at Apple's flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York. Meanwhile, Japanese Web site +D Mobile posted pictures of approximately 200 customers lined up Thursday morning near the Softbank flagship store in Tokyo's Omotesando shopping district. The store opened up reservations for the iPhone 3G S as neither Apple nor Softbank has allowed online preorders within the country.

At last week's World Wide Developer Conference, Apple introduced the iPhone 3G S, its third-generation iPhone. Yesterday, current iPhone owners were able to download the 3.0 update to the iPhone OS software, which added a number of new and useful features. While the exterior of the new handset looks identical to that of the iPhone 3G, the real changes are inside. Apple says the "S" stands for speed: The company's benchmarks show that the iPhone 3G S launches messages twice as fast, loads games 2.4 times faster, and opens attachments 3.6 times faster. Other new features include a built-in digital compass application and voice control. The camera gets a boost too, jumping from 2 to 3 megapixels.

Several publications have already posted reviews of the iPhone 3G S, and all have come to the same general conclusion: The new hardware is indeed faster, and the improved camera and battery life are two welcome additions.

The iPhone 3G S is available in a 16GB model ($199 with a two-year contract from AT&T) and a 32GB model ($299 with a two-year contract from AT&T). The second-generation iPhone 3G will still be available, for $99 with a two-year contract.

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