Hundreds race for iPhone 4 as it debuts in Japan

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The Independent Tech

Hundreds of Apple fans braved sweltering humidity to form giant queues in an upscale Tokyo district Thursday in a race to be among the first in the world to get their hands on the latest iPhone.

The iPhone 4 also hits Britain, France, Germany and the United States Thursday, but Japan's eastern time zone put it first in line to sell the phone boasting video chat, high-definition video, and sharper screen resolution.

With more than 500 people queuing outside Apple's store in the Ginza district, Ryoichi Hoshino was the first to emerge triumphantly clutching the latest device after Apple staff gave a loud countdown to the 0000 GMT 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 of the micro-blogging site.

Those who missed out on pre-orders were forced to join a long snaking queue dotted with Apple disciples wearing iPhone costumes and exhausted office workers slumped on the pavement.

First in the Ginza line was high school student Akira Nakazawa, 18, who skipped studies and his job at a supermarket to camp out for two nights.

"I wanted to see the evolution of the iPhone. When I heard about the release, I immediately knew I had to come and be the first in line," he said.

Handling the new iPhone, technology writer Eiji Ishii, 42, said he was drawn by the experience of being the first to purchase a new Apple product.

"You walk into the store and you are greeted by high-fives. I was extremely delighted by that. An experience like that is so precious," he said waving the phone in his hand.

Excited Japanese fans also queued outside the flagship Tokyo store of mobile phone carrier Softbank, Apple's exclusive partner in Japan, feeding constant reports to Twitter and sites such as Ustream.

Softbank shares were 1.5 percent higher in Tokyo trade following the launch.

However, the launch of the latest iPhone has been beset by various problems culminating in the white model being delayed for a month due to unspecified manufacturing difficulties, Apple said Wednesday.

"White models of Apple's new iPhone 4 have proven more challenging to manufacture than expected, and as a result they will not be available until the second half of July," the California-based company said.

"The availability of the more popular iPhone 4 black models is not affected," Apple said in a statement.

AT&T, the exclusive carrier for the iPhone in the United States, was forced to suspend a troubled early ordering process because of the heavy demand. Apple said it had received a single-day record 600,000 orders for the new smartphone.

Softbank also faced a deluge of pre-orders for the device in Japan last week, with its online store overwhelmed by demand.

The delivery delay for the white iPhone 4 comes two months after Apple was forced to put back the international release of its new touchscreen tablet computer, the iPad.

Earlier this month Apple chief executive Steve Jobs unveiled the new iPhone, which costs 199 US dollars for the 16 gigabyte model and 299 dollars for the 32GB version.

The smartphone will be available in 18 other countries in July and 24 more in August.

Apple has sold more than 50 million iPhones since it launched the device in 2007.