iPhone 4 set for global debut

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The Independent Tech

Apple's latest-generation iPhone goes on sale Thursday, with fans in Japan braving heavy summer storms and intense humidity to be the first in the world to get their hands on the device.

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

"I'm a huge fan of Apple. If a new product comes out, I want it," said Manabu Ishiyama, 28, who has camped since Monday outside the flagship Tokyo store of mobile phone carrier Softbank, Apple's exclusive partner in Japan.

Ishiyama, who said he was one of the first people in Japan to get an iPad when it was launched outside the United States last month, said diehard aficionados such as him queued up simply "because it is fun".

"You may think we have too much time to kill, but we're reporting live on Ustream or Twitter what the line is like," he said, referring to popular social networking websites.

"Those who are interested respond," he said, sitting on a mat on the sidewalk under a roof of umbrellas.

Queues also formed outside the Apple Store in downtown San Francisco on Monday as crowds lined up to be among the first in the United States to get their hands on an iPhone 4.

Deutsche Bank analysts have raised their projections for iPhone 4 sales, estimating that Apple would sell 44 million this year and 55 million next year.

Apple set a single-day record for iPhone orders when advanced sales launched last week, receiving 600,000 in 24 hours.

AT&T, the exclusive carrier for the iPhone in the United States, said pre-order sales for the iPhone 4 were "10 times higher than the first day of pre-ordering for the iPhone 3GS last year".

The carrier was forced to suspend a troubled early ordering process because of the heavy demand.

Softbank also faced a deluge of pre-orders for the smartphone in Japan last week, with queues snaking around outlets and its online store overwhelmed by demand.

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

The smartphone, which comes in black and white versions, will be available in 18 other countries in July and 24 more in August.

Apple said however the white version was being delayed because of unspecified manufacturing difficulties.

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

After sales of the iPad hit three million on Monday ahead of the launch of the latest model iPhone, Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore said Apple is "beginning the strongest product cycle in the company's history".

"iPhone demand is off the charts and iPad uptake remains strong. Both appear to be tracking ahead of our previous expectation," Whitmore said.