WASHINGTON — Apple Inc.’s newest iPhone was selling briskly Thursday as thousands lined up outside stores around the world to become among the first to own the device amid concerns of supply shortages.
The iPhone 4’s launch began in Japan and sold out by early afternoon at the flagship store of Softbank, Apple’s exclusive wireless carrier there. The launch moved across France, Germany and the U.K. before going on sale at 7 a.m. in each time zone in the U.S. Some stores abroad had midnight openings.
More than with past launches, there were worries about limited supplies after more than 600,000 people rushed to pre-order iPhones on the first day they were available, prompting Apple and its exclusive wireless partner in the U.S., AT&T Inc., to stop taking orders for shipment by Thursday’s launch. On Apple’s website, new orders weren’t promised for delivery until July 14.
There are three Apple stores in Greater Baltimore, in Columbia, Towson and Annapolis.
Sean Hill, 39, a Washington police officer who had pre-ordered his phone, smiled and proudly held the phone up for the crowd to see as he walked out of the newly opened Apple store in the Georgetown neighborhood.
“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Hill said. “I’m probably going to spend all morning playing with it.”
Those who didn’t place an iPhone 4 order had to line up outside Apple stores Thursday in the hopes of snagging one on a first-come, first-served basis. Apple wouldn’t say whether it believes it has enough iPhones on hand.
“I am going to be very disappointed and upset if they run out before I get one,” said Jasmine Cordova, 25, an administrative assistant in Brooklyn. “They have been advertising and hyping for months. They should make sure to stock enough.”
In Paris, 24-year-old shoe salesman Julien Remy went to buy one during his lunch break, only to learn the store had run out of the higher-capacity model he wanted.
“Either I’ll look elsewhere or come back later,” he said.
In Aventura, Fla., Loren and Veronica McHenry held out hope after miscommunications landed them at the back of the line. They had arrived at 9 p.m. Wednesday and were told no one was allowed on mall property overnight. They returned only to learn that 120 people had camped out at a nearby parking lot.
“There’s no coordination between the mall employees, security and law enforcement,” said Loren McHenry, 42, shaking his head in disbelief. “It’s a mess. … They said we’ll all get iPhones. I hope that’s true.”
The new iPhone model, the fourth model since the original came out in 2007, is thinner with a better-resolution screen and longer battery life.
“I like the design. It’s sleek — I think it’s cool!” said Yoko Kosugi, 41, a graphic designer in Tokyo, who took her new phone out of her bag to show it off, plastic wrapping still on the screen.
It features a new operating system that can also be installed on some older models, such as the 3GS, along with cameras on both sides to permit face-to-face video calls.
“This is revolutionary in the U.S. for deaf people to have a mobile device they can use to communicate in their native language,” said Beth Henriksen, 30, a sign language interpreter in Washington.
At the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., 22-year-old DeVry University student Noah Chavez said he’s especially drawn to the new phone’s multitasking ability and its improved resolution. “More pixels than your eye can decipher.”
At the Apple store in Tokyo’s swanky Ginza shopping district, staff handed out bottled water and loaned black umbrellas with the company logo. A man dressed as a giant iPhone danced and waived his arms as he made it to the front of the line.
In Washington, Apple employees brought free bagels, cream cheese and bottled water as temperatures climbed to the high 80s by midmorning. Those waiting in Cherry Hill, N.J., got free Starbucks coffee; as each customer entered the store, a cheer went up from the congenial, caffeine-fueled and slaphappy crowd.
Maria Powell, 41, of Hollywood, Fla., made it a family affair. Her nephew, her son, his girlfriend and a friend had camped outside of the Apple store in Aventura since 4:30 p.m. Wednesday — more than 14 hours before the phones went on sale.
“My eyes are twitching, my body is going into shock … but I am getting the newest gadget,” said Powell’s nephew, Steven Casillas, 25, of Miami Lakes, Fla.
Alex Lee, a 27-year-old customer who flew to London from Dubai to join the 500-person-long line along Regent Street, said his journey and hours of waiting had been worth it. “It’s so thin, maybe five or six credit cards thick — it’s amazing,” he said, clutching his new handset.
Some customers, though, weren’t buying the iPhone 4 for its new features and size.
“I have the 3GS, but my friend dropped it in a pitcher of beer last week,” said Julia Glanternik, 28, a medical student in New York.
Alden Leonard, 24, of Washington, broke his iPhone last weekend after an accident involving tequila. He declined to elaborate, only saying his old iPhone “is no more.” He said he wouldn’t have stood in line otherwise and admitted, “This is a little obsessive.”