Apple Inc.'s newest iPhone was in hot demand Thursday as hundreds lined up outside stores in Tokyo, Berlin, New York and elsewhere to become among the first to own the device.
The iPhone 4's launch began in Japan and moved across France, Germany and the U.K. before going on sale in the U.S. at 7 a.m. in each time zone.
Unlike 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 U.S. carrier, 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.
AT&T stopped taking preorders entirely and won't have any iPhone 4s for people who didn't reserve them until June 29. That means people 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 won't say whether it believes it has enough iPhones on hand to avoid disappointing those would-be buyers.
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.
Long lines formed from early morning across the city at Apple stores and retail outlets across Tokyo. At the Apple store in the city'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.
"I like the design. It's sleek - I think it's cool!" said Yoko Kosugi, 41, a graphic designer, who took her new phone out of her bag to show it off, plastic wrapping still on the screen.
In Apple's newly opened store in the Georgetown section of Washington, employees handed out free pastries to people in line.
Beth Henriksen, 30, of Washington, was the first person in the "reserved phone" line at the Georgetown store. She got in line at 2:15 a.m. Ms. Henriksen, a sign language interpreter, said she is upgrading her old iPhone to the new model because of the Facetime application allowing 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."
In Germany, exclusive carrier Deutsche Telekom AG allowed customers to order the phone starting June 15, so many who lined up at stores were assured of getting a device.
Frank Moravietz, a project developer in Berlin, stopped by a Telekom shop on the capital's main Unter den Linden boulevard around midday to pick up his new iPhone - a birthday present for his wife.
"I ordered it in advance and everything has gone off without a problem," Mr. Moravietz said. "I only had to wait about 45 minutes."
Dirk Wende, a spokesman for Telekom, said that enough phones were also available for customers who did not pre-order them. Mr. Wende said one store in Germany - Telekom's flagship store in Berlin - opened ahead of the official launch at midnight to offer the phone.
"Hundreds of customers showed up to buy the new iPhone," Mr. Wende said.
In London, 23-year-old Ben Paton described his 16 hours in line to get one as "absolutely incredible, amazing. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Alex Lee, a 27-year-old customer who flew in from Dubai to join the 500-person-long line along London's 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.
In the trendy Tokyo shopping district of Harajuku, over 300 people were lined up at the flagship store of Softbank, Japan's exclusive carrier, when its doors opened in the morning. That store ran out of phones by early afternoon, said company spokesman Naoki Nakayama.
"We've been selling out at each launch, it's the same conditions," he said, declining to release any numbers.
When the initial version of the iPhone was released in Japan two years ago, some questioned whether it could succeed without many of the advanced hardware features common on Japanese models. But the phone's addictive touch screen and broad selection of downloadable applications have made it a runaway hit in the country.
Yet some in Japan say the phone has become a victim of its own success, causing the network to slow down, as more people use them.
Motoki Sato, a university student waited through the night before the launch along with dozens of others at a store in Shibuya, to get "a birthday present for myself" when he turned 24 on Thursday.
The newest model is thinner with a better-resolution screen and longer battery life. It features a new operating system that can also be installed on some older models.