Hundreds Queue for IPhone 4 in Japan

Japan got an early taste of iPhone 4-fever on Tuesday as hundreds of people queued to place reservations for the new Apple cell phone.

The iPhone 4 won't go on sale until June 24, but carrier Softbank began accepting reservations for the phone from 5 p.m. local time on Tuesday. About 200 people were waiting outside of Apple's flagship store in Tokyo's Ginza and around 40 people were queuing at a nearby outlet of electronics retailer Bic Camera. Similar numbers were reported outside main Softbank stores across the city.

The excitement also appeared to overwhelm Softbank's online store with attempts to access it returning error messages.

Japan is one of five countries where the phone will go on sale on June 24, and due to time-zone differences it's expected to be the first where sales begin. The phone will also go on sale in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany on the same day. It is scheduled to appear in other markets later in the year, and to be available in 88 countries by the end of September.

Apple says the new phone offers several advantages over the iPhone 3GS. It is thinner, has a higher-resolution display and a front-facing camera for video calls over Wi-Fi networks. The battery life has also been improved to offer up to seven hours of talk time or six hours of Web browsing over 3G networks, according to Apple claims.

The launch comes as the 2-year contracts of Apple's first iPhone users in Japan are about the expire. The first-generation iPhone wasn't launched here due to incompatibility with Japan's cellular networks, so sales began with the iPhone 3G.

In Japan the new phone will cost ¥46,080 (US$504) for the 16GB model and ¥57,600 for the 32GB model, payable in 24 monthly installments. Subscribers to Softbank's flat-rate data plan, which costs ¥4,410 per month, will see credits of ¥1,920 per month applied against the installments to essentially make the 16GB free and the 32GB model cost ¥11,530 if a consumer sticks to the two-year plan.

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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