Eager Japanese Buy iPhone 4

Apple Inc. (AAPL) started selling the iPhone 4, the latest version of its wildly popular smartphone, on Thursday morning to teeming crowds of eager Japanese consumers – including some who waited three days to be among the first in the world to purchase the new handset.

The enthusiasm for the iPhone 4 in Japan, a country with notoriously finicky consumers and once considered nearly impossible to crack for foreign handset makers, underscores how Apple has rewritten the rules with the iPhone. The company’s iconic mobile phone has sold more than 50 million units worldwide since its 2007 debut and is now the company’s largest business.

The iPhone 4 is completely redesigned from previous models with a better display, a glass front and back, and a stainless steel frame that doubles as an antenna. Since it became available for pre-orders on June 15, it has been in such high demand that AT&T Inc. (T), Apple’s exclusive U.S. wireless carrier, was forced to halt pre-orders. AT&T said pre-order volumes were ten times higher than for the iPhone 3GS last year.

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