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Apple’s iPhone 4S Goes On Sale To Smaller Crowds But Strong Demand

Apple’s fifth iPhone model, the iPhone 4S, went on sale Friday to the public in countries around the world to a more muted reception than in past years, but it was still a reception that other smartphone companies simply can’t duplicate. People lined up overnight around the U.S. and in several other countries even though Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) has been taking preorders for the product for a week, and sales appeared brisk.

Lining up for an Apple product is no longer a novel experience, which probably explains why lines outside Apple’s flagship retail store in downtown San Francisco dissipated by mid-morning, according to CNET. Lines were longer in New York and other places, but it seems that most die-hard iPhone fans no longer see the fun in camping out on city streets for something that can be delivered to their doorstep.

A few people camped out overnight outside the Apple Store at the Westfield Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara, according to one Apple employee, but anyone could walk into the store with a very short wait as of mid-afternoon Friday. Interested passersby were being told that the store had plenty of phones in stock.

There’s little question that Apple is poised to sell millions of iPhone 4s devices, having already taken over 1 million pre-orders as of earlier this week. The company sold 20.34 million iPhone 4s during its last quarter ending in June, and is poised to report earnings next week for the three-month period ending in September.

With the new device coming heading into the holiday season and early reviews of Siri–the killer application of the iPhone 4S–appearing to indicate that it works as promised, iPhone demand will likely remain strong heading into the final quarter of the year. That’s also taking into account the discounts now in place on the iPhone 4 and the free iPhone 3GS.

One common new-iPhone rite of passage surfaced yet again: AT&T’s servers were having trouble activating new iPhones. One interesting question about this particular launch day will be the breakdown in iPhone 4S sales across the three U.S. carriers that now offer the phone, the first time an iPhone has been available on more than one carrier on launch day.

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