Apple fans camp out for iPhone

by Kazuaki Nagata

With the Japanese launch of Apple Inc.’s iPhone set for Friday, signs that the hype was building began emerging Wednesday at Softbank’s flagship store in Tokyo’s Omotesando district.

About 15 people were camping out in the morning in front of the store in the ritzy shopping district to make sure they would be one of the first to get the slick new phone, which debuted in the United States in June 2007 and broke the 1 million unit sales mark in a mere 74 days.

Some of the people said they had been there since Tuesday.

Hiroyuki Sano, a graduate student from Nagoya studying information engineering, was first in line.

“I took a night train and got here at 6 a.m. yesterday,” he said, adding it took him about five hours to get to Tokyo.

According to Sano, there were seven or eight other people who were checking to see when the line would start, and they eventually decided to play a game of rock, scissors and paper to decide who would be first.

Tomohiro Inami, a 33-year-old hair designer from Kanagawa Prefecture, joined the line at around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and was last as of 11 a.m.

“I have never lined up to buy things and didn’t expect to do this,” he said. “This is a learning experience.” Inami added that he has been checking Softbank’s Web site daily for information on buying the product, which he values for combining two popular gadgets into one.

“It’s like a phone is in an iPod. I think that’s valuable enough to get one,” Inami said.

Norikazu Sasaki, a 20-year-old student, identified himself as an Apple faithful and said he has waited in line for other Apple products, too. This, however, is the first time he’s lined up three days in advance.

Another Apple fan, Ryo Shimizu, said he had a more serious reason for camping out.

Shimizu, who runs a company that supplies mobile phone content, said his firm also makes application content for the iPhone, so he had to get one on the first day to confirm that his company’s products work.

Softbank is pricing the iPhone at ¥23,040 for the 8 gigabyte version and ¥34,560 for the 16 GB version, but subscriber contract status could result in a different price. Sales at the Omotesando shop will kick off at 7 a.m. Friday and at noon at other outlets nationwide.