Germans lined up to buy Apple Inc.'s iPhone as it made its European debut Friday, with the company hoping to replicate the success the combination phone, music player and mobile Web browser has seen in the United States.

Apple hopes to sell 10 million iPhones in 2008, helped by the launch of the iPhone in Europe, then in Asia next year. It goes on sale in Britain later Friday. The company has already sold more than 1.39 million since it debuted in the United States on June 29.

In Germany, the phone went on sale at more than 700 T-Mobile shops. One store in Cologne opened just after midnight to some 350 would-be buyers already lined up.

Johannes Krause, 32, waited for nearly four hours to get inside, but said it was worth the wait. He said he had wanted to his get his hands on an iPhone since it was announced by Apple CEO Steve Jobs in January.

Why? "Because it's the first mobile Internet device that makes it easy to surf the Web," he said.

Others were drawn by the intense media coverage in the U.S.

"I just want to be the first to touch it, play with it and try it," said Reinhold Steinwasser, 54, likening the event to the first time color televisions went on sale in Germany in the 1960s and people would stand in front of department store windows marveling at the pictures in color.

But the price tag drew some complaints. In Germany the phone costs €399 (about $587), and contracts through T-Mobile start at €49 ($72) a month, along with a €25 ($37) activation fee.

"It's absurdly expensive," said Christian Kiew, 20, who said the device was aimed more at professionals than young buyers.

Jonathan Arber, an analyst with London-based Ovum, said the cost, and the contract, could put off some would-be buyers.

"The relatively expensive contracts on offer with the iPhone will represent an attractive revenue stream over 24 months, but the high upfront and monthly cost and long lock-in could put off some users in a market where free handsets are the norm," he said.

Just 10 weeks after its June 29 debut, Apple cut the price of the 8-gigabyte iPhone in the United States from $599 to $399 and discontinued the 4-gigabyte version. It apologized to those who had paid full price and offered $100 credits to early adopters.

Consumers in Britain will pay £269 ($566) for the 8-gigabyte model - or about $167 more than what Apple charges in the United States. The European price tags include value-added tax.

In Britain, shops run by Carphone Warehouse and O2, the carrier that will provide cell service for the phone in the U.K., were getting ready to fill demand for the phone when it officially goes on sale at 6 p.m. France Telecom will sell the iPhone in France through its Orange wireless arm, beginning Nov. 29.

It is unclear how many iPhones have already found a backdoor into Europe. Programmers around the globe collaborated to develop ways to modify or "unlock" iPhones to work with SIM cards tied to other carrier networks.

Apple officials estimated last month that buyers of 250,000 iPhones intended to unlock them. In the U.S., AT&T Inc. is the iPhone's exclusive carrier.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print