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Apple fans camp out to buy the iPhone 4S

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Apple fans camped out overnight and queued up for hours to snag the iPhone 4S, which went on sale in brick-and-mortar stores slightly more than a week after the death of company co-founder Steve Jobs.

The latest iPhone model, which rolled out in seven countries, is poised to outstrip last year’s launch of the iPhone 4, which sold more than 1.7 million handsets in its first weekend.

On Friday morning, more than 200 people waited outside the Apple store at the Grove shopping center in Los Angeles' Fairfax district as employees doled out coffee, bottles of water and umbrellas to shield against the sun.

“My friends and I were so excited about the phone, we got here at midnight,” said real estate agent Tony Wu, 27, who had dozed in a lawn chair overnight before getting ushered into the store at 9 a.m. “It was ridiculous. We ended up being, like, 30th in line.”

By 8 a.m., when the store first opened its doors to those standing or sitting outside, the line had snaked past the American Girl Place shop a few doors down towards the mall's parking garage.

Some, like April Rankin of Miracle Mile, had the foresight to tote along entertainment -- in her case, a book. The 32-year-old stylist had come to replace her 2-year-old iPhone 3GS, and sat huddled on the sidewalk underneath a blue-and-beige umbrella.

"I was completely not expecting this big of a crowd," she said, after getting in line at 7:30 a.m. "At this point though, I've already been waiting for over three hours, so I'm going to stick it out until I get it."

For those with stamina, the payoff was sweet. Jerry Osaka of Los Angeles said he played hooky from his job as a computer technician to stand outside the Apple store at 7 a.m. sharp.

After getting his hands on a white iPhone 4S, the 43-year-old held his shopping bag aloft and grinned: "Success! Can't wait to test it out."

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-- Shan Li

Photo: Douglas Rosen takes a nap while waiting for the Apple store in Pasadena to open. Rosen arrived at 2 a.m. Friday as people started forming long lines outside the store to get the iPhone 4S. Credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times

 
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