Apple's iPhone 3GS goes on sale in Japan

Japan is one of six countries where the phone went on sale Friday

Apple's iPhone 3GS went on sale in Japan on Friday morning.

About 30 people were waiting outside Apple's store in the Ginza district of Tokyo when the doors opened at 7 a.m. and more turned up during the first 30 minutes of sales. Apple had allowed customers to reserve the phone and the time they would pick it up, which lead to a smaller but more orderly launch.

Japan is one of six countries where the handset went on sale Friday. It also launched in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands. It debuted last week in North America and major European markets and will be launched in other countries through July and August.

The new model promises users a speedier experience, longer battery life, and a video camera function ,among other improvements. Apple staff were keenly demonstrating its compass feature to those waiting in line on Friday morning.

"I can take movies with it and it has auto-focus," said Miyuki Noma, one of the first customers to walk out of the Apple store with the new phone. "I'm not so good at directions so I'm looking forward to using the digital compass."

Elsewhere in the city about 100 people waited overnight for the phone at carrier Softbank's main store in the Omotesando district.

Queues for the phone are shorter than they were last year, in part because of the reservation system in place this year, but also because many of the most enthusiastic initial owners are only halfway through a two-year contract for the first phone.

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Martyn Williams

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