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Tumbleweeds outnumber punters, as iPhone's First Night flops

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Journalists and PR minders outnumbered buyers on Friday night as interest in Apple's iPhone miserably failed to live up to the pre-launch hype in the UK.

The iPhone went on sale at stores operated by retail titan Carphone Warehouse, exclusive operator O2, and Apple's own retail chain. The days preceding the launch had been filled with pages of coverage from posh papers and broadsheets alike. O2 announced it was employing 1,400 extra staff to cope with the short-term demand. Even Carphone's PR staff were dispatched to far corners of the land, to provide expert advice to the masses clamouring for iPhones.

But now it looks as if a tight-knit group of media and PR people got caught in a feedback loop. The "event" they imagined simply failed to take place.

The first signs that reality was not following the script came at 7pm, from a Reg reader at Brent Cross. Perched by Wembley on the North Circular, Brent Cross is a shopping hub reaching into millions of affluent punters in Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire, as well as the metropolis itself. He noted that the Carphone and O2 stores were empty of punters, with only "the usual" smattering of shoppers at the Apple Store, playing with iPods.

Reader Ian Ferguson fought his way to the front of a non-existent queue at Carphone Warehouse to get his iPhone, he reported in our comments on Friday night. He was outnumbered by extra staff trying to "upsell" him insurance and over-priced accessories.

Up in Manchester, it was safe to go to the pub at 5pm, an hour before "launch" then get soaked in the rain.

An hour later, bored staff outnumbered prospective purchasers as the stores stood empty.

"An average Wednesday afternoon", reported AximSite.

Dial-A-Phone's Nick has a gallery of the non-existent iPhone mania that was failing to break out, here.

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