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iPhone 4 fever takes hold. Again

First shipments, O2's restrictions and a cunning plan from Best Buy

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The first pre-ordered iPhone 4s are shipping, ahead of the launch on Thursday which will see O2 holding back stock for customers while Best Buy pitches pre-sales to the queue.

The first devices are being shipped to those who managed to pre-order the iPhone 4, to be in their sweaty palms by Thursday's launch. Best Buy's plans for the launch have been leaked, and indicate that even the retail giant isn't expecting to have enough stock for those queuing outside, while in the UK O2 has decided that with such limits in place existing customers should take priority.

That's in stark contrast to previous UK launches and the US situation, where network operators see the iPhone (exclusive) as a way to gain new customers. But UK operators haven't offered Apple enough this time around, so everyone will be offering the iPhone 4 on the same day and competing for stock rather than customers.

In that context it makes sense for O2 to reward existing users with access to the limited stock – at least until the end of July, by which time the situation should have improved.

Thus even Best Buy fears it won't have enough stock for everyone, and plans to sell pre-orders to those queuing outside while ensuring that those who do get Apple's latest toy leave fully equipped with every accessory they can carry.

Best Buy's plans, which were leaked to iClarified, don't involve requiring customers to buy accessories (as one Australian store tried) but note that accessories will be available and should be pushed hard.

The plan also recommends approaching those queuing outside to grab a pre-sale before the store opens, getting the customer to commit to coming back another day rather than trying elsewhere.

Basically it's another iPhone launch, with all the theatricality that entails, even if the high-fives and static grins look a little more forced each time. As Best Buy titles its launch plans - “iPhone 4. This Changes Everything. Again.” ®

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