- Apple's iPhone 4S goes on sale at 8 a.m. Friday in each time zone
- Pre-orders have broken an Apple record, with 1 million in first 24 hours
- Phone features faster processor, better camera, "personal assistant" Siri
- Friday is first iPhone release since death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs
Apple fans -- including co-founder Steve Wozniak -- lined up on Friday morning for a chance to buy the iPhone 4S, the latest in the company's line of "Jesus Phones," which includes many under-the-hood improvements.
The lines, which drew thousands, were part exercises in tech commercialism and part homages to Steve Jobs, Apple's other co-founder, who died last week following a battle with pancreatic cancer.
In New York, Apple fans created a makeshift memorial to Jobs that included flowers, photos, iPad boxes and apples (as in the fruit).
And in Atlanta, some people said they were lining up for the phone in part because of Jobs.
"I wanted it anyway, but (Jobs' death) made me sort of want it more because this is the last one I know he worked on," Dwight Hill, from an Atlanta suburb, said of his decision to buy the phone. "I just hope the company keeps going in the same direction."
About 200 people had lined up in the wee hours of the morning in New York to buy the new phone, which has a faster processor and a "digital assistant" that responds to voice commands and talks back to phone owners, answering their questions.
Long lines also formed in Asia and Europe as people waited for the phone.
In Silicon Valley, California, Wozniak, the Apple co-founder who, along with Jobs, helped create the world's first truly personal computer, sat in an armchair at the front of a line that began forming Thursday afternoon. He tapped on his iPad, sipped Diet Dr. Pepper and took photos with fans while he awaited the phone's release.
"I want to get mine along with the millions of other fans," Wozniak said. "I just want to be able to talk to my phone."
The iPhone 4S initially was panned by critics, who said it was more of a facelift to the iPhone 4 than a new product. The phone's exterior looks the same as its predecessor, but the guts are new. Inside there's a faster A5 dual-core processor, an improved 8 megapixel camera and a voice assistant named Siri, who will respond to voice commands and answer questions.
When Brian X. Chen, a tech writer at Wired, tested the phone, he found Siri to be quite the helpful -- and hilarious -- assistant.
He published a series of his conversations with Siri.
"Me: 'I'm drunk,' " he wrote.
"Siri: 'I found a number of cabs fairly close to you.' (Perfect; it didn't dial my ex-girlfriend.)"
Aside from Jobs, Siri seemed to be one of the main draws for people waiting in line for the iPhone 4S.
"I just want the personal assistant," said Teresa Sparks, 41, an Atlanta nurse who had been waiting in line for the phone since 4:45 a.m.
Scott England, who also waited in an Atlanta line for the phone, teased a friend of his who said he was buying the iPhone 4S because of the camera. Clearly, he said, "Siri is a big deal," not the camera.
"He's got a secretary -- I don't," he joked.
Becky Waddell, a 33-year-old real-estate agent, also praised Apple's new digital assistant, which is only available on the iPhone 4S, and which has been compared to HAL 9000, Skynet and other fictional computer overlords.
"I love Siri," she said. "We played with it in the store. I know for sure it will make me a safer driver. I don't have to scramble through my phone while I'm driving. If I can talk to it and get answers, it's going to cut out so much time for me."
Plenty of excitement seemed to surround the phone's release.
In true Apple-head fashion, two Apple fans in New York said they arrived at the flagship Apple Store 18 days before Friday, and blogged about the experience on a site called iPhoneWhatever, CNNMoney reports.
Another person arrived at that store on crutches.
"I got hit by a car and had surgery a few weeks ago. There's tons of metal plates in my foot -- it shattered," David Betz, a 26-year-old bartender, told CNNMoney. "Is it worth it? We'll find out."
Apple CEO Tim Cook helped unveil the 4S last week a day before Jobs' death.
Pre-orders of the phone started on October 7 and beat expectations. Apple sold 1 million of the phones in the first 24 hours via its website and carriers AT&T, Verizon and -- for the first time -- Sprint. By comparison, Apple reported 600,000 iPhone 4 pre-orders last year in 24 hours, but that included orders placed with overseas carriers.
The iPhone 4S went on sale Friday at all 245 Apple stores in the U.S., in addition to the following countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom. The new iPhone will be available in 22 additional countries by the end of October, Apple says.
Apple stores and other retailers opened at 8 a.m. Friday. Online orders can be made at Apple's online store as well as on AT&T, Verizon and Sprint's websites.
If you were hoping to pre-order now and pick up the phone Friday, you're out of luck. Pre-orders at AT&T, Sprint and Verizon are sold out, and phones ordered through Apple's website may not be delivered for several weeks.
All of those brick-and-mortar retail stores also will carry the phone, along with select Apple-approved retailers: Radio Shack, Best Buy, Target and Sam's Club. (Word of warning: Check availability before lining up at one of those third-party sellers. Inventory is limited, and some will be filling pre-orders before selling whatever stock may remain.)
Customers who buy the phone at an Apple retail store will be offered free in-store setup service, personalized instruction on how to set up e-mail and download apps.
The phone sells for $199 for 16GB of storage, $299 for 32GB and $399 for 64GB, marking the first time an iPhone has had that much memory.
It also seems impossible to separate interest in the iPhone 4S with news of Jobs' death last week.
Among the legions of Apple's diehard fans, some have taken saying the "4S" in the phone's name represents the words "For Steve."
Although it's virtually impossible that the company would have done that on purpose (the phone's development happened largely when Jobs was still CEO) it speaks both to the long reach of Jobs' legacy and the cult-like devotion that some Apple loyalists feel toward the company and its products.