iPhone 4S Release Draws Long Lines, Blackberry Converts Worldwide

The iPhone 4S hit stores Friday across the globe. Eager Apple consumers have been lining up for days to snatch up the new product, the last Apple gadget to be unveiled before the death of company co-founder Steve Jobs. The release also comes on the heels of major network problems for Blackberry-maker Research In Motion this week. VOA's JulieAnn McKellogg was with the crowds outside a central London Apple store on Friday to find out what the new iPhone means for the smartphone industry.

Listen to VOA's JulieAnn McKellogg's report from London

You can talk to it and it responds.  It has a dual-core processor, making it faster. And it has a better camera and camcorder.

Technology journalist Luke Peters says features like the voice-command, known as Siri, bring innovation to the smartphone industry.

"But you know there are a lot of features here on the phone that Apple is playing catch up with as well," said Peters.

That didn't matter to some. One of the first in line said that he traveled from Denmark and waited an entire day to get the phone.  And the first guy out of the store came for Steve Jobs, the late Apple co-founder. "He basically was such an innovator.  He created a better world for us. He made everything better," said iPhone user Ducan Hoare.

Thousands of people are lined up at this Apple store in central London just waiting to get their hands on the new iPhone 4S. But the craze didn't start here. It actually started when Apple made the phone available for pre-ordering - with a record-breaking one million pre-ordered in the first 24 hours.

The London School of Economics' Silvia Elaluf-Calderwood says the hype is not necessarily over the features, but the brand.

"The emotional aspects of the release of iPhone 4S can't be underestimated," noted Elaluf-Calderwood.  "Many people are buying this phone because they are attached to Mac."

With one company's fortune, comes another's hardship. Blackberry-maker Research In Motion had network outages this week spanning five continents. RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis apologized to customers on Wednesday.

"I apologize for the service outages this week," said Lazaridis.  "We've let many of you down, but let me reassure you that we are working around the clock to fix this. You expect better from us and I expect better from us."

For some Blackberry users the apology came too late.  The iPhone 4S now has a popular feature that once sold consumers on Blackberry, an internal messaging system that incurs no charges for users of the phone.

"Blackberry Messenger is just so confusing," said iPhone convert Daniela Lamattina.  "Like it's been down for about a week now. And I just thought, 'you know what, I am going to get this instead.' It's going to better and hopefully next year I will upgrade to the iPhone 5."

Elaluf-Calderwood says Research In Motion has seen a drop in its sales by three percent for each of the last three quarters.

"RIM really needs to come up with something new if they really want to continue this game," Elaluf-Calderwood added.

But while its sales are down, Blackberry is still attractive to some users.  Elaluf-Calderwood says it's good for people on a budget. But she says both Blackberry and Apple face major competition from the real smartphone giant, Google Android, which now owns 50 percent of the market share and is growing.