New Zealanders pitch tent in early queue for iPhone

Apple CEO Steve Jobs speaks about the new iPhone 3G during his keynote speech at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California June 9, 2008. REUTERS/Kimberly White

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealanders eager to be the first in the world to buy Apple's AAPL.O new-generation iPhone have began queuing up in freezing temperatures, two days before its release, local media reported on Wednesday.

Four people with deck chairs, sleeping bags and a small tent started queuing on Tuesday night outside the Auckland shop of phone company Vodafone VOD.L, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Vodafone, New Zealand’s biggest mobile-phone operator, will start selling the much-hyped and keenly sought 3G iPhone at 12.01 a.m. Friday (1201 GMT Thursday), the first in the world, from three of its shops in New Zealand’s main cities.

“I’m really just doing it to be able to say that I’m the first one in the world with one of these phones,” 22-year old student Jonny Gladwell told the newspaper.

He said he was in the queue because his friends had bet him he could not last the distance. If he lasts, they will buy him the phone. In the meantime they are bringing him meals and holding his place in the queue when he needs a toilet break.

Vodafone is selling the phone for as little as NZ$199 ($150) if consumers sign up for a two-year contract. Demand for pricing details was so heavy it crashed Vodafone’s New Zealand Web site on Tuesday.

The sleek, multi-media device offers faster Internet access and improved e-mail features.

Reporting by Gyles Beckford, editing by Mark Bendeich