Fans cheer as Apple's iPhone finally hits Europe

FRANKFURT/LONDON (Reuters) - Apple fans queued through the night in Germany and Britain to be among the first in Europe to buy an iPhone, the must-have gadget that is set to shake up the mobile industry.

Over 10,000 iPhones were sold by Friday afternoon in Germany, a T-Mobile spokeswoman said, after it went on sale at midnight in a Deutsche Telekom shop in Cologne.

“It was love at first sight,” said one 50-year-old man.

T-Mobile representatives handed out blankets and umbrellas as well as hot tea, coffee and pretzels for those waiting outside, before sales staff cheered loudly as the first customers entered the store.

In Britain, fans had to wait until 1800 GMT before the music-playing, Web-browsing phone went on sale at stores from Apple, mobile phone retailer Carphone Warehouse and mobile operator O2.

The queue outside central London’s main Apple store stretched around the corner and long lines also formed in the city’s financial area.

First in the queue, clutching a mug of steaming tea, was student Graham Gilbert, who arrived at 0830 GMT on Thursday and endured a wet and cold night on the street.

Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica’s O2 and Carphone have pinned high hopes on the iPhone after more than a million sold in the United States in a few months.

“It’s probably the most important phone this year in terms of the impact it will have on the mobile phone market but it’s going to be a long way from being a best seller,” CCS analyst Ben Wood told Reuters.

“But one of the things that Apple do very well is they spend a lot of time thinking about the consumer experience and we’re going to see their competitors taking more of that approach.”

Most analysts expect the device to be popular with a niche audience, in part due to its price tag, and those queuing on Friday in Germany and Britain were mostly young men.

Most European handsets are subsidized in return for long-term contracts but the iPhone costs 399 euros ($585) in Germany and customers must agree a two-year contract with T-Mobile for monthly fees between 49 and 89 euros.

In Britain the iPhone costs 269 pounds ($568) on top of an 18-month contract costing a minimum of 35 pounds per month.

“It’s a magnificent product and it’s very well marketed by Apple,” said Greenwich Consulting’s Fred Huet. “The real question will be how many they sell once the novelty wears off.”

The phone will go on sale in France at the end of the month.

Reporting by Kate Holton, Peter Griffiths, Alastair Sharp in London and Nicola Leske and Georgina Prodhan in Germany, Editing by David Cowell