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New iPhones go on sale in the U.S., China and seven other countries today

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September 20, 2013

They've waited in line for several hours, but the long-anticipated annual event for Apple fans is finally here. The new iPhones went on sale in the U.S., China and seven other countries this morning, and as usual, long lines of people lined up around the world to be among the first to put their hands on the new iconic device. The large crowd waiting for new iPhones is usually a mix of Apple diehards and more casual fans, plus people hoping to resell the devices for a fast profit.

A few marketers are also on hand, hawking their wares to the masses waiting on line. Some people even pay line-sitters by the hour to grab an early spot.

And for the first time ever, Apple is offering two new iPhones-- the flagship 5S, named after the late Steve Jobs, and the lower-cost, plastic iPhone 5C.

The iPhone 5S is very similar in appearance to last year's iPhone 5. The new device is faster than its predecessor, however, and it features hardware upgrades like a beefed-up camera and a processor that measures motion data.

To stand out from the iPhone 5S, the 5C comes in several different colors. But whatever happens, it's not very likely that everyone waiting in line will get an iPhone today. Apple Stores usually have the most in stock, but they also draw the longest lines. But some did run out of them on the first day, nevertheless.

Overall, retailers including Best Buy will also have the new iPhones, as will wireless carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. But their inventory usually sells out a lot faster.

In London, after standing in the queue for six hours, university student Waleed Tariq was pleased to have snapped up a 5S, dismissing the more affordable model.

"The 5C stands for 'cheap'. It's plastic and it looks a bit cheap. I'm definitely not interested in that one," the 17-year-old said.

Apple staff estimated that the number of people waiting matched previous releases. Queues in London, mostly made up of men, snaked down a side street and were funneled into a nearby square. Coffee stations were set up to serve the waiting crowds.

Many in London were buying only to sell the phones to others, though Apple imposed a two-phone limit on customers. Some of those sellers pitched tents outside stores for days on end.

Noah Green became the first person in the U.K. to buy the iPhone 5S after camping outside the store since Monday night. He and his friends took showers at a nearby gym and used an Apple-supplied umbrella to shield them from the rain.

"I wanted to be first. I've always been in the top ten but never first. Honestly this is the best feeling in the world," Green said.

Green said someone offered him $480 for his place in line. He turned them down but admitted he would have sold his spot "if someone wants to offer the right price."

So what would be the right price? "Ten thousand pounds," Green said. "I know it sounds crazy, but people will pay that price."

In other mobile news

It sure looks like Apple's new iOS 7 is off to a good start, and it now seems to make the iPhone even more popular, with some nice new additions that will most likely please iPhone lovers.

The new device's operating system is the most substantial update in the software's history. Apple not only added new features and functionality, but the company reinvented the six-year old operating system's graphical appearance with new style. Some say Steve Jobs would be proud.

Apple succeeded in making iOS 7 easier on the eyes and simpler to use. The company trimmed the excess fat where necessary and added new features to areas that were lacking.

The iOS 7 operating system has a new look-- the most noticeable difference is the graphical design. Gone are the core apps that look like real-life objects. In their place is a far more modern, streamlined, flatter digital aesthetic.

Apple didn't eliminate depth and texture altogether, but it redefined how it uses those effects. For instance, Apple made some menus and features appear translucent, like a frosted sheet of glass. That not only provides a stylish touch, but it produces a layered effect to help visualize how different parts of an app are linked, and how they are separate.

And you'll notice this pretty much everywhere from the home screen icons to the design of the lock screen that shows up when you receive a call. But the way you use those elements is more or less the same as before, however.

And there are still touches of the old version of iOS throughout the new OS. For example, the Messages app still uses speech bubbles, and the camera app still uses an on-screen shutter button. But the look of those features has been spruced up as well.

There was a time when Apple had to demonstrate how its flat, glass screen could replace many self-contained gadgets people already owned. So everything had a glassy, textured layer applied to it. The same with the calendar. The compass had to look like something you'd see in a 17th-century manuscript of some sort.

Now that the vast majority of us understand our smartphones, Apple has been able to ditch those visual analogs and become truer to its sleek, modern hardware.

Perhaps the most useful addition to iOS 7 is what Apple calls the 'Control Center'. It's your metaphorical junk drawer full of settings, media playback controls, and shortcuts to utility apps, like the clock, camera and calculator. You can now also toggle the LED on and off from the control center, functioning as a de facto flashlight.

And it's easily accessible: just swipe up from the bottom of the screen. The Control Center isn't a revelation-- having quick access to Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is something that's long been on Android. But it's a welcome addition and should have already been added to iOS a long time ago.

And Siri's functionality has been expanded a bit as well. It can now be used to search for Wikipedia and Twitter. That's nice, but it's still no Google Now, which can tell you to leave home earlier than usual because there's an accident on the freeway.

For example, the new weather app in iOS 7 is more helpful than ever, and the Apple App Store can automatically update your favorite apps.

The photo app has mostly been changed for the better by automatically arranging your pictures according to time and place. But the new shared photo streams addition felt incomplete to some that initially tried it for the first time. It allows multiple people to share and comment on photos.

But with so many people already using Apple's iMessage to share photos, it's unclear why people are supposed to use the new feature anyway.

The Notification Center in iOS 7 now has three separate sub-pages, making it feel more bloated and confusing than its previous iteration. For example, if you don't use a calendar, one of the sub-pages is just a completely empty screen.

Apple overhauled multitasking in iOS 7, giving apps the ability to fully run in the background. That means apps like Twitter and Facebook will be able to automatically update their feeds without you having to open the app. Apple even promises that iOS 7 will learn which apps you use the most, when you use them, and will make sure they're always updated at that time.

But it will be difficult to tell how well this feature will work until app makers begin to support it, if they do. Airdrop is Apple's file sharing protocol, allowing iPhone users to share photos, contacts and things like passbook cards with one another.

In theory, Airdrop is a nice and very simple way to transfer files. But you can't use it with the Mac version of Airdrop, and for reasons we still don't know.

Additionally, the main appeal of Airdrop seems to be photos, which is confusing a bit since that's what shared photostreams are for in the first place. Until there is a critical mass of people running iOS 7, it's difficult to gauge with any precision how useful Airdrop will be.

Despite a few hiccups here and there in its execution, Apple has successfully re-thought iOS for the better, and it looks as promising as ever.

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Still, the biggest achievement of iOS 7 is Apple's willingness to acknowledge that it's immensely successful hardware had gone a bit stale and a bit behind itself in a certain way.

Apple had the awareness and courage to make some major changes without doing anything so drastic that it risked alienating its user base.

Still, iOS 7 isn't perfect, nothing ever is, but it's still as worthy a mobile operating system as Google's Android. iOS 7 lays down the foundation for the next five or so years that will allow Apple to keep the iPhone feeling modern and user-friendly.

In other mobile news

Wireless industry research firm Root Metrics said late yesterday that AT&T marginally beat Verizon Wireless in the early results of its latest study. But this comes as a surprise since other market companies had already crowned Verizon as the top wireless carrier in the U.S. Root Metrics' report was based on a combination of overall speed and network reliability. Verizon has long held a leadership position in dependability and continues to do so in the most recent results.

However, AT&T has narrowed the gap considerably, which allows its speed advantage to put it over the top. The test, which began in July and tested about sixty markets, is only about 50 percent done and will be completed during the course of 2013.

The overall results could differ considerably when completed. Still, these kinds of kudos are increasingly important as the wireless carriers seek ways to stand out from each other.

With most of the carriers moving to the same high-speed cellular technologies, and offering many of the same high-profile smartphones, network quality is an important selling point.

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Source: Apple.

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