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Don’t be surprised. The debut of Apple’s iPhone 4S today was met with long lines, loud cheers, activation headaches, and interviews with the ubiquitous Steve Wozniak, the surviving co-founder of Apple.

Wozniak was the first in line at the Apple Store in Los Gatos, Calif., where video interviews lined up to interview him. Wozniak said he missed Steve Jobs and didn’t realize just how sick his good friend was. He fears a little for the future of Apple. But Wozniak was ecstatic about the iPhone 4S and its Siri voice command service, in an interview with TechCrunch.

The handsets went on sale at 8 am Pacific time and bleary-eyed fans such as Wozniak were waiting in throngs. The iPhone 4S went on sale in the U.S. and six more countries, with more countries being added at a faster rate than with past iPhone launches. Apple’s aim is to clearly put distance between it and its rivals by selling as many new products as it can at the outset when the hype and desire is the strongest.

Apple faces fierce competition from rivals such as Samsung, which is launching lots of models based on Google’s Android operating system. But Apple may have a big chance to grab dissatisfied BlackBerry customers who have just suffered through a four-day email outage.

Apple has been losing market share to Android devices, but today is the first time it will have simultaneous launches with Sprint, Verizon Wireless and AT&T carriers. In Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., fans waited in a downpour. Some stores sold out of their allotments about 90 minutes after opening. Sprint said it had its best sales day ever. AT&T said it had lines at every store. and sales were exceeding expectations. Verizon also said it saw strong traffic.

Apple’s preorders for the phone topped 3 million, but it wasn’t clear how many of those it delivered ton the first day. In Japan, the iPhone was selling with multiple carriers for the first time in Japan, as both Softbank and KDDI sold it.

The opening weekend of sales will be marked in California with Steve Jobs Day on Sunday, Oct. 16. Gov. Jerry Brown declared the day in honor of Jobs, and a who’s who of Silicon Valley is expected to attend a memorial service for Jobs at Stanford University on Sunday.

Gene Munster, analyst at Piper Jaffray, estimates that Apple will sell 25 million phones in the quarter, up from 22 million sold in the previous quarter. Apple will announce its earnings on Tuesday. Bloomberg said that Apple might sell 4 million units during the opening weekend alone. In 2010, Apple had preorders of about 600,000 units for the iPhone 4.

The reaction to today’s sales was positive in the stock market, as Apple’s stock price hit its all-time high on Friday.

 

 

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