i came, i saw, i conquered

THEY huddled under umbrellas, wrapped in sleeping bags through a stormy November night - just to be at the front of the queue to get a new mobile phone costing £269.

At precisely 6:02pm last night the doors opened and "techies" across the UK rushed in to buy the coveted new Apple iPhone.

The sleek, silver gadget offers three devices in one - a mobile phone, an iPod and an internet browser, freeing up pocket and handbag space.

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Its touch-sensitive 3.5in colour screen has icons linking to a camera, a specially tailored YouTube site, iTunes music store and much more.

The cult item is expected to be one of the most popular Christmas presents this year. But police are warning users not to draw attention to themselves, to avoid being targeted by muggers.

Over two million have been sold since its frenzied launch in New York last June. Apple say they aim to sell ten million iPhones by 2008, taking a 1 per cent share of the mobile-phone market.

Greg Joswiak, the head of marketing for iPhone, said: "People love their experience with the iPhone. They don't love the experience with other phones. That is why our sales are through the roof."

The sought-after phones are on sale across the UK at Apple stores, O2 outlets and The Carphone Warehouse.

O2's shop in Princes Street was chosen for the Scottish launch.

Ian Wason, 45, an associate director at HBOS, was first in the queue at the Edinburgh O2 store.

Mr Wason, from Bathgate, West Lothian, took the day off work to make sure he was one of the first people to get his hands on the iPhone. "I've already got an Applemac and an iPod. I just love the way it works - it's a touch phone, you can pinch and stretch the photos. It does so much for just one gadget."

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Jamie O'Dell, 34, next in the queue, admitted: "I didn't even have a mobile until two years ago and all my friends used to laugh at me. I want to get the iPhone and use it before anyone else, before it becomes common. I saw a demo on the Apple website and was very impressed."

Glasgow-based John McGuigan, O2's general manager for customer services in the UK, said that the demand for the new phone has created 100 retail jobs across Scotland and 200 in their contract centre.

• Less than half an hour after its official launch, sellers on eBay, the online auction site, were selling versions of the phone they claimed to be "unlocked", meaning it would work with any mobile network, not just 02. Auctions of the phones were attracting dozens of bids, reaching as much as 400, more than 130 over its recommended retail price.