In London, what iPhone?

Hot stateside, the iPhone isn't due out in Europe until later this year, and most consumers don't have it on their radar.

By Grace Wong, staff writer

LONDON ( -- The debut of Apple's iPhone has become perhaps the most hyped product launch in U.S. history, but across the pond, the excitement around the gadget is decidedly more muted.

"iPhone, what iPhone?" was a common response to this reporter's unscientific polling of interest in the device here.

No campouts at Apple's flagship store in London. The iPhone isn't due out in Europe until late 2007.
Are you planning to buy an iPhone?
  • Yes, I will be among the first
  • Yes, but I'm waiting until after the initial frenzy
  • Yes, but I'm hoping the price will go down
  • No
  • Not sure

"I haven't heard much about it," Bodo Emmanuel, a 23-year old who works in finance, said outside of Apple's (Charts, Fortune 500) flagship store in central London.

The low-key response is partly because the iPhone won't be available in Europe until late 2007. The iPhone is set to debut stateside on Friday.

But it could also be a sign of the challenges Apple faces in winning market share in the global cell phone business.

Apple's efforts to win over the British market have backfired in the past. Its Get-a-Mac ads - a British version of the popular U.S. campaign featuring "Mac" and "PC" characters - were viewed by some here to reflect the "smug superiority" of stereotypical Mac users.

"It is slightly obnoxious in the way (Apple) purports to sell a lifestyle for young, trendy, media savvy people who like middle-of-the-road rock music," said Gwynfor Jones, 27, an actor.

"But I'm aware I'm part of that - and they have done a good job creating a sleek, high-tech brand," said Jones, who owns a PowerBook G4 and iPod

"I wouldn't say the brand is smug," said Jenny Shinnin, 45, a property manager who owns an iPod shuffle. But she acknowledged that may be a reputation that Apple has among some younger users.

Apple isn't without its fans. On a recent evening, its flagship store on Regent Street, a major shopping thoroughfare in London's West End, was bustling. And it isn't uncommon to see flashes of the iPod's telltale white earbuds around the city.

According to British market research firm YouGov, Apple's ratings among consumers jumped when it unveiled the iPhone in January.

"Now they need to hope that the actual launch of the phone can live up to the public's high expectations," said Stephan Shakespeare, chief innovation officer at YouGov.

While she'd never heard of the iPhone, Natalia Velasquez Abril, 18, raved about her iPod nano and said she wanted to buy "everything in the Apple store."

Price, however, could keep some buyers away. The new iPhone will sell for $499 to $599 in the United States. Prices for Europe have not been announced.

"I'm interested in it, I think it looks really cool - but it's probably more than I'd want to spend on a phone," said Tim Paviour, 43, a Web site manager

Shinnin, the property manager, upon hearing about the features of the iPhone, said she'd be interested, especially since it would come in handy during her 90-minute commute, adding she'd be willing to pay £300 to £400 ($600 to $800) for a three-in-one device.

One of Nokia's (Charts) newest phones, the 8600 Luna, which comes with a music player and Web browser, recently was on sale for about £600, or about $1,200, without a service plan, at a popular cell phone retailer.

The iPhone, one of the most talked-about consumer devices ever, has sparked a craze in the U.S., where eager shoppers are lining up in advance - or paying people to camp out for them - to get their hands on the device.

Apple has said the iPhone will be available in Europe towards the end of the year, which gives Steve Jobs less than six months to build up consumer interest - a feat the maestro of media communication may have little trouble achieving. Top of page