Palm Pre launches in US ahead ahead of iPhone

The Palm Pre smartphone, regarded as a potential iPhone killer, has been launched in the US on Saturday.

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The Palm Pre smartphone, regarded as a potential iPhone killer, has been launched in the US on Saturday.

The launch comes as Apple prepares to launch a new version of its iPhone 3G with 32GB of memory and a video camera, according to industry insiders.

Priced at $199.99 (£125), the Pre combines touchscreen controls with a physical keyboard and is able to run several applications at once. It has been praised for its 'beautiful industrial design.'

Palm enthusiasts gathered outside Sprint Nextel stores and other retailers in the hopes of being among the first with the highly anticipated smartphones.

For many buyers, the purchase of a Pre with its new WebOS, was a good investment in an exciting new smartphone, but also a way to support ailing Palm and even wireless carrier Sprint.

"As an original Palm Pilot user, I want to support Palm and see them make it, but this Pre is also just a bloody cool device," said Skip Tannen of Upton.

He said he liked the way it felt in his hands, and was especially impressed with the qwerty keyboard, instead of the touchsreen on the iPhone, which he also uses.

Tannen, an IT operations engineer at Babson College in Wellesley, waved his arms in victory holding his newly purchased Pre high as he left a Sprint store in Framingham, Mass, about 20 miles west of Boston. He was the first in line at 8am when the store opened, having left his home three hours earlier.

A Sprint spokesman characterised the launch in East Coast cities as "a nice flow of customers", with some stores attracting crowds of 40 to 50 people waiting to get in at 8am when many stores opened.

"Our service reps have been able to spend time with customers to set up the new Palm Pre and make sure they know how to... use the features," said spokesman Mark Elliott.

Elliott, who was stationed at a store in lower Manhattan, said that by 11am, there had been a steady line of customers at several East Coast stores he'd heard from.

In downtown Boston, there was still a line of about 15 people outside the Sprint store two hours after it had opened. According to Boston.com, the store sold out of its 55 Pres by 11am. At a Framingham Best Buy, where the $100 rebate is automatic, a store manager was waiting outside before the official opening to give Pre buyers a ticket to come back for activation at 10am.