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Gadget lovers queue for Palm's 'iPhone killer'

SMALL crowds gathered at Sprint stores yesterday for the official launch of Palm Inc's Pre, the much-hyped smartphone seen as Palm's best chance to claw back market share lost to rivals such as Apple Inc's iPhone and Research In Motion Ltd's Blackberry.

The new high-end phone, considered a pivotal product for both Palm and Sprint Nextel, has been greeted by rave reviews.

Lines were far shorter than those that snaked around Apple stores for its first hugely popular iPhone, but many said they were eager for the new product.

"I wanted their iPhone killer. I've been anticipating this for a while," said Peter Lewis, who bought phones for himself and his wife at a Sprint store on the north side of Chicago, where some 45 people had lined up hours before opening.

"This is my birthday present to myself," said Wilma Rivera, 36, a heating technician who brought her 17-month-old daughter to Sprint's flagship store in Manhattan.

Rivera, a long-time Palm user, said, while she had been tempted by iPhone, sold only by AT&T Inc in the United States, she "never wanted to leave Sprint."

The Pre is seen as a pivotal device for both Palm and Sprint. Pre is hitting the shelves just before Apple is widely expected to announce a new iPhone tomorrow.

Eddie Chu, a 23-year-old actuarial student, said he started waiting in line at 6:40am yesterday. He was drawn to Pre's keyboard as well as Sprint's mobile video service.

The Pre's tiny keyboard is expected to attract some consumers who find it difficult to type on iPhone's virtual touchscreen. But Chu, a self-confessed gadget lover, said he was also getting ready for Apple's next iPhone. "I'm not opposed to having two phones," he said.

Pre was the most talked about device at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. It is the first Palm phone to use the company's webOS operating system.


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