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      Latest iPhone hits the Midlands

      COLUMBIA (WACH, AP) -- The latest release from Apple, the iPhone 4S, is now on the store shelves around the Midlands.

      Customers looking to get their hands on the new technology camped out overnight waiting for the doors to open at 8 a.m. at the AT&T store in the Harbison area.

      "I woke up at four and was calling to see if I was eligible to upgrade," said Jenny Vaught. "We thought we would be able to beat the line, but we ended up in line."

      Apple stores started selling the iPhone 4S across the country Friday morning, as did AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless stores. Some Best Buy, Target and Walmart stores and authorized sellers are also carrying the phones.

      Prices for the fifth upgrade from Apple start just shy of $200 and along with the faster device comes better software and an improved camera, according to Apple representatives.

      "This is the state of the art as it is," said Ted Carroll, who showed up in the Harbison area early Friday with his wife and dog to get their hands on the new device. "My wife had done her homework on this."

      Friday's release is the first iPhone launch since the passing of Steve Jobs. Most experts believe weekend sales will range from two to three million units.

      The release comes after major system outages plagued Blackberry users earlier this week, prompting some to make a switch.

      "My wife's got a Blackberry and she has had about enough," said John Robinson, another one of the early-risers at the Harbison AT&T store. "She decided she's going to go with the iPhone 4S."

      The iPhone 4s is the first to launch simultaneously on three U.S. carriers, Sprint, Verizon and AT&T. The new unit looks just the same as the iPhone 4, but the guts that get you going have been ramped up, driving so many in the Midlands to get out well before sunrise to their hands on the latest and greatest.

      "I heard it's going to be faster," said Vaught. "I'm also upgrading to some more memory and also the camera is supposed to be a lot better. I have four kids so I take a lot of pictures."

      Some customers and investors were disappointed that Apple didn't launch a more radical new model. It's been more than a year since Apple's previous model was released.

      The new iPhone pre-sold one million units, roughly 400,000 more than the iPhone 4. The latest launch is also helping boost shares of Apple stock. Some analysts expect fourth-quarter iPhone shipments to reach 30 million or more, almost twice as many as a year ago.

      Do you plan to get the new iPhone? How often do you get a new phone? Leave a comment below to answer.