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Apple: iPhone 3G purchase to take 10-15 minutes

The company is hoping to process about 100 iPhone 3G customers an hour at its retail stores on Friday, when it launches the iPhone 3G at 8:00 a.m. local time in the U.S.

Apple employees get ready to start taking iPhone orders last year in San Francisco. Erica Ogg/CNET News

Apple has revealed how it plans to handle the iPhone 3G crowd on Friday at its retail stores: about 30 iPhone buyers at a time.

In an interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday, Ron Johnson, Apple's retail chief, explained the company plans to admit iPhone customers into its retail stores starting at 8:00 a.m. local time on Friday. There will be an orange-shirted "concierge" at each store, according to Apple, who will herd iPhone 3G buyers approximately 30 at a time to the "iPhone bay" for processing.

Apple did something similar last year, when it let iPhone customers dozens at a time into its downtown San Francisco store, alternating between the first floor and second floor. Last year, however, iPhone customers could activate their iPhones at home, which made for a much quicker buying experience. Despite lines that stretched around the block as the doors opened, after an hour anyone could walk in off the street and buy an iPhone.

This time, as we all know, Apple is requiring in-store activation. Johnson said that Apple thinks each transaction will take between 10 and 15 minutes, which means the company could conceivably process between 120 and 180 buyers an hour, depending on how quickly things move. Johnson told Bloomberg to expect something more like 100 customers an hour.

A few things to remember: if you plan on buying an iPhone 3G on Friday, you're going to need a credit card, Social Security number, a government-issued photo ID, and the account number for your current wireless account if you're not an AT&T customer. You'll have to pass a credit check, and you have to be at least 18 years old, according to the fine print on Apple's iPhone page. If you're planning on buying an iPhone using a business account, you'll have to visit an AT&T store.