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The iPhone 4S is almost here

CNET will offer a semi-live blog for the launch of the iPhone 4S on Friday with correspondents in Paris, New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Twelve people were in line for the new iPhone 4S at the Fifth Avenue store in New York City on Thursday, the day before the device goes on sale.
Marguerite Reardon/CNET

The final countdown is on for the launch of the iPhone 4S.

Starting at 8 a.m. local time tomorrow, the new phone will go on sale at Apple stores as well as retail locations for the three carriers offering the device: AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and Sprint. Retailers including Best Buy, Target, Sam's Club, and Radio Shack will also be selling the newest iPhone.

Folks in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the U.K. will also be able to buy the new iPhone 4S starting at 8 a.m. local time.

The three major carriers and Apple started selling preorders of the iPhone 4S on Friday. And sales have already been through the roof. Apple reported that more than 1 million units were sold the first day, the most preorders the company said it has ever had for an iPhone.

Some carriers, namely Sprint and Verizon Wireless, have already sold out of some versions of the phone. For people ordering online, their phones will be shipped directly to their homes and should arrive starting Friday.

Jessica Mellow, 26, and Keenen Thompson, 21, both from New York City, are being sponsored by the gadget trade-in site Gazelle. They've been waiting in line since September 26 for the iPhone 4S. Marguerite Reardon/CNET

For everyone else who wants to get the shiny new iPhone 4S on the first day it's available, you'll have to wait in line.

So how bad will the lines be this year? It's hard to say. There's been a lot of pent-up demand for the new device, despite the fact that some people were disappointed that Apple didn't announce a newly designed iPhone.

The preorder process should help alleviate some of the long lines. But standing in line for the iPhone has itself become an event. And there will likely be Apple fans lining up outside some of the flagship stores all over the world.

At Apple's Fifth Avenue store in New York City, at least two people have been camping out in front of the store waiting for the device since September 26. Jessica Mellow, 26, and Keenen Thompson, 21, both from New York City, are being sponsored by the gadget trade-in site Gazelle. Hans Mai, 27, also of New York City, was the first non-sponsored individual to hit the line. He's been there since October 5.

By 3 p.m ET today, the day before the launch, the line had grown to about 12 people.

Meanwhile, the Apple store in San Francisco in Union Square doesn't have a soul standing in line yet, according to CNET reporter Josh Lowensohn. The 80-degree sunny weather could be one reason. Or perhaps San Franciscans don't like standing in line as much as New Yorkers.

No one was standing in line yet at the San Francisco flagship Apple store the day before the iPhone 4S went on sale. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

The Sprint flagship store in New York City in the Flatiron building on 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue also didn't have a line this afternoon. But the store was closed in preparation for big crowds expected for tomorrow morning. This is the first time that Sprint will be selling the iPhone.

As usual CNET will be out in force on both coasts on iPhone 4S launch day chronicling the long lines that are expected to form overnight. And as we've done in years past, we will have a running semi-live blog from various locations. Stephen Shankland, our CNET correspondent in Europe, will give us a glimpse of iPhone 4S launch day in Paris. And starting at 4 a.m. PT, the New York CNET crew, which includes myself and photographer Sarah Tew, will begin reporting from the Apple store on Fifth Avenue. Bridget Carey from CNET TV and her team will also be reporting from the Big Apple.

No lines yet outside Sprint's flagship store in Manhattan on 23rd Street the day before the iPhone 4S goes on sale. Marguerite Reardon/CNET

On the West Coast, Josh Lowensohn will be offering updates from San Francisco, James Martin will send in pictures from Emeryville, Calif., Roger Cheng will blog from Los Angeles, and Kara Tsuboi will have video from San Francisco.

Check back on CNET in the wee hours tomorrow morning for all the latest on this year's iPhone 4S launch.