Apple Preps for iPhone 4S Revolution

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) plans to sell as many as 4 million units of its new iPhone 4S this weekend after customers queued up at Apple stores around the world in order to buy the latest model of the smartphone. The device becomes available today in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the U.K.

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The iPhone 4, introduced last year, topped 1.7 million units sold in its first weekend. Most estimates for the iPhone 4S range from 2 million to 3 million, but Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe predicts sales as high as 4 million.

The iPhone 4S sold 1 million units last Friday alone, the first day it was available or pre-order. Yesterday it was announced the device had sold out at all three of its national carriers: AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon (NYSE:VZ), and Sprint (NYSE:S).

The iPhone 4S has received mostly positive reviews for its Siri voice-recognition software and new 8MP camera. Apple has also released an update to its iOS mobile operating system that will be available on the new phones, but that customers can also download to their existing devices. The software comes with 200 new features, and a Web storage service — iCloud — that allows users to synchronize photos, documents, music, and other files across all their Apple gadgets.

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Apple’s shares have been climbing this week on speculation that the new iPhone will be a huge success. At the close of U.S. trading yesterday, Apple was again the world’s most valuable company with a market capitalization of $378.7 billion, compared to second ranked Exxon Mobil with a market cap of $371.3 billion. The iPhone, first introduced in 2007, accounts for almost half of Apple’s total revenue.

The iPhone 4S will become available later this month in 22 additional countries, including Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Mexico. With all this said, it’s going to be a crappy weekend for smartphone competitors Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Nokia (NYSE:NOK), and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG).