Apple launched has its new iPhone 3GS with demand expected to be strong for the handset in the US and seven other initial launch countries.

However, with a smartphone market also offering new handsets from Palm, RIM and Nokia, to name but a few, the landscape has changed considerably since the original iPhone hit the market two years ago.

For the third consecutive year, lines formed outside stores as people waited for the chance to buy the newest iPhone.

Unveiled earlier this month at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), the iPhone 3GS is described by Apple as "faster and more responsive" than the original iPhone, with more battery life and close to double the storage.

If the length of the lines was less than previous iPhone launches then Apple’s decision to allow for advanced iPhone 3G S orders with home delivery could have played a part in that.

So too could the current economic climate – or maybe it’s just that people are spoilt for choice when it comes to buying a new smartphone?

Among the iPhone 3GS’ rivals are Palm’s Pre, RIM’s BlackBerry Storm, Nokia’s N97 and upcoming phones powered by Google’s Android or Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating systems.

But with the US smartphone market growing 68 per cent last year – and growth of 20 per cent projected for 2009 – consumer appetite for these high-end devices is still strong.

A key differentiator is likely to be apps – and Apple already leads the field in that respect by a considerable distance.

RIM captured a 55 per cent slice of the US smartphone market in the first quarter of this year, while Apple had around 20 per cent.

However, Apple’s App Store has 50,000 applications available – far ahead of what’s on offer at BlackBerry’s App World, Palm’s App Catalog, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile Catalog and Google’s Android Market.

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