The iPhone 4 launches around the world

Elsewhere in the city, queues started building outside the Champs Elysees stores of France Telecom and Orange at lunchtime on Wednesday ahead of a midnight launch.

It was a similar story in Germany, where network Deutsche Telekom reported not having nearly enough stock to meet the scale of the demand across the country while Apple's three German stores limited the number of phones sold to two per person.

"By lunchtime, iPhones in the high tens of thousands have already been sold. In Munich we have sold out," Deutsche Telekom spokesman Dirk Wende said.

Japan had the honour of being the first to get launch day festivities up and running, and iPhone fans responded in their droves, with both Apple's own stores and exclusive carrier Softbank's outlets reporting long queues.

As in other markets, limited stocks meant some fans were left disappointed at the Ginza branch, for instance, there were only enough handsets for consumers who had been waiting for more than a day.

However, one fan not about to be disappointed was 18-year-old Akira Nakazawa, who had been queuing since Tuesday to be near the front of the 500-strong queue when the doors finally opened.

"The hardest part was the heavy rain during the day yesterday," he told Reuters.

Additional reporting by Reuters