Reports that the world is gripped in an iFrenzy today as the iPhone 4 hits stores carry a sense of déjà vu, even if the latest version of the signature Apple device may be the most sought-after to date.
There are the familiar images of lines wrapping around the block at Apple Stores in New York, Paris and Tokyo, interviews with Apple fanboys who camped out overnight, and triumphant exclamations from the first to exit stores with their hard-won prizes.
Apple is expected to sell a record million iPhones today with the launch of the new model, which boasts a sleeker design, video calling, longer battery life and faster processing power. The device's glass-and-steel frame sans plastic seems to have captured the imagination of existing iPhone users and others anew.
The debut of the iPhone 4 comes on the heels of news this week that three million iPads have been sold in its first 80 days of release. So the company has managed to roll out a hot new product line while keeping another as popular as ever. Not even the release of a flurry of Android-powered smartphones, most recently Sprint's HTC Evo 4G and the Droid X unveiled yesterday, has diminished the iPhone's allure.
While the insatiable demand for Apple gear may not seem so surprising at this point, it stands in contrast to the otherwise slowly rebounding economy. The U.S. unemployment rate is still hovering around 10% and the European debt crisis has raised the specter of a double-dip recesssion.
Yet Apple seems to exist in a blissful parallel universe, unaffected by collapsing currencies or epic oil spills, where people gladly wait in line for hours in 90-degree heat (at least in New York) to spend hundreds of dollars to brandish the latest iPhone or iPad.
Underscoring the company's imperviousness to wider economic and financial anxiety, its stock has risen 11% in the last month while the Dow has dipped 0.6% and S&P 500, 0.96%.
And Apple's recent surpassing of Microsoft as the most valuable tech company seemed to cap off its remarkable run of success, starting with the iPod a decade ago, after the company's near-death experience. Now other companies are dying to know the secret of Apple's ability to sustain not only brand cachet but surging global sales for its products.