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Saturday, July 26, 2008, 09:00 am PT (12:00 pm ET)

Apple stores now open at 8 A.M. to handle iPhone 3G demand

All of Apple's US retail outlets are now in a permanent launch mode and will open as much as two hours earlier each day to accommodate the unprecedented demand for the new iPhone. Also, at least some locations are now giving customers rainchecks for the day's iPhone 3G stock.

The company's availability page now tells customers that stores that normally open at 10 A.M. will now open at the new time and are adding new employees to their ranks to process customers at a faster rate.

"To accommodate demand for iPhone 3G, all Apple Retail Stores will now open at 8:00 a.m. every day but Sunday," Apple says. "We're also adding staff to help you get up and running as quickly as possible."

While the change will do little to alleviate queues at the company's flagship stores — many of which already open earlier — the move gives Apple more time to clear queues for iPhone 3G at its locations that often continue to last for hours even two weeks after the official launch.

Additionally, AppleInsider has confirmed first-hand that at least some stores are changing their approach to selling iPhone 3G.

While Apple until now has only promised iPhones to customers as long as they stay in queue at the store, the company is now pre-qualifying customers who line up at the store and will set aside an iPhone 3G to be picked up later, when it's more convenient for them to do so. In many cases these buyers have until 6 P.M. to collect their purchases.

The method should stagger the appearance of iPhone customers throughout the day and head off potential disappointment from customers who may have to quit the line early due to other commitments.