Newest Apple iPhone goes on sale Thursday: Most new iPhone smartphones were ordered in advance for pick up today; some deliveries by mail this week

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THE WAIT IS ALMOST OVER -- well at least it could be for some iPhone diehards.

The latest and most improved version of Apple Inc.'s iconic, trailblazing iPhone smartphone -- the iPhone 4 -- goes on sale Thursday at Apple stores and some retailers nationwide.

Odds are that only avid fans who preordered the iPhone 4 or camped out at an Apple store before doors opened at 7 a.m. will walk away with the coveted device.

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Getting one could be major accomplishment for fans who don't already hold a pre-order ticket. That ticket could become worthless if customers fail to pick up their device on the scheduled day.

The iPhone 4 comes in 16 gigabytes or 32 gigabytes, with prices between $199 and $299, respectively for new activations or standard upgrades on a two-year contract. An iPhone 4 32 GB without a contract will cost fans with 'commitment issues' a whopping $699.

The iPhone 4 is available in white or black and features a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash, HD video recording and reportedly delivers up to seven hours on talk time on 3G networks, among other bells and whistles.

Apple stores are expected to stock some, but how many is anyone's guess. Other retailers such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Radio Shack also are reportedly expect to sell the iPhone 4 on Thursday but could have limited supplies.

"We continue to evaluate inventory across our stores," a Best Buy spokesman said Wednesday. "We expect that many of the iPhones we have will go to customers who reserved one, but each store is different so customers will need to check for availability."

Best Buy stores will not be open early Thursday and stores will contact customers with preorders to schedule appointments, according to the spokesman.

Earlier this week, AT&T, the exclusive iPhone carrier, said it will not have the iPhone 4 for sale in its stores or online until June 29. For customers with preorders, however, the phone will be delivered starting this week.

Apple unveiled the iPhone 4 on June 7 and started taking pre-orders on June 15. More than 600,000 devices were sold that day -- the largest number of pre-orders Apple has recorded in a single day.

Websites for both Apple and AT&T experienced several technical issues, malfunctioning at points throughout the pre-order process as frenzied fans logged on to get first dibs on the iPhone 4.