iPhone 3G set for 8 a.m. debut on July 11

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If you’re the sort of person who creates countdown widgets for major Apple product releases, you’ve now got an official Zero Hour for the iPhone 3G launch, straight from AT&T. The exclusive iPhone service provider in the U.S. says that the latest version of the iPhone will go on sale at 8 a.m. local time on Friday, July 11.

The July 11 ship date had been set by Apple during Steve Jobs’ Worldwide Developers Conference keynote last month, but the exact time of the release was still up in the air. AT&T made the announcement amid detailing the pricing plans for the iPhone 3G.

“We can’t wait to offer iPhone 3G to our customers, and we want to make sure the buying process is as easy as possible,” Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T’s wireless unit, said in the press release announcing the 8 a.m. launch.

The early-morning release is something of a departure from recent high-profile Apple product launches. The company tends to roll out major products—the kind that generate lines of customers—at the end of the day. Last year, the original iPhone went on sale at 6 p.m. local time, as did Leopard, when the Mac OS X update debuted last fall.

An 8 a.m. release time would mean a chance to the operating hours of Apple Stores, which typically open at 10 a.m. Macworld called the flagship Apple Store on San Francisco’s Stockton Street to find out if the store would open at 8 a.m. on July; an employee there said the store wasn’t revealing that information at this time, but suggested calling back later.

Because it requires in-store activation, the iPhone 3G is available only at brick-and-mortar Apple Stores and AT&T outlets in the U.S.

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