SAN FRANCISCO - Apple stores will be carrying the iPhone 4 today, but you'll have to wait until next week if you want to buy it from its official U.S. wireless carrier, AT&T Inc.

And if you wanted it in white instead of black, you'll have to wait even longer. Apple announced Wednesday it is delaying release of white models until the second half of July, saying the devices are more challenging to make than expected.

The black versions of the phone will start selling Thursday as scheduled, Apple said, and they will also be available at Best Buy and Walmart stores.

AT&T said Tuesday it will start selling the iPhone 4 on June 29 through its stores and website to those who were unable to place pre-orders on June 15. AT&T stopped taking orders the next day because of overwhelming demand.

AT&T spokesman Fletcher Cook said that because the number of pre-orders was so high, the company "made it our priority to fulfill these orders first."

AT&T said it will deliver iPhones this week to customers who were able to place orders June 15. Some reported receiving their phones Wednesday. AT&T is e-mailing customers when their iPhone has been shipped, and store employees will call customers who ordered phones for delivery to its retail stores when their phones come in.

The crush of orders sets the scene for long lines and potential chaos at stores when the phone starts selling Thursday. Judging by previous years, shortages could last through summer.

As smart phones have become both status symbol and lifeline, the lust is strong to have the best, according to cultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell, who is the director of the user experience group at Intel.

"They have become desirable objects and desirable in that way where we become compelled to have them," Bell said. "It's your reptilian brain kind of kicking into action. You get this overwhelming sense of 'I must have it,' and it's not necessarily rational."- Combined news services

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