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Lines form for the new iPhone in New York and Tokyo

Here are two postcards from the front lines of the smartphone wars.

The first, at right, shows three college students from Monclair, N.J. — Matt Dodd, 18, Sam Epstein,18, and Keith Hobin, 19 — huddled under borrowed umbrellas in front of Apple’s (AAPL) flagship New York Fifth Avenue store to buy the latest in multitouch cellular technology.

They arrived at 7 a.m. EDT, 24 hours before Apple is scheduled to begin selling the new iPhone 3GS to the public. The heavy rain hadn’t let up since they arrived and the forecast was calling for more rain into the night.

The second, below, appeared on the Japanese website +D Mobile (English translation). It shows the roughly 200 customers who queued up Thursday morning near the Softbank flagship store in Tokyo’s Omotesando shopping district to reserve their new iPhones, which won’t arrive in Japan until June 26.

According a second report, smaller lines had also formed at Softbank outlets throughout the city and at many of the electronics stores that line Tokyo’s Akihabara Electric Town.

The guys from New Jersey, who were among the first 15 people in line at the Fifth Avenue cube last July when the iPhone 3G went on sale, say they’re here for the new iPhone, yes, but mostly for the “fun.”

“It’s an experience,” says Keith Hoban, a freshman at Drexel University. “This doesn’t happen too often. It’s nice to just hang out at the Apple store, see what happens and be among the first to get it.”