Apple Inc is poised for a record iPhone 5 debut and may not be able to keep up with demand as customers lined up in Sydney, Tokyo, Paris and New York to pick up the latest model of its top-selling product.
Global sales started at the Apple Store in Sydney’s George Street at 8am yesterday, as about 500 people waited to buy the device. Sales also began in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany, France and the UK, and were to start in Canada and the US later yesterday. With a new wireless contract, the device costs US$199, US$299 and US$399 in the US, depending on the amount of memory.
Yasin Okan, a 19-year-old imitator who has performed in television shows, had stood in line for 17 hours outside the Apple store in the financial district in Frankfurt, Germany, and was among about 1,000 people gathered at the shop for the opening.
“There is nothing cooler than being the first,” Okan said. “Now I am gonna go home and unpack it slowly and with joy — this is gonna be better than sex.”
The crowds reinforce estimates from analysts that the iPhone 5 will be the largest consumer-electronics debut in history. Apple may sell as many as 10 million iPhones during the weekend sales rush, Piper Jaffray Cos analyst Gene Munster said.
Because Apple generates about two-thirds of its profit from the iPhone, a successful debut is critical to fuel growth that has led investors to catapult Cupertino, California-based Apple to the world’s most valuable company.
“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Digital Business.
“It used to be that with tech products the nerds got them, obsessed about them and talked about them, and the cool kids wanted no part of that conversation. That’s just not true anymore,” he said.
Apple may have trouble keeping up with initial demand because of supply shortages of components such as in-cell screen displays, according to Barclays PLC. Already, the company had to push out some deliveries to next month after early online purchases topped 2 million in 24 hours, double the record set last year with the iPhone 4S.
Apple is introducing the iPhone across the world faster than any of the device’s five previous debuts. The iPhone will go on sale in 22 more countries on Friday next week, Apple said, and it will be in more than 100 countries by the end of the year.
Steve Wozniak, who cofounded Apple with Steve Jobs, was among those waiting at an Apple Store before the opening. He wrote on Twitter that he was in line in Australia to pick up the new iPhone.
In Sydney, the first 11 places in line were taken up by companies using the sale to promote their own business. Some of them had been there since Sept. 18, and were paid as much as A$200 (US$209) a day to stand and advertise for business. Apple employees in blue T-shirts applauded as the first shoppers got into the store ,while police tried to manage the crowd outside.
At the Apple Store in Tokyo’s shopping district Ginza, about 750 people had lined up by 8am.
“I’ve been taking time-offs since Saturday and waiting,” said Mitsuya Hirose, 37, who was the first in line.
“When I bought the iPad, I was the third person in line, so I am happy now,” said Hirose, who bought his first iPhone three years ago.