Apple Inc attracted long lines of shoppers at its retail stores yesterday for the global debut of its latest iPhones, in the company’s biggest move this year to stoke new growth.
In Munich about 2,000 people lined up and at the Louvre in Paris about 300 people waited ahead of the 8am opening. At Tokyo’s Ginza store there were about 800 people, including some dressed as Batman and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in a face mask, jeans and black turtleneck. A Beijing store attracted a crowd of only about 50 because buyers had to register online for an appointment to collect their devices.
The iPhone 5S and 5C handsets also went on sale yesterday in Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany, France, the UK and the US. It is the first time Apple is rolling out its flagship product for sale in China on the same day as elsewhere, rescinding the usual three-month delay, as the company seeks to lure new customers in the world’s largest cellphone market.
Opening-weekend sales are crucial to boosting Apple after nearly a year without releasing a new device and ceding market share to rivals, including Samsung Electronics Co, in the US$280 billion smartphone market. Whether the Cupertino, California-based company can surpass the record 5 million smartphones sold during last year’s iPhone debut depends largely on whether there is enough supply of the feature-rich iPhone 5S.
Carl Howe, an analyst at Yankee Group, who correctly predicted opening weekend sales last year, said Apple could top 7 million in sales if it has enough handsets.
Apple will sell as many as 6 million units even though it will not have enough iPhone 5S handsets available, according to Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos. New fingerprint-reading technology makes the gadget harder to manufacture, he said.
The iPhone 5S costs US$199 to US$399 depending on the amount of memory and with a two-year wireless contract. Without a contract, the smartphone costs at least US$649. The iPhone 5C costs US$99 to US$199 with a two-year contract, or US$549 without one.
How the company performs in China is particularly important, given the scale of the market there. Analysts have questioned whether the price of the iPhone 5C — more than the equivalent of US$700 because of tariffs — will be too expensive for customers in China.
“It’s not worth the price,” said Wang Ying, a Beijing-based analyst with consultant firm iResearch.
Many domestically made smartphones are priced as low as US$100.
Wang said Apple also appeared to have missed a trick by not reaching a deal with China Mobile (中國移動) and its 700 million subscribers — the country’s largest carrier.
Currently, Apple has sales contracts with China Unicom (中國聯通) and China Telecom (中國電信).
“Cooperating with China Mobile will be a significant channel for Apple to ... win more users,” Wang said.
Apple has not revealed what the “C” stands for, but did not knock down months of media speculation that it was intended to signify “cheap” or “China.”
In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, published on Thursday, Apple chief executive Tim Cook said quality had always been the driving force.
“There’s always a large junk part of the market. We’re not in the junk business,” he said. “We never had an objective to sell a low-cost phone. Our primary objective is to sell a great phone and provide a great experience, and we figured out a way to do it at a lower cost.”