iPhone Goes On Sale Today [VIDEO/POLL]
In a now familiar global ritual, Apple fans jammed shops from Sydney to Tokyo to pick up the tech juggernaut's latest iPhone.
Eager buyers formed long lines Friday at Apple Inc. stores in Australia and Japan to be the first to get their hands on the latest version of the smartphone. In Hong Kong and Singapore, buyers had to sign up online for the chance to pick up the device at a prearranged time. The first customers in Hong Kong were greeted by staff cheering, clapping, chanting "iPhone 5! iPhone 5!" and high-fiving them as they were escorted one-by-one through the front door.
The smartphone is also being launched in the U.S., Britain, Canada, France and Germany. It will go on sale in 22 more countries a week later. The iPhone 5 is thinner, lighter, has a taller screen, faster processor, updated software and can work on faster "fourth generation" mobile networks.
The iPhone 5 has become a hot seller despite initial lukewarm reviews and new map software that is glitch prone. Apple received 2 million orders in the first 24 hours of announcing its release date, more than twice the number for the iPhone 4S in the same period when that phone launched a year ago.
In a sign of the intense demand, police in Osaka, Japan, were investigating the theft of nearly 200 iPhones 5s, including 116 from one shop alone, Kyodo News reported.
Analysts have estimated Apple will ship as many as 10 million of the new iPhones by the end of September.
Some Australian fans went to extremes to be among the first by arriving at Apple's flagship store in downtown Sydney on Tuesday — three days ahead of the release.
Todd Foot, 24, nabbed the coveted first spot and spent about 18 hours a day in a folding chair and catching a few hours' sleep each night in a tent on the sidewalk.
Foot's dedication was largely a marketing stunt, however. He writes product reviews for a technology website that will give away the phone after Foot reviews it.
"I just want to get the phone so I can feel it, compare it and put it on our website," he said while slumped in his chair.
In Singapore, which doesn't have an Apple store, Liu Ting Ting waited 12 hours to be the first of 10,000 people in the Southeast Asian city-state granted the opportunity to buy one at a Singapore Telecommunications launch-day event.
"I have this I-need-to-be-first mentality because this is the first time I'm buying an iPhone," said Liu, who is dumping her Blackberry because she believes the iPhone 5's photo and video capabilities will help with her journalism studies.
"If I wasn't the first, I would have gone home," she said.
Not everyone lining up outside Hong Kong's Apple store was an enthusiast. University student Kevin Wong, waiting to buy a black 16 gigabyte model for 5,588 Hong Kong dollars ($720), said he was getting one "for the cash." He planned to immediately resell it to one of the numerous grey market retailers catering to mainland Chinese buyers. China is one of Apple's fastest growing markets but a release date for the iPhone 5 there has not yet been set.
Wong was required to give his local identity card number when he signed up for his iPhone on Apple's website. The requirement prevents purchases by tourists including mainland Chinese, who have a reputation for scooping up high-end goods on trips to Hong Kong because there's no sales tax and because of the strength of China's currency. Even so, the mainlanders will probably buy it from the resellers "at a higher price — a way higher price," said Wong, who hoped to make a profit of HK$1,000 ($129).
Tokyo's glitzy downtown Ginza district not only had a long line in front of the Apple store, but another across the main intersection at Softbank, the first carrier in Japan to offer iPhones.
Hidetoshi Nakamura, a 25-year-old auto engineer, said he's an Apple fan because it's an innovator.
"I love Apple," he said, standing near the end of a two-block-long line, reading a book and listening to music on his iPod.
"It's only the iPhone for me."
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