Apple draws crowds as new iPhone hits stores
Hong Kong, September 21, 2012
Apple's iPhone 5 hit stores around the globe on Friday, giving the consumer giant a boost ahead of the crucial end-of-year holiday season.
The new phone - which was unveiled last week - went on sale across Asia with mobile carriers reporting record demand, leading at least one to question Apple's supply capacity.
"It's thin and light. I've used Samsung before, but the operation, the feeling, of the iPhone is better," said Wataru Saito, a semiconductor engineer who had been queuing in Tokyo since mid-afternoon on Thursday with his suitcase, as he had a flight to catch on Friday.
Apple has booked more than 2 million pre-orders for the device in the first 24 hours, double the first-day sales of the previous iPhone 4S.
Masayoshi Son, president of Softbank Corp, one of the two Japanese carriers selling the phone, said he was concerned that Apple does not have enough production capacity to meet demand.
Softbank and Singtel, Singapore's biggest mobile phone operator, said demand for the iPhone 5 had exceeded previous offerings from Apple, partly because the new phones could work on 4G networks that offered much faster data speeds.
KDDI Corp, the other Japanese carrier offering the iPhone, said that it had already run out of the new phone. Australia's Telstra Corp Ltd reported online pre-orders sold out in a record 18 hours and said it was discussing bi-weekly restocking with Apple.
Apple's rival and component supplier, Samsung, moved to crash the party on the eve of the phone's debut, saying it planned to add the new device to existing patent lawsuits against its US rival.
South Korea's Samsung and Apple are locked in a patent battle in 10 countries and the stakes are high as the two vie for top spot in the booming smartphone market.
Both companies are also raising marketing spending to promote their latest products ahead of the holiday sales quarter.
An estimated 600 people queued around the block from the Apple store in central Sydney, the first in the world to hand over an iPhone 5 to buyer at 8 am local time (2200 GMT, Thursday). Customers were limited to buying a maximum of two phones.
In Singapore, SingTel had booths open selling accessories and staff on hand to help buyers transfer data from their old phones, while n a rainy Tokyo, the lines stretched back several blocks.
In Hong Kong, whose proximity to China supports a thriving grey market, small groups of people carrying rucksacks filled with cash waited outside the city's flagship store hoping to snap up phones for resale.
The launches were more tightly controlled by Apple than the release of the iPhone 4S in 2010, resulting in a more subdued atmosphere - most of the noise in Hong Kong came from staff who outnumbered customers and chanted "iPhone 5, iPhone 5".
Guerrilla marketers grabbed the first dozen or so spots in the queue in Sydney, with companies paying staff members to line up for several days in the hope of being photographed and interviewed for being among the first in the world to get their hands on the new devices.
But most of those waiting were aficionados already hooked on Apple's earlier iPhones and best-selling iPad tablet computers. - Reuters