Apple fans queued around city blocks worldwide on Friday to get their hands on the new iPhone 5 – but grumbles about inaccurate maps tempered the excitement.
The new phone went on sale across, Europe, Asia and Australia with mobile carriers reporting record demand that looked likely to stretch Apple’s supply capacity.
Apple has booked more than 2 million orders for the device in the first 24 hours, double the first-day sales of the previous iPhone 4S.
Some analysts expect Apple to sell up to 10 million iPhone 5 models in the remaining days of September and JP Morgan estimates the phone release could provide a $3.2 billion boost to the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter. The amount is almost the same as the economy of Fiji.
Apple’s rival and component supplier, Samsung Electronics Co , moved to spoil the party, saying it planned to add the new device to existing patent lawsuits against the U.S. company.
The new phone has a larger, 4-inch screen and is slimmer and far lighter than the previous model. The iPhone 5 supports faster 4G mobile networks and also comes with a number of software updates, including Apple’s new in-house maps feature.
But not everyone was impressed with the standard of the new technology. Some users criticized the maps feature for a number of geographical errors, missing information and a lack of features.
Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller has said the company launched the new service knowing it was a major initiative. “We are continuously improving it, and as Maps is a cloud-based solution, the more people use it, the better it will get.”
Hundreds of French iPhone fans lining up at Apple’s main store in Paris got an earful from disgruntled employees and former retailers protesting against the group’s policies.
Some 20 former staffers of independent Apple distributors which closed after struggling to compete with Apple’s own stores marched in front of the Paris store.
Joining them were three store employees striking to protest against Apple’s refusal to offer perks such as meal vouchers and a yearly bonus of an extra one month’s salary that are standard for many French workers.
“I AM NUMBER ONE“
In London’s Regent Street about 1,300 people lined up to buy the phone, nearly double for the launch of the previous phone. “iPhone 5 is both the fastest and biggest selling iPhone to date on our network. Pre-order sales are up more than 50 percent compared to the iPhone 4S,” said a spokesman for Vodafone UK.
In Germany, 19-year-old musician Okan Yasin had waited since lunchtime on Thursday to be at the front of the queue at the Frankfurt Apple shop. Proudly holding a sign saying “Ich bin Nummer 1”, he said:
“I just need to have it. I know that the new iPhone from a new features perspective hardly has anything extra to offer. But I just needed to be here. It’s the hype, man!”
In Australia, about 600 people queued around the block from the Apple store in Sydney, the first in the world to hand over an iPhone 5 to a buyer. Customers were limited to buying a maximum of two phones.
In Tokyo, the lines stretched back several blocks.
“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.
In Hong Kong, people carrying rucksacks filled with cash waited outside the city’s main store hoping to snap up phones for resale. Staff there chanted “iPhone 5, iPhone 5”.
Most of those waiting were fans already hooked on Apple’s earlier iPhones and best-selling iPad tablet computers.
“I feel like if I leave it at home, I go a bit crazy,” said James Vohradsky, a 20-year-old student who had queued for 17 hours with his sister. “I have to drive back and get it. I can’t do my normal day without it.
Vohradsky said the lack of mobile payment chip was also “a bit of a letdown“. Apple did not embed Near Field Communication (NFC) technology used to turn cellphones into mobile wallets into the iPhone 5.
Vohradsky was less bothered by Apple’s decision to drop the wide dock connector used in the company’s gadgets for the best part of a decade in favour of a smaller one, a move that some critics say adds to costs for users who will now have to buy an adaptor for speakers or other accessories.
The company has said it will make initial deliveries of the iPhone 5 on Friday in the United States and most of the major European markets, such as France, Germany and Britain. The phone then goes on sale on Sept. 28 in 22 other countries.
There was also concern that not enough new phones were available 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.
Masayoshi Son, president of Softbank Corp, one of the two Japanese carriers selling the phone, said he was worried Apple does not have enough production capacity to meet demand.
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 orders sold out in a record 18 hours and said it was discussing bi-weekly restocking with Apple.
Apple plans to sell the new phone in 100 countries by the end of the year, ramping up competition in a smartphone market that has already reached a fever pitch.
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.
Apple is up against phones that run on Google Inc’s Android software, which has become the most-used mobile operating system in the world, while Samsung has taken the lead in smartphone sales.
The iPhone is Apple’s highest-margin product and accounts for half of its annual revenue.