Saturday September 22, 2012

Long queues greet Apple’s iPhone 5

SYDNEY: Apple Inc's iPhone 5 hit stores around the globe yesterday, giving the consumer giant a boost ahead of the crucial end-of-year holiday season as rival Samsung Electronics Co stepped up its legal challenge over key technologies.

The new phone which was unveiled last week went on sale first in Australia, where long lines formed for the opening of the California company's Sydney store at 8am local time.

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.

But South Korea's 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.

Samsung and Apple are locked in 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 and customers were limited to buying a maximum of two phones. In a rainy Tokyo, the lines stretched back several blocks.

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.

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 US$3.2bil boost to the US economy in the fourth quarter.

In Japan, where the line outside the Tokyo Apple store stretched for several blocks, one of the two carriers selling the iPhone 5 said it was concerned the US company did not have enough production capacity to meet demand.

Softbank president and founder Masayoshi Son said demand for the iPhone 5 was greater than the first iPhone. KDDI Corp, the other Japanese carrier offering the iPhone, said that it had already run out of the iPhone 5.

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 inhouse maps feature.

The new maps feature, however has been criticised by some users for a number of geographical errors, missing information and a lack of features.

The iPhone is Apple's highest-margin product and accounts for half of its annual revenue. Apple had said it would make initial deliveries of the iPhone 5 yesterday in the United States and most of the major European markets, such as France, Germany and Britain. The phone then goes on sale next Friday in 22 other countries.

Apple plans to sell the new phone in 100 countries by the end of the year.

Influential reviewer Walt Mossberg labeled it the best smartphone on the market but criticized the mapping application. Reuters

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