SAN FRANCISCO – Apple attracted long lines of shoppers Friday for the global debut of its latest iPhones, the company’s biggest product introduction this year.
In New York, customers queued up around the block to get into Apple’s flagship Fifth Avenue store. The gold-colored version of the device sold out during the morning at the Regent Street location in London, and U.S. carriers pushed back shipment dates for that model to October. In Munich about 2,000 people lined up, compared with about 50 at a store in Beijing, where buyers had to make a reservation online.
The iPhone 5S and 5C handsets also went on sale Friday in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and France. It’s the first time Apple is rolling out its flagship product for sale in China on the same day as elsewhere, abandoning the usual three-month delay, as the company seeks to lure new customers in the world’s largest mobile-phone market.
Last year, if you wanted an iPhone 5 right after the launch, it was very expensive because you had to buy one that had been brought in from Hong Kong or the U.S., said Max Zhang, a 20-year-old student waiting at the Wangfujing store in Beijing for an iPhone 5s. Now that I can buy it directly in the Apple Store, it’s cheaper.
While the iPhone 5S is also available in black and white versions, the gold model emerged as the hottest seller. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile US and Verizon Wireless won’t be able to ship gold iPhones until October, while the others are available this month, Apple said.
It’s the one distinct model where you can tell it’s the new one, said Vincent Villalba, 25, of New York, who began waiting in line at the Fifth Avenue store at 3 a.m. to get a gold version. If any store is going to get a large shipment, it’s this one.
Opening-weekend sales are crucial to boosting Apple after almost a year without releasing a new device and ceding market share to rivals including Samsung Electronics Co. in the $280 billion smartphone market.
Whether the Cupertino, Calif.-based company can surpass the record 5 million smartphones sold during last year’s iPhone debut depends on whether there is enough supply of the feature-rich iPhone 5s.
It really depends entirely on how good or bad the yields on the 5s are, said Carl Howe, an analyst at Yankee Group, who correctly predicted opening weekend sales last year.
Apple could top 7 million in sales if it has enough handsets, though Apple may not even hit the 5 million I predicted last year if the 5s is in really short supply, he said.