New iPhones draw lines worldwide

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Posted: Saturday, September 21, 2013 12:00 am

Apple Inc. 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 lined up around the block to get into Apple’s flagship Fifth Avenue store, while in Munich about 2,000 gathered to buy the new iPhone 5s and 5c, and in London the waiting crowd stretched about a mile. Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook and other executives visited customers at stores in Palo Alto, Calif., near the company’s campus.

“I started lining up five days ago,” said Sachihisa Saishiki, a 45-year-old who has camped outside the Tokyo store at least six times previously. “I was with a group of 10, and we took turns going out for food, going back home to take showers. I spent time sleeping out here, too, lying down on a cardboard box,” he said after buying a gold iPhone 5s.

The iPhone 5s and 5c went on sale Friday in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore and the United Kingdom. It’s the first time Apple rolled 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, among the roughly 50 people 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 5s is also available in black and white versions, the gold model emerged as the hottest seller. AT&T Inc., Sprint Corp., T-Mobile US Inc. and Verizon Wireless won’t be able to ship gold iPhones until October, while the others are available this month, Apple said on its website. Gold and white were sold out at the Grand Central store in New York.

“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.

Apple will sell as many as 6 million units even though it won’t have enough iPhone 5s handsets available, according to Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos. New fingerprint-reading technology makes the gadget harder to manufacture, he said. Ben Reitzes, an analyst at Barclays Plc, said demand seemed better than projected and sales could top 7 million if Apple has enough supply.

The iPhone 5s features a new camera and faster processor. It costs $199 to $399 depending on the amount of memory and with a two-year wireless contract. Without a contract, the smartphone costs at least $649.

For the less-expensive iPhone 5c, Apple took last year’s iPhone 5 and mostly repackaged it in a new plastic casing that’s offered in five different colors. It costs $99 to $199 with a two-year contract, or $549 without one.

This week, Apple also released the new iOS 7 mobile operating system for iPhone and iPad. Some customers experienced long delays trying to download the software, which includes sweeping graphical changes such as a new look for email, camera, text messaging and other applications. Apple also is fixing a security flaw regarding the passcode lock screen in iOS 7, said Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman for Apple.

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