SYDNEY/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc’s iPhone 5 hit stores around the globe on Friday, with fans snapping up the device that is expected to fuel a huge holiday quarter for the consumer giant.
The new phone — which was unveiled last week — went on sale first in Australia when stores there opened at 8.00 a.m. local time (2200 GMT, Thursday).
Long lines marked the phone’s debut in Sydney, with an estimated 600 people queuing around the block and customers limited to buying a maximum of two phones.
Most of those waiting were aficionados 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,” James Vohradsky, a 20-year-old student said of his current iPhone. “I have to drive back and get it. I can’t do my normal day without it,” said Vohradsky, who had queued for 17 hours with his younger sister.
The California company 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.
Some analysts expect Apple to sell up to 10 million iPhone 5 models in the remaining days of September.
The new phone has a larger, 4-inch screen and is slimmer and far lighter than the previous model. The iPhone 5 supports the faster 4G network and also comes with a number of software updates, including Apple’s new in-house maps feature.
The new maps feature, however has been criticized by some users for a number of geographical errors, missing information and a lack of features.
Vohradsky said the lack of mobile payment chip was also “a bit of a letdown”. Apple did not embed Near Field Communication technology used to turn cellphones into mobile wallets into the iPhone 5.
The iPhone is Apple’s highest-margin product and accounts for half of its annual revenue. Apple 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 the United Kingdom. The phone then goes on sale on September 28 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.
The latest iPhone comes as competition in the smartphone market has reached a fever pitch with Apple up against phones that run on Google Inc’s Android software. Android has become the most-used mobile operating system in the world, while Apple’s key supplier and rival, Samsung Electronics, has taken the lead in smartphone sales.
Reporting by Jane Wardell and Thuy Ong in Sydney and Poornima Gupta in San Francisco; Editing by John Mair