Apple Inc.’s stores attracted long lines of shoppers for the debut of the latest iPhones, indicating healthy demand for the bigger-screen smartphones.
The iPhone 6 and the 6 Plus went on sale today in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, France, Germany, the U.K. and the East Coast of the U.S., before rolling out across the rest of the country. Shoppers in New York and San Francisco had already formed lines in the past two days to be among the first to buy the gadgets.
At Apple’s store on Fifth Avenue in New York, police officers put up barricades as the line stretched more than 10 blocks and the crowd cheered continuously for the 15 minutes before the phones officially went on sale. Carlos Jimenez, 24, was waiting to get an iPhone 6 Plus for the bigger screen and the bragging rights of being one of the first to have it.
“I can watch my Netflix, my YouTube,” Jimenez said. “Even though I know you could get bucks for it, I’m a die-hard Apple fan,” he said, waving off the idea of trying to resell the device.
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Apple’s iPhone rollout is the most important event this year for the Cupertino, California-based company. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook is counting on the handsets to maintain Apple’s sales growth. The devices generate more than half of the company’s annual $171 billion in revenue and precede a swath of other products, including new iPads and Apple Watch. The iPhones have screens of 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, compared with 4 inches for previous models – helping Apple appeal to new consumers.
Pedro Regadillo began waiting outside Apple’s store on Fifth Avenue in New York about two weeks ago. The 59-year-old Air Force veteran, who has stood in line to buy iPhones three times before on the first day of sales, said yesterday he had his heart set on an iPhone 6 Plus.
“I love the size,” said Regadillo, who was near the front of a line that wound its way around the block and included tourists from Brazil. “I’ve got a problem with my vision.”
In downtown Portland, Oregon, there were about 50 people in fold-out chairs yesterday. The first person in line outside Apple’s downtown Toronto store was Dan Murchison, a retired truck driver, who was being paid to buy phones for a friend.
“I’m 62 years old, I remember when the first cell phones came out, they were gigantic and had 20 tons of batteries,” said Murchison, who began camping outside the store on Sept. 17. “Then they all of a sudden shrunk them down to nothing. Now they’re getting big again! I do not understand why, but that’s the way it is.”
Lisa Epps, 55, joined by her employee, Surindar Singh, 42, said she made an exception to her rule of not waiting in lines because she “can’t wait to get the gold” iPhone 6 Plus.
“We played hookie today,” Epps said from New York.
In central Paris, Elias Kartout was among the hundreds of people gathered outside an Apple store early in the morning, with a line stretching around the French capital’s 19th century opera house. Kartout, a Belgian student, said he had yet to make up his mind on if he would go for the iPhone 6 or the 6 Plus.
“I’ll decide once I’ve tried it to see how it feels in my hand,” said Kartout, 22, who arrived last night, taking a detour on a trip to Italy.
More than 1,000 people were in line for Apple’s Regent Street store in London, some sitting on pieces of cardboard to stay dry after a night of rain. Llewellen Fourie, a surveyor from London, said he’s had an iPhone since the original came out, and is now looking to upgrade his golden iPhone 5 to the 6 Plus because of its larger screen.
“Anything new is exciting even if it’s a paint job,” said Fourie, 39.
The line of hundreds of people outside the Apple store in central Sydney snaked around the block, then down a parallel street before extending three more blocks. At the middle of the line, Xin Liu, 25, a student at the Sydney Institute of Interpreting and Translating, had waited more than 11 hours to buy her parents a new phone.
“When I came here, I thought there would be about 500 people,” she said. “But someone counted and there were already 800. I was really surprised.”
In Hong Kong, hundreds lined up at the Apple store at the IFC mall to collect their new iPhones after registering online in advance. They were met by about a dozen protesters from Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour holding up signs that said “iSlave 6. Still made in sweatshops” and “Throw Away the Bad Apple.”
With Apple yet to say when the iPhone 6 will be available in China, Chen Daihui and Yao Haitao traveled from the mainland to Hong Kong to try to secure the devices. After failing to register online, they were both disappointed.
“All I wanted was to go inside and have a look, and they wouldn’t let me do that,” said the 32-year-old Chen, who traveled from Fujian. “Looks like I will just have to wait.”
The Apple store in Tokyo’s Shibuya area had about 600 people lined up an hour before opening, while the one in nearby Omotesando had about 1,000. They included a woman near the front of the line wearing a Steve Jobs mask, carrying a red apple.
“The most important aspect of first weekend iPhone sales are the long lines and the ‘record breaking’ sales numbers that generate the free press for the company,” Walter Piecyk, an analyst at BTIG LLC, wrote in a note to investors yesterday.
The buzz over the smartphones has been high since Cook unveiled them at a Sept. 9 event. When the iPhones became available for pre-order a week ago, they racked up a record 4 million reservations in the first 24 hours and surpassed earlier releases. Resellers said users are trading in older phones to make room for the new iPhones, while some phones are being offered on Hong Kong’s black market for $3,600.
RBC Capital Markets polled 6,000 consumers and found that “an impressive 26 percent of respondents who intend to purchase an iPhone are new” to Apple’s ecosystem, with the majority coming from phones using Google Inc.’s Android software, Amit Daryanani, an analyst at RBC, wrote in a Sept. 17 note to investors.
A key question about the opening weekend is whether Apple will have enough inventory to satisfy demand.
Carl Howe, an analyst at 451 Research LLC, said Apple may sell 12 million to 15 million new devices this weekend. Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., wrote in a note to investors that he’s projecting sales of 7 million to 8 million, which would fall short of last year’s first weekend sales of 9 million units of the iPhone 5s and 5c. Sacconaghi attributed it partly to supply constraints and to the fact that China isn’t one of the first countries selling the devices.
Apple isn’t rolling out the new iPhones in China on opening weekend, as it did last year with the iPhone 5s and 5c. China is one of the largest emerging markets of smartphone buyers, with China Mobile Ltd.’s subscriber base at 794 million alone.
The 24-hour adoption rate of Apple’s new iOS mobile operating system, which debuted Sept. 17, hasn’t been as quick as last year, according to Chitika, an online-advertising network. While adoption rate was 7.3 percent this year, that fell short of 18 percent for last year’s iOS 7 and 15 percent for 2012’s iOS 6, according to Chitika, which tracked iOS-based online ad impressions within its network to estimate the take rate.
“Some users experienced issues downloading the update, as the installation software takes up more than 5GB of space if downloaded over-the-air,” Chitika said in a Web posting.
A spokeswoman for Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Chitika’s report.
Russians in Berlin
The new iPhones are targeted directly at bigger-screen smartphones popular with consumers in Asia. Those phones typically run on Android and are made by Samsung Electronics Co., Xiaomi Corp. and Lenovo Group Ltd., among others.
Several hundred people lined up at the Apple store on Berlin’s Kurfuerstendamm before it opened, with many customers from Russia, which doesn’t get the new iPhones until Sept. 26.
Security personnel were on hand to help with the line, allowing people to jump metal barriers for a 15-minute break for food or to use the bathroom. Yury Shchepetkov, a 24-year-old power engineer from Moscow, said he is supposed to get the new phones for his wife and two friends.
“I came here for tourism,” Shchepetkov said. “I had no idea I would be stuck in line for two nights without a sleeping bag.”