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 became available starting today in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan, before rolling out in France, Germany, Puerto Rico, Canada and the U.S. Consumers in New York and San Francisco had already formed queues in the past two days to be among the first to buy the gadgets.
“Phenomenal start to a historic day and an honor to be with our incredible team and first customers in Sydney,” Angela Ahrendts, Apple senior vice president of retail and online stores, said in a tweet today.
The line of hundreds of people outside the Apple store in the center of 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, was waiting for 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.”
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 precedes a swath of other products, including new iPads and Apple Watch. The iPhones also sport larger screens -- 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, compared with 4 inches for previous models -- helping Apple appeal to new consumers.
The Apple store in Tokyo’s Shibuya area had about 600 people lined up an hour before opening today, while the one in nearby Omotesando had about 1,000. That 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. Reviewers have heaped praise on the gadgets and resellers have said users are trading in older phones to make room for the new iPhones.
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 Android, Amit Daryanani, an analyst at RBC, wrote in a Sept. 17 note to investors.
People wait in line for the iPhone 6 to go on sale outside the Apple store on Fifth Avenue in New York on Sept. 18, 2014.
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 of the 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 decision that China isn’t one of the first countries to receive 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 carrier 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.
The new iPhones are targeted directly at bigger-screen smartphones, which are popular with consumers in Asia. Those phones typically run on Google Inc.’s Android mobile software and are built by Samsung Electronics Co. (005930), HTC Corp. and other manufacturers.
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 who had flown in from Brazil. “I’ve got a problem with my vision.”
In downtown Portland, Oregon, there were about 50 people sitting in fold-out chairs. The first person in line outside Apple’s downtown Toronto store was Dan Murchison, a retired truck driver, who was being paid to stand in line 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.”
At San Francisco’s Apple store, a line began forming two days before the iPhone’s availability. Apple employees were handing out bottles of water, taking photos and asking customers what phones they planned to get.
“I am really excited about iPhone 6 -- it is bigger and faster,” said Huong Dinh, 47, who stood at the front, clutching an iPhone 5. She planned to buy two new iPhones, she said, one for her and one for her husband.
Toward the end of the line was Cassidy Szarnicki, 19, a freshman at the University of California at Los Angeles who arrived at 7 a.m. yesterday in San Francisco to get an iPhone 6.
“I know the pre-order was pretty long and I wanted to get it pretty much when it first came out instead of waiting two months or so,” she said. “You’ve got to be the first in line to get it.”