People look at the new iPhone 5S at an Apple store in New York yesterday.
NEW YORK: Apple fans from Tokyo to New York joined the stampede yesterday for the latest iPhones as the US tech giant aimed for wider global appeal in the competitive smartphone market.
US stores opened with long queues after sales kicked off in Australia, Japan, China, Europe and elsewhere.
Customers clamouring for the new devices shrugged off the notion that Apple, which has been losing market share to rivals, had lost its edge in innovation. But some complained about the high price.
David Kaminsky, first in line at the Apple store in Bethesda, Maryland, said he had waited more than 12 hours for the 8 am opening, to ensure he got one of the gold-coloured iPhones.
“It’s not just the technology — it’s the experience, the simplicity,” said Kaminsky, a University of Maryland student.
Apple is releasing the iPhone 5S, which has its most advanced technology, and 5C, with a lower price. While customers in the United States can get the iPhone 5C for $100 with a carrier contract, the unsubsidized price is $549 in the US and higher elsewhere.
In Tokyo, a lucrative new deal with Japan’s biggest mobile carrier lent some celebrity glitz to the opening in the nation of gadget-lovers.
Diehard fans began lining up last week and even sat through a weekend storm to keep their spot in a queue that grew to around a kilometre in length by opening time, police estimated.
Media helicopters hovered over Tokyo, where a man dressed as Batman waited outside the Apple store in upmarket Ginza next to a woman with a shock of pink hair and a life-size Steve Jobs pillow.
Actor Ken Watanabe, star of Inception and Letters From Iwo Jima, was on hand to welcome buyers with a handshake and a broad smile at Docomo’s main Tokyo shop, marking the new alliance between Apple and the country’s biggest carrier.
The firm, the mobile unit of NTT, which has about 42 percent of the Japanese market, has shed more than 3.5 million subscribers to rivals since 2008, when SoftBank first rolled out the iPhone in Japan, local media have reported.
There was no crush in China, where Apple had a pre-booking system to avoid a repeat of the near-riot in Beijing at the 2011 release of the iPad 2 that left four people in hospital.
Those prepared to shell out a minimum 4,488 yuan ($730) for the pared-down iPhone 5C, or at least 5,288 yuan ($864) for the iPhone 5S, said they didn’t mind the cost.
“It’s not about the price, it’s about the brand, I think Apple is the best,” said Chang Yi, a 29-year-old real-estate salesman.
Others milling around outside the store had a different opinion.
“It’s too expensive... it’s a luxury item,” said 19-year-old student Meng Jia. “If the price was around 2,000 yuan, I would buy one”.
Singapore’s biggest carrier Singtel said it expected 10,000 people to pick up their new iPhones at its launch event, and that there had been a rush on the gold model.
In Australia, the sticker price shocked some consumers.
“Incredible — Apple charging $99 for iPhone 5C in the USA (with a contract) but $740 in Australia and its $1,200 for 5S — no wonder Android phones are popular.” tweeted David Smith.
The polycarbonate-bodied 5C was widely flagged as Apple’s answer to the onslaught of cheaper, Android-powered models, led by Samsung. Apple has not revealed what the “C” stands for, but did not knock down months of media speculation that it was intended to signify “cheap” or “China”.
In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek published on Thursday, Apple chief executive Tim Cook said quality had always been the driving force.
“We never had an objective to sell a low-cost phone,” Cook told the magazine. “Our primary objective is to sell a great phone and provide a great experience, and we figured out a way to do it at a lower cost.”
The new phones were on sale yesterday in the US, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore and Britain, with other rollouts due.