Apple fans queued around city blocks worldwide on Friday to get their hands on the new iPhone 5, pointing to a strong holiday season for the consumer device maker despite grumblings about the mapping app in the new smartphone.
The iPhone 5 - thinner, lighter and with a four-inch screen - went on sale in stores across Canada, the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia, with mobile carriers reporting record demand that looked likely to stretch Apple's supply capacity.
"The line for the iPhone was 70 per cent greater than the line for the iPhone 4S despite Apple taking two [times] as many online preorders," said Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. He expects Apple to sell eight million of the new smartphones over the weekend.
The long lines of excited buyers prompted optimism on Wall Street. Deutsche Bank raised its target on Apple stock to $850 from $775, saying "demand indicators are tracking very strongly."
The iPhone is Apple's highest-margin product and accounts for half of the company's annual revenue. Apple shares were up 0.5 per cent to $702 in afternoon trading in New York.
JPMorgan estimates the phone could provide a $3.2 billion boost to the U.S. economy in the fourth quarter - a boost almost equal to the whole economy of Fiji.
Apple's rival and component supplier, Samsung, tried to spoil the party, saying it plans to add the iPhone 5 to its existing patent lawsuits against Apple.
Apple began taking preorders for the iPhone 5 last Friday and booked more than two million orders in the first 24 hours - double the first-day sales of the previous iPhone, the 4S. Shipping time for online orders is three to four weeks.
Prices for the iPhone 5 start at $199 for a 16 GB model and range as high as $399 for a 64 GB model.
The iPhone 5 supports faster 4G mobile networks and also comes with a number of software updates, including Apple's new inhouse maps feature, which is based on Dutch navigation equipment and digital map maker TomTom's map data. But not everyone was impressed. Some users criticized the maps feature for a number of geographical errors, missing information, and a lack of features.
And not everyone was thrilled with Apple's success. Hundreds of French iPhone fans lining up at Apple's main store in Paris got an earful from disgruntled store employees and others protesting against Apple policies.
Marching in front of the Paris store were about 20 former staffers of independent Apple distributors that closed after struggling to compete with Apple's own stores. Joining them were three Apple store employees striking to protest Apple's refusal to offer staffers meal vouchers and a yearly bonus of an extra month's pay - standard perks for many French workers.
In San Francisco, Apple store worker Cory Moll, who is seeking to start a union and is the founder of the Apple Workers Retail Union initiative, stood outside the main downtown store with a placard showing his support for the French workers and those who assemble Apple products in Asia. The line of buyers at the store wound around several blocks. The launch drew crowds of customers at Apple stores worldwide.
Hundreds of people lined up around the block at Apple's store on New York City's swanky Fifth Avenue.
Kadijah Perez, 26, a Bronx resident, had not heard about the map issues. She said she wanted to use the phone for navigation, adding, "Hopefully, they'll just fix it."
In London's central Regent Street, about 1,300 people lined up to buy the iPhone 5, nearly twice as many as showed up for the previous iPhone.
In Germany, 19-year-old musician Okan Yasin had waited since lunchtime on Thursday to be at the front of the queue at the Frankfurt Apple shop. "I just need to have it. I know that the new iPhone from a new features perspective hardly has anything extra to offer. But I just needed to be here. It's the hype, man!"
In Australia, about 600 people queued around the block at the Apple store in Sydney, the first in the world to hand over an iPhone 5 to a buyer.
In Tokyo, the lines stretched several blocks.
In Hong Kong, people carrying rucksacks filled with cash waited outside the city's main Apple store, hoping to snap up phones for resale.
There was concern not enough new phones were available to meet demand. Apple plans to sell the new phone in 100 countries by the end of the year, ramping up competition in a smartphone market that has already reached fever pitch.