New phone goes on sale across Asia on Friday but complaints about inaccurate maps
IPhone aficionados queued around city blocks on Friday to get their hands on Apple Inc's new iPhone 5 - but complaints about inaccurate maps and the lack of a mobile wallet feature were voiced amid the excitement.
The new phone went on sale across Asia and Australia with mobile carriers reporting record demand that looked likely to stretch Apple's supply capacity.
Apple 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.
Its rival and component supplier, Samsung Electronics Co, moved to spoil the party on the eve of the phone's debut, saying it planned to add the new device to existing patent lawsuits against the U.S. company.
The new phone has a larger, 4-inch screen and is slimmer and far lighter than the previous model. The iPhone 5 supports faster 4G mobile networks and also comes with a number of software updates, including Apple's new in-house maps feature.
But not everyone was impressed with the standard of the new technology. Some users criticized the new maps feature for a number of geographical errors, missing information and a lack of features.
An estimated 600 people queued around the block from the Apple store in central Sydney, the first in the world to hand over an iPhone 5 to buyer. Customers were limited to buying a maximum of two phones.
In Tokyo, the lines stretched back several blocks.
"It's thin and light. I've used Samsung before, but the operation, the feeling, of the iPhone is better," said Wataru Saito, a semiconductor engineer who had been queuing in Tokyo since mid-afternoon on Thursday - with his suitcase as he had a flight to catch on Friday.
In Hong Kong, people carrying rucksacks filled with cash waited outside the city's flagship store hoping to snap up phones for resale. Staff there chanted "iPhone 5, iPhone 5".
Most of those waiting were fans 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," said James Vohradsky, a 20-year-old student who had queued for 17 hours with his sister. "I have to drive back and get it. I can't do my normal day without it.
Kim Tudo, a University of New South Wales student who queued overnight, said he was disappointed by the turn-by-turn navigation feature under the iOS 6 mobile operating system behind the new phone was not immediately available in Australia.
Vohradsky said the lack of mobile payment chip was also "a bit of a letdown". Apple did not embed Near Field Communication (NFC) technology used to turn cellphones into mobile wallets into the iPhone 5.
Tudo and Vohradsky were less bothered by Apple's decision to drop the wide dock connector used in the company's gadgets for the best part of a decade in favour of a smaller one, a move that some critics say adds to costs for users who will now have to buy an adaptor for speakers or other accessories.
The company 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 Britain. The phone then goes on sale on September 28 in 22 other countries.
Some analysts expect Apple to sell up to 10 million iPhone 5 models in the remaining days of September and JP Morgan estimates the phone release could provide a $3.2bn boost to the US economy in the fourth quarter.
There was also concern that not enough new phones were on tap to satisfy the hunger.
Softbank and Singtel, Singapore's biggest mobile phone operator, said demand for the iPhone 5 had exceeded previous offerings from Apple, partly because the new phones could work on 4G networks that offered much faster data speeds.
Masayoshi Son, president of Softbank Corp, one of the two Japanese carriers selling the phone, said he was worried Apple does not have enough production capacity to meet demand.
KDDI Corp, the other Japanese carrier offering the iPhone, said that it had already run out of the new phone.
Australia's Telstra Corp Ltd reported online pre-orders sold out in a record 18 hours and said it was discussing bi-weekly restocking with Apple.
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 a fever pitch.
South Korea's Samsung and Apple are locked in a patent battle in 10 countries and the stakes are high as the two vie for top spot in the booming smartphone market.
Apple is up against phones that run on Google Inc's Android software, which has become the most-used mobile operating system in the world, while Samsung has taken the lead in smartphone sales.
The iPhone is Apple's highest-margin product and accounts for half of its annual revenue.For all the latest retail news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.