In a now familiar global ritual, Apple fans jammed shops from Sydney to South Beach to pick up the tech juggernaut’s latest iPhone.
Eager buyers formed long lines Friday at Apple stores in Asia, Europe and North America to be the first to get their hands on the latest version of the smartphone. South Florida locations were also swamped, including Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, where more than 300 people waited early Friday despite early rain.
Lloyd Pearson, 30, an entrepreneur, web designer, and self-professed poet, was first to enter the South Beach store with a card that corresponded to the serial number of a new iPhone 5. He’d been in line since 7 p.m. Thursday.
"I consider myself to be ahead of the tech curve. I’m waiting for them to catch up with my ideas," he said after 12 hours camped out in front of the store. "I used to have an iPhone but it got stolen, so I’ve been in withdrawal. I’ve been out here all night, I didn’t sleep and I got rained on a bit. But I’ll get to sleep tonight with my new iPhone.”
The smartphone went on sale in the United States and Canada at 8 a.m. Friday, hours after its launch in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Britain, France and Germany. It will launch in 22 more countries next week. Many true tech enthusiasts pre-ordered their new toys, and the people congregating at South Florida stores were a mix of self-professed geeks and casual consumers.
The iPhone 5 is thinner, lighter, has a taller screen, faster processor, updated software and can work on faster "fourth generation" mobile networks. The handset has become a hot seller despite initial lukewarm reviews and new map software that is glitch prone. Apple received two million orders in the first 24 hours of announcing its release date, more than twice the number for the iPhone 4S in the same period when that phone launched a year ago.
Shares of Apple Inc. rose $5.80 to reach the new high of $704.50 in early trading. Shares surpassed $700 for the first time on Tuesday.
In what appeared to be standard protocol at Apple stores around the world, each person in line on Lincoln Road was escorted inside by a blue-shirted Apple employee. The one-on-one service helped people get set up with their new phones and limited the number of customers in the store at one time. People kept arriving and filing into the barricade-constructed line at the South Beach location well into the evening on Friday.
Gabriel Farha, a 30-year-old film producer from Sao Paulo, came to Miami from Brazil specifically to get the iPhone 5. He was staying in a hotel near the Lincoln Road Apple store, and when he lined up at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, he was the 10th person in line. He said he has “almost every Apple product,” and he didn’t want to wait until January to get the newest toy in Brazil, where it would be much more expensive.
“I can’t say this phone is really revolutionary, but just to look at it is like a piece of art,” he said. “It’s like jewelry. It’s like a Rolex.”
Other hopeful customers described the bigger screen, faster operating system and connection to 4G networks as the most awaited features.
Verizon Wireless spokesperson Chuck Hemby said he was “confident” the Verizon 4G LTE network could handle the additional traffic. The new smartphone will also be compatible with AT&T and Sprint 4G LTE networks.