Apple'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 went on sale Friday in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, France, Germany, Britain and the United States. Across the world, the scene was similar to the one at Apple's store on Fifth Avenue in New York, where police officers put up barricades as a line stretched more than 10 blocks and the crowd cheered continuously for the 15 minutes before the phones officially went on sale.
In New Zealand the new iPhones go on sale this Friday.
Carlos Jimenez, 24, was waiting to get an iPhone 6 Plus for the bigger screen and the bragging rights of being one of the first to have it.
"I can watch my Netflix, my YouTube," Jimenez said. "Even though I know you could get bucks for it, I'm a die-hard Apple fan," he said, waving off the idea of trying to resell the gadget.
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 precede a swath of other products, including new iPads and Apple Watch. The iPhones have screens of 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, compared with 4 inches for previous models - helping Apple appeal to new consumers.
In central Paris, Elias Kartout was among hundreds of people gathered outside an Apple store early in the morning, with a line stretching around the French capital's 19th century opera house. Kartout, a Belgian student, said he hadn't made up his mind on if he would go for the iPhone 6 or the 6 Plus.
"I'll decide once I've tried it to see how it feels in my hand," said Kartout, 22, who arrived last night, taking a detour on a trip to Italy.
More than 1,000 people were in line for Apple's Regent Street store in London, some sitting on pieces of cardboard to stay dry after a night of rain. Llewellen Fourie, a surveyor from London, said he's had an iPhone since the original came out, and is now looking to upgrade his golden iPhone 5 to the 6 Plus because of its larger screen.
"Anything new is exciting even if it's a paint job," said Fourie, 39.
In downtown San Francisco Friday, the line outside of the Apple store had grown from a dozen or so people 24 hours earlier to hundreds of people wrapping around three city blocks. In the opposite direction, another line formed for people with reservations to buy a phone. The two lines almost met to form a square.
A key question about the opening weekend is whether Apple will have enough inventory to satisfy demand.
Some phone carriers' stores in Manhattan were selling out of limited supplies of the iPhone 6 Plus Friday morning. A Sprint store at 42nd Street had none as of 8:30 a.m. New York time, and the AT&T Inc. store at 46th Street and Madison Avenue was sold out of the iPhone 6 Plus. An employee outside the store said they started with only about two and were telling customers they could place orders for November delivery.
"At this time, Sprint's inventory on iPhone 6 Plus is extremely limited and we are in heavy backorder," Michelle Mermelstein, a Sprint spokeswoman, said in an email. "Customers can order this device thorough any of our retail channels with a delivery time of 4-6 weeks."
At a T-Mobile store at 8:45 a.m. New York time, all but one iPhone was sold out. The remaining phone was a 6 with 128 gigabytes of storage. Anne Marshall, a T-Mobile spokeswoman, said the company was restocking as quickly as possible. She said she wasn't optimistic that there would be much of the iPhone 6 Plus available.
At the Apple store in downtown Portland, Oregon, Cory Nguyen, a 19-year-old college student, said he was planning to get an iPhone 6 Plus until he heard employees tell people in line that they had run out of the bigger device. He said he'd get two iPhone 6 instead.
"I'm going to resell," Nguyen said. "I know people. Everyone wants an iPhone."
The line outside the Apple store in central Sydney snaked around the block, then down a parallel street before extending three more blocks. Xin Liu, 25, a student at the Sydney Institute of Interpreting and Translating, had waited 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."
In Hong Kong, hundreds lined up at the Apple store at the IFC mall to collect their new iPhones after registering online in advance. They were met by about a dozen protesters from Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour holding up signs that said "iSlave 6. Still made in sweatshops" and "Throw Away the Bad Apple."
With Apple yet to say when the iPhone 6 will be available in China, Chen Daihui and Yao Haitao traveled from the mainland to Hong Kong to try to secure the devices. After failing to register online, they were both disappointed.
"All I wanted was to go inside and have a look, and they wouldn't let me do that," said the 32-year-old Chen, who traveled from Fujian. "Looks like I will just have to wait."
The Apple store in Tokyo's Shibuya area had about 600 people lined up an hour before opening, while the one in nearby Omotesando had about 1,000. They included a woman 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, wrote in a note to investors Thursday.
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. Resellers said users are trading in older phones to make room for the new iPhones, while some phones are being offered on Hong Kong's black market for $3,600.
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 phones using Google Inc.'s Android software, Amit Daryanani, an analyst at RBC, wrote in a Sept. 17 note to investors.
Carl Howe, an analyst at 451 Research, said Apple may sell 12 million to 15 million 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 fact that China isn't one of the first countries selling 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 China Mobile Ltd.'s subscriber base at 794 million alone.
The new iPhones are targeted directly at bigger-screen smartphones popular with consumers in Asia. Those phones typically run on Android and are made by Samsung Electronics, Xiaomi and Lenovo Group, among others.
New iPhones score big in durability
Apple's new and bigger iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are more durable than last year's model and a leading Android phone, a study says.
Apple's iPhone 6, whose screen measures 4.7 inches, did the best across a variety of tests that measures how prone smartphones are to break due to everyday accidents, according to SquareTrade, a company that provides extended protection plans.
The iPhone Plus 6, whose screen measures 5.5 inches, wasn't far behind but lost points because it could slip out of a person's hand since some users may have a hard time gripping its large but slim form, SquareTrade says.
The iPhone 5s, which measures 4 inches and came out last year, fared better than Samsung's Galaxy S5, which measures 5.1 inches. The Samsung phone got poor marks on several tests including the slide test. The more a phone slides, the greater its chance of falling off the edge of a table.
Still, all four of the smartphones tested had a medium risk of breakage and had no drastic differences among them.
"The phones are getting more and more durable," says Ty Shay, chief marketing officer at SquareTrade. "Manufacturers are paying more attention."
SquareTrade examines the phones based on eight factors, including size, weight, grip and the quality of the front and back panels. The company measured how far the phones slide when pushed across a table on their backs and how well they withstand drops from 4 feet and being dunked in water for 10 seconds.
SquareTrade says it uses robots to do the testing to ensure consistency, and rates the phones on a 10-point durability scale, with 10 signifying the highest risk. Apple's iPhone 6 scored the best at 4; the iPhone 6 Plus scored a 5; the iPhone 5s a 6; and Samsung Galaxy S5 a 6.5.
Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus passed the slide test, but the iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy's S5 got poor marks in that area. The iPhone 6 Plus was the only one that didn't fare as well when dropped 4 feet by the robot. The glass screen survived, but the case separated from the glass. All four phones fared well in the water resistance test.