POSTED: 4:39 a.m. HST, Sep 21, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 5:56 p.m. HST, Sep 21, 2012
In a now familiar global ritual, Apple fans jammed shops from Sydney to Paris to pick up the tech juggernaut's latest iPhone. Hawaii is no exception.
By 4:42 a.m. some 30 people were lined up at Ala Moana Center to get the latest iteration of Apple's popular smartphone, the iPhone 5. Within nine minutes the line had swelled by more than 15 additional people.
The first person in line, Jeremy from Mililani, declined to give his full name because "I don't want to be that guy," but said he arrived at about 3 a.m. "I tried to preorder, but I couldn't," he said, which prompted him to come to the mall this morning.
The ages of Apple acolytes in line are estimated to range from people in their 20s, up to those eligible for senior citizen discounts at many establishments. A 66-year-old Hawaii Kai man, who declined to give his name, said he wanted to come this morning because he is the only one in his family without an iPhone.
Ala Moana security personnel will soon move the line of eager buyers from in front of Macy's to the front of the Apple store, where employees planned to address the crowd at 6 a.m.
The line of customers waiting for a new iPhone 5 has swelled and now snakes from in front of the Apple store to more than halfway around the makai side of Macy's.
Many of them are enjoying free Starbucks coffee and large muffins from Costco offered from rolling carts by Apple store employees.
Other employees are working their way down the line to assess customers' needs, and gauge their preparedness to transition to the new phone, such as whether they had an Apple ID, if they knew which carrier would be providing their service, and lastly, if they knew what their choice of two-tone color scheme would be. The phone is offered in black/graphite and silver/white.
One store employee assured customers at the end of the line that they were "confident" they had a sufficient supply to get through the day.
At exactly 8 a.m., following a loud and raucous 10-second countdown, the first 50 customers walked in to the Apple store at Ala Moana Center. Each person was accompanied by an employee who went outside to greet them, and who will assist them with their purchase of the highly-anticipated iPhone 5.
Dozens more people still are lined up outside. The line of waiting customers extends down the makai side of the Macy's store entrance.
An Apple store employee estimated that the bulk of the first group will have completed their purchases within an hour, but the line already is advancing.
Elsewhere around the world, eager buyers formed long lines today at Apple Inc. stores in Asia, Europe and North America to be the first to get their hands on the latest version of the smartphone.
In London, some shoppers had camped out for a week in a queue that snaked around the block. In Hong Kong, the first customers were greeted by staff cheering, clapping, chanting "iPhone 5! iPhone 5!" and high-fiving them as they were escorted one-by-one through the front door.
The smartphone will be on sale in the U.S. and Canada hours after its launch in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Britain, France and Germany. It will launch in 22 more countries a week later. 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 2 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.
In a sign of the intense demand, police in Osaka, Japan, were investigating the theft of nearly 200 iPhones 5s, including 116 from one shop alone, Kyodo News reported. In London, police sought help finding a man wanted in connection with the theft of 252 iPhone 5s from a shop in Wimbledon early this morning.
Analysts have estimated Apple will ship as many as 10 million of the new iPhones by the end of September.
Some fans went to extremes to be among the first buyers by arriving at Apple's flagship stores day ahead of the release.
In downtown Sydney, Todd Foot, 24, showed up three days early to nab the coveted first spot. He spent about 18 hours a day in a folding chair, catching a few hours' sleep each night in a tent on the sidewalk.
Foot's dedication was largely a marketing stunt, however. He writes product reviews for a technology website that will give away the phone after Foot reviews it.
"I just want to get the phone so I can feel it, compare it and put it on our website," he said while slumped in his chair.
In Paris, the phone launch was accompanied by a workers' protest — a couple dozen former and current Apple employees demonstrated peacefully to demand better work benefits. Some decried what they called Apple's transformation from an offbeat company into a multinational powerhouse.
But the protesters — urged by a small labor union to demonstrate at Apple stores around France — were far outnumbered by lines of would-be buyers on the sidewalk outside the store near the city's gilded opera house.
Not everyone lining up at the various Apple stores was an enthusiast, though. In Hong Kong, university student Kevin Wong, waiting to buy a black 16 gigabyte model for 5,588 Hong Kong dollars ($720), said he was getting one "for the cash." He planned to immediately resell it to one of the numerous grey market retailers catering to mainland Chinese buyers. China is one of Apple's fastest growing markets but a release date for the iPhone 5 there has not yet been set.
Wong was required to give his local identity card number when he signed up for his iPhone on Apple's website. The requirement prevents purchases by tourists including mainland Chinese, who have a reputation for scooping up high-end goods on trips to Hong Kong because there's no sales tax and because of the strength of China's currency. Even so, the mainlanders will probably buy it from the resellers "at a higher price — a way higher price," said Wong, who hoped to make a profit of $129.
A similar money-making strategy was being pursued in London, where many in the crowds — largely from the city's extensive Asian community — planned to either send the phones to family and friends back home as gifts or sell them in countries where they are much more expensive.
"It makes a really nice gift to family back home," said Muhammad Alum, 30, a minicab driver from Bangladesh. "It will be two or three weeks before there is a SIM card there that can work it, but it's coming soon."
Others who had waited overnight said the iPhones cost roughly twice as much in India as in Britain, making them very welcome as gifts.
Tokyo's glitzy downtown Ginza district not only had a long line in front of the Apple store, but another across the main intersection at Softbank, the first carrier in Japan to offer iPhones.
Hidetoshi Nakamura, a 25-year-old auto engineer, said he's an Apple fan because it's an innovator.
"I love Apple," he said, standing near the end of a two-block-long line, reading a book and listening to music on his iPod.
"It's only the iPhone for me."
Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo, Faris Mokhtar in Singapore, Tom Rayner and Gregory Katz in London and Oleg Cetinic in Paris contributed to this report.
Erika Engle reported live from the Hawaii iPhone 5 launch.