Fever over iPhone 5 hits home as Apple's latest gadget goes on sale

Hundreds queue overnight outside stores as Apple's latest gadget goes on sale in HK and eight other world markets

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 September, 2012, 4:14am


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It matters not whether it runs on a 3G or 4G network or that its map application does not know where the Bank of China is. Apple fans in Hong Kong do not care as long as they can lay their hands on the latest iPhone.

The iPhone 5, which is thinner, longer and speedier, with 4G capability, debuted yesterday in nine markets, including Hong Kong, the United States, Australia and Japan, where iPhone fever drove hundreds to queue around the block.

The technology giant is known for its tight grip on supply: in Hong Kong, its Apple store and 4G partner SmarTone are selling only by appointment to those who survive a drawing of lots.

Meanwhile, about 100 people were seen outside One2Free and 3HK stores in Mong Kok, which accepted walk-ins. Although the two operators are still running the phones on slower 3G networks, would-be customers said they could wait for the network upgrade but not the phone.

Competition was keen. About 100 people, many of them speculators, had gathered outside Sunion Telecom, a premium Apple reseller in Mong Kok, by 7am. Second in the queue was a woman in her 60s who said she had been waiting since 2am. The shop had 70 of the new phones and sold out soon after opening.

Meanwhile, nearly 100 speculators, carrying rucksacks filled with cash, offered to buy the phones from customers emerging from the Apple store in Central for HK$7,000 to HK$8,500 for the 16GB model. It costs HK$5,588 in the store.

People said the best offers came from parallel traders from the mainland, where official imports are not yet available.

But some diehard Apple fans said they would pass up the easy profits and keep the new object of their affection.

At the head of the queue outside the Apple store was Brigitte Cheung, who bought two white, 16GB iPhone 5s and planned to keep both. "It's exciting that I am among the first to get our hands on the gadget," she said. "I've been using iPhones since they first hit the market."

Carmen Wong of Wiki Technology in Mong Kok said she sold 20 of the phones in the morning, with the biggest buyer paying more than HK$100,000 for 11.

About 600 people queued at the Apple store in Sydney, the first in the world to sell an iPhone 5. Buyers were limited to 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, who had queued since Thursday afternoon.

The new phone has a larger, four-inch screen and is slimmer and far lighter.

Additional reporting by Reuters