iPhone X hits the spot as buyers surge to get new Apple smartphone

Handset goes on sale worldwide with many eager buyers despite eye-watering cost

Shoppers surged into Apple stores across the world on Friday to buy the new iPhone X, signalling stronger demand for the 10th anniversary version of the premium smartphone than the last two iterations. Investors and analysts took the swell of interest, alongside the company's better-than-expected sales forecast for the upcoming holiday shopping season, as signs that Apple could be the first ever company worth $1 trillion.

Apple’s shares rose 3 per cent on Friday, hitting a record high and giving the world’s most valuable publicly traded company a market capitalisation of almost $890 billion.

At Apple’s flagship Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan, the line coiled up and down several times along 58th Street and extended across Madison and over towards Park Avenue. Apple was letting in only 10 customers at a time, so people were likely due for an even longer wait.

“I can’t wait to get to my office and plug it in, back it up and play around with it,” said Jordan Shapiro, a 34-year-old recruiter from New Jersey who was one of the first to get into Apple’s Fifth Avenue store, at the head of a line that stretched for a block.

Prices for what Apple chief executive Tim Cook has billed as "the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone," starts at $999 in the United States. Prices for the smartphone in Apple's Irish online store start from €1,179.

Edge-to-edge display

The handset features an edge-to-edge display designed for deeper colour rendition and an innovative camera that uses facial recognition to unlock and operate the phone. Cook appeared on TV greeting the first customers in line at the company’s store in Palo Alto, California, about a half-hour drive from Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino.

In nearby San Francisco, about 250 people lined up outside the Apple store in the Union Square shopping district. “I’m feeling good, but my socks are wet,” said Ross Hendrix (20), one of the first in line after camping out on the pavement despite a light rain on Thursday night.

Similar scenes of excitement occurred earlier in the day in Asia and Europe. In Australia, about 400 people queued outside Apple’s main store in central Sydney for the new phone. Just 30 turned up for the September release of the iPhone 8, an incremental update of the iPhone 7.

“It’s beautiful, bro, what a feeling, I’m excited,” builder Bishoy Behman (18), said after picking up two iPhone Xs as the first in line. He said he camped outside the store for a week before paying to improve his place in the queue overnight.

In Europe, Apple stores in Amsterdam, Berlin and London saw lines of several hundred fans, while smaller, more subdued crowds were observed at stores in Frankfurt and Paris.

Supply issues

Analysts had expressed concern that supply issues might stop Apple satisfying early demand. The camera, for instance, has never before been manufactured in the volume Apple demands. But chief financial officer Luca Maestri said on Thursday that Apple was "quite happy" with how manufacturing of the iPhone X was progressing.

“Production is growing every week, and that’s very, very important during a ramp period,” he said. Demand and supply for the iPhone X appear to be coming back into balance, according to Apple’s online store.

While last week users trying to order the iPhone X were told they faced waits up to five to six weeks, these delays are now three to four weeks. The rush of interest in the new phone came after Apple issued an upbeat sales forecast for the year-end holiday shopping season on Thursday.

Wall Street welcomed that outlook, and five analysts now have stock price targets that would move Apple’s market value past $1 trillion. Friday’s lines signalled the company was “on track for a pretty good replacement cycle” said Edison Investment Research analyst Richard Windsor, but he questioned whether the new model sales would be as large as prior iPhone upgrade cycles.

“We do not think that the iPhone X will offer a cycle nearly as big as the iPhone 6 and my concern is that this is what the market is looking for,” said Windsor, who actively tracks all the major players in the global smartphone industry. – (Reuters)