GREENFIELD — At the same time Apple fans around the country were waiting in line – some of them for hours or even days – for the highly anticipated release of the iPhone 5, the new smartphones sat almost unnoticed on the shelves of one store.
Eli Spaulding, sales associate at The Cellular Connection in Greenfield, said the first customers to show up at the Verizon franchise store on north State Street arrived at 7:45 a.m., just 15 minutes before the phone went on sale Friday.
“There were just the two people waiting in line when we opened,” Spaulding said.
Of the 12 phones The Cellular Connection did receive, there were two left by late morning. They were the most expensive models with the most data storage.
Spaulding said he wasn’t surprised by the lack of fanfare in Greenfield. He said that while other locations, like those in Indianapolis, Carmel and Fishers, would inevitably sell more phones and be busier, the Greenfield store generally is less busy. He said preorders also helped cut down on the crowd for the much-anticipated launch of the popular device. Customers were able to preorder their iPhones starting last Friday. Spaulding said the store had more people show up for the first day of preorders than for Friday’s release.
“They’ll probably pick those up later today,” Spaulding said, standing in the empty store Friday morning.
Those phones were expected to arrive in a separate shipment Friday afternoon. Customers would then be notified to pick up their phones in the store.
The lucky few who ordered the iPhone 5 as soon as preorders opened Sept. 14 likely have their phones by now. Twitter was blowing up with posts from Apple devotees tracking their phones’ journeys to their doorstep. Those who waited to order online, however, will likely not have their phones for several weeks. As of Friday, the estimated delivery time was about a month out.
Such wait times helped drive traffic to stores elsewhere around the country and world. In a now familiar global ritual, Apple fans jammed shops across the globe to pick up the tech juggernaut’s latest gadget.
Eager buyers formed long lines Friday 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 New York, several hundred people lined up outside Apple’s 5th Avenue store. Jimmy Peralta, a 30-year-old business management student, waited three hours before getting the chance to buy his new gadget. Was it worth the wait?
“Definitely,” he said, noting that the new phone’s larger screen and lighter weight compelled him to upgrade from the iPhone 4. “A little treat for me on a Friday morning, why not. Why not be part of something fantastic? It’s just such a smart phone it does all the thinking for you, you can’t get any easier than that.”
Catheryne Caveed, 23, was in line at a Verizon store in the Queens borough of New York. An iPhone 4 user, she had no regrets about skipping last year’s model, the iPhone 4S. The only real upgrade in the 4S, she said, was Siri, the voice-controlled “personal assistant.”
“The 4S looked the same as the 4,” Caveed said. With the 5, “everything is different – even the headphones.”
Apple’s stock was up less than one percent, or $5.61, to $704.23 in late morning trading.
Earlier, 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 a new map app that early users have deemed inferior to Google Maps, the software it replaces. 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 iPhone 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 Friday 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 HK$1,000 ($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.
“It’s only the iPhone for me,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.