TOKYO: Apple's iPhone 5 hit stores in a festive global rollout Friday, with long queues of devotees undeterred by a lukewarm welcome from experts for the smartphone and complaints about its new mapping system.
The lines of eager fans outside retail stores looked set to make the latest generation iPhone another commercial smash for the trend-setting US company, coming after Apple said it had received more than two million orders online.
Australians were the first to get their hands on the device. In Sydney the faithful filmed the experience on their iPhones and iPads as staff inside clapped and cheered when the doors opened at 8:00 am (2200 GMT Thursday).
But the event was also hijacked by companies looking for free publicity, with the first dozen or so in the queue wearing promotional T-shirts and caps or carrying advertising materials.
"Seven of us are here from our company, since midday Tuesday," said Todd Foot, 24, who was first in the line and works for an organisation that reviews mobile phones.
"We've actually had telephone hook-ups with the first in the lines in New York and London. It's been a bit crazy."
Compared to the iPhone 4S, Apple's new smartphone boasts a bigger display, stronger battery and faster connection to the latest 4G networks. It is lighter and slimmer, and contains tweaks designed to improve the user's experience.
But many analysts say Apple has fallen short as other companies such as Samsung improve rival offerings powered by Google's Android operating system.
"Unless Apple ups its device innovation game, we may be seeing Apple's iOS empire approaching its zenith," Tony Costa of Forrester Research said.
However, enthusiasm among early-bird shoppers was undimmed as iPhone 5 sales began too in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. Later Friday, sales will start in France, Germany, Britain, the United States and Canada.