Because demand for the iPhone 5 exceeds the initial supply, some of the smartphones will be shipped to customers in October, Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple said in a statement. Most orders will be delivered on Friday, the same day the handset arrives in U.S. retail outlets, Apple said.
"Clearly it's a blowout," said Brian White, an analyst at Topeka Capital Markets in New York, in an interview. He had anticipated sales of 1.3 million to 1.5 million units in the first 24 hours and up to 12 million by the end of the month. "These estimates look conservative."
The iPhone is Apple's best-selling product, making up about two-thirds of its profit. The company's entry into the smartphone market in 2007 resulted in sales of 244 million iPhone units as of June and helped Apple become the world's most valuable company. The new model, unveiled last week in San Francisco, has a bigger screen, lightweight body design, faster chip and new software features.
"IPhone 5 pre-orders have shattered the previous record held by the iPhone 4S and the customer response to the iPhone 5 has been phenomenal," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of global marketing, in the statement.
Apple is vying with Samsung Electronics Co. and other smartphone manufacturers for customers in a global market that grew 79 percent to $219.1 billion last year. Samsung, which releases several handsets a year using Google Inc.'s Android operating system, was the world's biggest seller of smartphones in 2011. By contrast, Apple releases only one iPhone a year, resulting in pent-up demand.
AT&T, the largest U.S. phone company, said its customers ordered a record number of the iPhone 5. Subscribers ordered more of the new model than any previous iPhone both on its first day of advance sales and during the weekend, AT&T said in a statement today, without providing details.
With so much demand, production bottlenecks may curb how many iPhones Apple can sell, said Ben Reitzes, an analyst at Barclays Capital Inc. The new touch-screen glass technology for the iPhone 5 is one of the biggest potential sources of supply constraints, he said.
"We still believe Apple is facing significant production constraints," Reitzes said in note to clients today. Manufacturing delays could postpone some purchases until later this year or early 2013, he said.
From October to December, Apple may sell 50 million iPhones, said Mike Walkley, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity Inc. The new iPhone hits stores this week in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the U.K. It goes on sale in 22 more countries on Sept. 28.
"It's pretty clear there was a lot of pent-up demand for the new phone," Walkley said in an interview.
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