Books & Review | Cole Garner Hill
Updated: Sep 17, 2012 10:30 AM EDT

tim cook

People are reportedly already lining up at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store in Manhattan to buy the new iPhone 5. (Photo : Reuters)

Apple announced Monday Sept. 17 that preorders for its new flagship smartphone, the iPhone 5, topped two million in 24 hours -- more than double the amount of preorders it had for the iPhone 4S, making this the fastest selling iPhone ever. 

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The tech giant also conceded that because demand for the new iPhone has exceeded initial supply, some pre-orders will be delivered in October although most will be delivered this Friday Sept. 21.

AT&T also announced today that the company has set a sales record for the iPhone 5 as well, with customers ordering more of them than any previous iPhone model on the first day of preorders and over the weekend.

People are reportedly already lining up at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store in Manhattan.

When iPhone 5 goes on sale in stores later this week, analysts predict lines as long as the record queues seen for the iPhone's debut in 2007. "It will be a madhouse," says Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.

Although, not everyone agrees -- Richard Doherty, an independent tech analyst at Envisioneering Group, says the immediate sellout for the pre-order makes for an "awkward" launch for the new phone.

"Apple expected the pre-orders to be a one-day cycle, and they were shocked that it was just one hour. They clearly were caught by surprise by the size of the orders," Doherty says. Had they continued fulfilling online orders, "they might have only had two phones available at stores on Friday."

Apple's Natalie Kerris says the company is "blown away" by consumer response to the new phone. Of course, they can't be that surprised, can they? Apple's identity as a company is tied at the hip to predicting the future, its every move - or non-move in this case-seems calculated to draw public interest or stir up intrigue a little more. So, we have to wonder if this is all just another tactical maneuver.

Phones ordered online won't be delivered until Oct. 5 at the earliest, according to Apple's website. And analysts say phones available at retail, starting at 8 a.m. Friday, will likely be sold out by Sunday.

Munster projects sales of 6 million to 10 million iPhone 5s in the first week, most of which will be in the Friday-Sunday time period. That compares to sales of 4 million of the iPhone 4S on its first weekend last October.

Munster says the iPhone 5 probably won't be back in stock for weeks. "For the iPhone 4 and iPad 2, they were gone after the first weekend, and there were lines for weeks afterwards," he says.

The iPhone 5 starts at $199 with a new or extended two-year contract. If you're not yet eligible for the upgrade, the iPhone starts at $649.

Here's where to get the phone:

Apple

Brave the line at an Apple retail store (Munster thinks fans will start lining up earlier in the week.) Doors open at 8 a.m. (EST) on Friday.

Walmart

You can pre-order in the store with a $25 deposit, and return to pick it up. Calls to random Walmart stores said the phone might be available Friday or later, depending upon the size of its shipment, according to USA Today. Walmart also throws in a free movie rental from its Vudu digital service.

Best Buy

The iPhone 5 goes on sale Friday, in-store. The online site isn't taking orders or pre-orders, but is taking them in-store, with a $50 deposit. It hopes to fulfill orders on Friday Sept. 21.

Radio Shack

Pre-order in store with a $50 deposit, and come back for the phone. Calls to stores said buyers should get their phones, if not by Friday, then by Monday Sept. 24.

Wireless carriers

AT&T - Ships within 14-21 business days

Verizon - Ships Oct. 5

Sprint - ships Oct. 5 online with pre-orders.

Or purchase at stores on Friday.

"I'd recommend consumers skip the carrier stores on Friday because they'll try to upsell you on services, and the line will go really slow," Doherty says. "They might find more satisfaction at a retailer."

Doherty believes the line for the iPhone 5 will be the longest and most intense since the first iPhone went on sale in 2007, attracting as many as 1 million folks. But there's more to it than just heavy consumer demand in the U.S.

Consumers in other countries where the iPhone 5 won't be on sale until later also want to be first on the block with the hot new device, and will pay handsomely for it. Doherty thinks every other person on the line will be buying phones to ship out to buyers elsewhere.

"We expect a lot of FedEx and UPS boxes to be going out to China, Europe and the Middle East that day," Doherty says.

The iPhone's five-year run as the top-selling phone is unprecedented. The last phone to have such a prolonged run at the top was the Motorola Razr, which outpaced its competitors for three straight years -- until the flip phone was blindsided by the much more powerful iPhone.

The industry's median prediction is that Apple will sell 45 million iPhone 5 units in the first three months after it hits store shelves. According to Macquarie Securities research, Apple is expected to ship 66 percent of the total smartphones sold for AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint after the iPhone 5 launch, up from 45 percent last year. And, for the first time ever, Yankee Group reports that more smartphone shoppers say they plan to buy an iPhone than an Android phone.

Some analysts think the iPhone could defy the odds and stay on top for a decade or more. There's precedent for that too -- from Apple, of course.

"I'd point to the iPod. Everyone said an iPod killer was coming, and it's still dominating the digital music market," said Carl Howe, an analyst at Yankee Group. "A fallacy we run into is 'X replaces Y,' but usually it's a situation where we have X and Y together. Radio did just fine after television arrived."

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