iPhone X hits the spot with long queues

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An attendee checks out a new iPhone X during an Apple launch event in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 12, 2017.

SYDNEY/BEIJING - Long, snaking lines formed outside Apple stores in Asia early on Friday as fans flocked to buy the new iPhone X, a turnout that contrasts with the more lackluster launches for the past two iterations of the premium smartphone.

Strong initial demand underscores Apple’s upbeat sales forecast for the year-end holiday shopping season, provided just hours before iPhone X sales began.

In Australia, around 400 people queued outside Apple’s flagship store in central Sydney to pay for the 10th-anniversary model, a glass-and-stainless-steel device that Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook billed as “the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone.”

Just 30 people 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, told Reuters after picking up two iPhone X as the first in line.

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He said he camped outside the store for a week before paying to improve his place in the queue overnight.

The iPhone X comes a decade after the original iPhone, the product that powered Apple’s rise to become the world’s biggest technology company with a market capitalization of $868 billion.

The firm opened pre-orders on 27 October and has said demand was “off the charts.”

The handset features an edge-to-edge display designed for deeper colour rendition and an innovative camera for face-recognition identification.

Analysts have 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.

Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri told Reuters 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.

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In Apple’s Omotesando store in Tokyo, some 550 people were waiting in a line stretching to around 600 metres.

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“I‘m going home and after having a rest, I’d like to have fun (with the phone),” said first-in-line Yamaura, a 21-year-old college student who spent six days in the queue.

In Singapore, two tourists from Thailand - which is not an initial launch market - were the first to receive pre-ordered phones at a flagship store in the Orchard shopping district.

Arbitrage traders were also in line in an attempt to take advantage of the strong demand. In Hong Kong, some buyers quickly resold iPhone X handsets for a profit, but the resale premium eased as waiting times fell and supply concerns eased.

In Beijing, Zhou Ying, an iPhone trader since 2010, bought two iPhone X from re-sellers at a premium of 300 yuan, hoping to make several hundred yuan in profit.

But China iPhone sales have sagged in recent years as consumers switch to cheaper phones, while China becoming a launch market has hit demand for Hong Kong handsets.

“It is getting harder and harder for us to scalp iPhones. It is not the same as before,” said Ms Zhou.