When the iPhone 5 goes on sale in stores Friday, lines could be as long as the record queues seen for the iPhone's debut in 2007, tech analysts predict.
"It will be a madhouse," says Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.
And the fervor for the iPhone 5 could boost Apple's bottom line and power its shares above the $700 mark this week. They briefly touched a record high of $696.98 Friday before ending the day at $691.28.
People already are lining up at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store in Manhattan. And analysts say that's just the start because pre-orders for the iPhone 5 sold out online Friday within an hour.
"They clearly were caught by surprise by the size of the orders," says Richard Doherty, a tech analyst at Envisioneering Group. Had they continued fulfilling online orders, "They might have only had two phones available at stores on Friday."
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 probably be sold out by Sunday.
Munster projects sales as high as 10 million iPhone 5s for the first week, most of which will be over the weekend. That compares with sales of 4 million of the iPhone 4S on its first weekend last October. Munster says the new iPhone probably won't be back in stock for weeks.
Apple's Natalie Kerris says the company is "blown away" by the consumer response to the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 starts at $199 with a new or extended two-year contract.
Doherty believes the lines for the iPhone 5 will be the longest since 2007, attracting as many as 1 million folks. And 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 with the new device and will pay handsomely for it. Doherty thinks every other person in line will be buying phones to ship to buyers elsewhere. "We expect a lot of FedEx and UPS boxes to be going out that day," Doherty says.
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