There were few long lines filled with those anxious to get their hands on Apple’s iPhone 5 early Friday morning in Wilson County, but many crowded cellular stores as soon as they opened.
And as the steady stream of customers dwindled by early afternoon, so did stocks of the latest offering from Apple. Workers at the Verizon Wiresless store on West Main Street reported a few iPhone 5 phones remaining Friday afternoon, mostly those of the higher storage space – 32G and 64G – with the higher price tag remaining.
The 16G version of the iPhone sold out quickly at the Lebanon store, and customers not taking advantage of pre-order or pre-purchase options eye waiting about a month for new ones to arrive locally.
Bobby Moss and Alora Nixon, both of Hartsville, tried out the newest phone to hit the market at Verizon’s display counter early Friday afternoon. Nixon was in the market to take advantage of the latest Apple technology until she heard the store was sold out of 16G phones.
“I’m thinking about upgrading my plan and getting one,” Nixon said. “I actually don’t have an Apple phone, so I’m thinking about getting one.”
On the other hand, Moss said he’s happy with his phone.
“I have [an iPhone 4S], and it’s just fine with me,” Moss said. “I’m not going to upgrade anytime soon. I figure they will come out with something new soon anyway.”
Among the new features of the iPhone 5, both Moss and Nixon said they like the look of the new iTunes, as well as the bigger screen.
“I’m hoping it’s faster, especially since it’s 4G,” Nixson said.
Customers were lined up along the front of the Verizon Wireless store in Knoxville’s Turkey Creek Friday morning for the launch of Apple's iPhone 5.
Store manager Jeremy Long said people started showing up as early as 10 p.m. Thursday for the 8 a.m. store opening. Apple touts the iPhone 5 as its thinnest and lightest yet with an improved screen and faster performance.
Verizon regional spokesperson Michael Swearingen said it will support the phone with a 4G network that covers more than 75 percent of the U.S. population.
Mike Mahathy, of Oak Ridge, was one of those who showed up at 10 p.m. to get an iPhone 5.
"To me, this is Christmas Day," he said, as he completed the purchase.
Elsewhere, eager buyers formed long lines at Apple Inc. stores in Asia, Europe and North America to be the first to get their hands on the latest version of the smartphone.
In London, some shoppers had camped out for a week in a queue that snaked around the block. In Hong Kong, the first customers were greeted by staff cheering, clapping, chanting "iPhone 5! iPhone 5!" and high-fiving them as they were escorted one-by-one through the front door.
The smartphone will be on sale in the U.S. and Canada hours after its launch in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Britain, France and Germany. It will launch in 22 more countries a week later. Besides being thinner, the iPhone 5 is lighter, has a taller screen, faster processor, updated software and can work on faster "fourth generation" mobile networks.
The handset has become a hot seller despite initial lukewarm reviews and new map software that is glitch prone. Apple received 2 million orders in the first 24 hours of announcing its release date, more than twice the number for the iPhone 4S in the same period when that phone launched a year ago.
In a sign of the intense demand, police in Osaka, Japan, were investigating the theft of nearly 200 iPhones 5s, including 116 from one shop alone, Kyodo News reported. In London, police sought help finding a man wanted in connection with the theft of 252 iPhone 5s from a shop in Wimbledon early Friday morning.
Analysts have estimated Apple will ship as many as 10 million of the new iPhones by the end of September.
Some fans went to extremes to be among the first buyers by arriving at Apple's flagship stores day ahead of the release.
The Associated Press contributed to this report