Apple iPhone 6 goes on sale around the world

Doors open at Apple stores across the globe as the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus hit the shelves.

9 min read

Apple CEO Tim Cook opens the doors Friday morning at Apple's Palo Alto store. Mariel Myers/CNET

As the world turns and the sun rises Friday, Apple stores worldwide have opened their doors to massive crowds seeking the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus .

This year's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are most notable for their scaled-up screen sizes of 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, respectively, giving Apple fans the option of larger handsets already commonplace among Android phones.

Both iPhone models include the new 64-bit A8 processor, an improved 8-megapixel rear camera, longer battery life, and an NFC chip that, at launch, will be used exclusively by the Apple Pay payment service that kicks off in the US in October.

Demand for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus was high when preorders began last Friday. Within hours, all iPhone 6 Plus models were on a three- to four-week delivery delay, while most iPhone 6 models were pushed back to seven to 10 days. Apple later announced record preorders of more than 4 million iPhones in the first 24 hours.

Thousands of people lined up for the iPhone around the world. In years past, store employees handed out cards to people waiting for the phone, allowing them to claim a specific configuration of the device. But that came with some problems, such as people changing their mind or switching cards with others. Also, it wasn't always accurate with what was still in stock.

Apple iPhone 6 goes on sale around the globe (pictures)

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This year, the reservation system went digital in some places, including the US. Apple Store employees collected the names and contact information of everyone in line, as well as which phone models they wanted, and the customers would then receive an email or text with the reservation details. The people then could leave the line and return later to purchase the device -- but the iPhone had to be bought that day. And it didn't let people skip the line when they returned.

According to an Apple Store employee in San Francisco, Apple's new reservation system crashed Friday morning. As of 7:30 a.m. PT, the system had gone back online on the East Coast, but it was unclear the status of the system in the Midwest or West Coast. We've contacted Apple for information and will update the report when we know more.

Many customers in line in New York and San Francisco said they found the idea of a new digital reservation system helpful so they could leave and come back later, but some in San Francisco have complained the system didn't work.

Jose Carrasco, a 29-year-old working in software sales, got in line in San Francisco at 5 a.m. PT but didn't get to the front until after 1 p.m. By then, the store was out of 6 Plus models, the device he originally wanted, Carrasco said. And the digital reservation system never worked for people waiting at that Apple Store in downtown San Francisco.

"They ended up not implementing any type of system," Carrasco said. "It was just wait and see what they had left in stock when you got to the front of the store. [But] the staff did a great job of checking on everyone who was waiting in line and communicating stock levels."

Check out launch scenes from CNET's reporters around the world:

SYDNEY -- First in line for the world's first on-sale time zone is Salvatore Gerace, who has been queued up since before the Apple announcement event last week. He admits he is here as a PR stunt for his new app and will be giving away the phone as a prize to promote his company.

The queues in Sydney are the strongest seen since the iPhone 3G (Australia's first iPhone), and estimates put the number in the queue just before opening at over 1,200. Apple has been using iPads to help customers in line prepare their orders prior to the 8 a.m. local opening time.

Others in the Sydney queue include Claudius Stocker, a backpacker in the line at No. 30, having only arrived a day previously. While he's clearly an Apple fan -- "they do everything better than the other manufacturers", he tells us -- he's also here to make money.

The George Street Apple Store in Sydney is the focus of attention as the first time zone where the iPhone 6 goes on sale. Seamus Byrne/CNET

"I am also shooting a documentary," he says before co-opting a friend to film us filming him. Rather candidly, he admits that he'll be "selling my iPhone 6 as soon as stocks run low -- I am a poor backpacker and this is almost a few days work for me!"

Further down the line are Rafael and Eduardo, both Brazilian. "We came over from Brazil just for this!" They've queued since lunchtime Thursday but are clearly excited enough about their trip that even sleeping out overnight feels like an adventure. Rafael plans on getting the iPhone 6, while Eduardo is keen on the 6 Plus: "It might be too big, but I want to try it myself to find out."

Among the huge numbers of Apple Store staff on site for the Sydney opening, some keen-eyed observers said they spotted Angela Ahrendts, Apple's new senior vice president of retail and online stores, on hand for the Sydney opening.

SINGAPORE -- Unlike the other launch countries, Apple doesn't have retail stores on the island state. As such, the Apple iPhone 6 can only be purchased from carriers or third-party resellers.

For locals, signing a new two-year contract is the easiest way to get a subsidized iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.

Watch this: Line up for an iPhone 6, get a selfie with Tim Cook

Dinnie Lim, who works at a local startup, turned up at 8 a.m. local time to collect her phone after making an online reservation from local carrier SingTel. She's upgrading from the previous generation to the iPhone 6.

"I'm loving it," she said. "Though it feels a bit too big."

Because Singapore is the only country in Southeast Asia that's part of the global launch, visitors from other countries such as Vietnam and Bangkok planned holidays to coincide with Apple's retail date. These tourists either want to get their hands on the Apple smartphone way ahead of their fellow citizens or are hoping to make a quick buck by reselling the iPhone once they are back home.

Resale prices can easily fetch twice the original retail price and handily cover the cost of their holiday here. Such buyers are more than willing to queue overnight or even the day before to secure a few phones.

LONDON -- Apple's flagship shop in London's historic Covent Garden played host to a typically enormous queue this morning, as eager Brits lined up to get their paws on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Masses queue for the iPhone 6 outside London's Covent Garden store. Luke Westaway/CNET

Apple has implemented a digital queueing system this year, which sees those in line assigned a QR code that tells employees in the shop exactly which model, size and colour iPhone that customer is after. This speeds up transactions inside the glassy walls of the store itself -- and gives Apple a better grasp of which models are most in demand.

Based on a straw poll of those in the queue, neither the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus appeared to have an edge in terms of popularity. Brad Karp was one buyer waiting to pick up a reserved 128GB iPhone 6 in gray, who told me he'd opted for the more diminutive model as he "didn't want to have to buy new pants for bigger pockets."

New iPhone owner Laurie brandishes his purchase outside London's flagship Apple store. Luke Westaway/CNET

Also opting for the iPhone 6 was Laurie who went for a 64GB model in gray and said the 6 Plus was a bit too close to the iPad Mini for his liking. Another customer named Graham said he felt the same way, noting that the Nexus 4 he'd been using previously was big enough. iPhone buyer Clarence, by contrast, chose the 5.5-inch 6 Plus. As an app developer, he said he wanted access to Apple's biggest smartphone screen.

NEW YORK -- A line of hundreds of people filled the sidewalks for blocks around Apple's marquee Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan early Friday morning. Some had been waiting near the store's giant glass cube for weeks.

Among them were Manhattan residents Nama Matheus and Hunter Kemp, who became friends after meeting near the front of the line about two weeks ago. Before the store opened, the two joked about the difficulties of having to wait outside for days. "Horrible idea -- never doing this again," Kemp, 25, said with a laugh. Both planned on buying an iPhone 6 Plus with 128 gigabytes of storage.

The Fifth Avenue Apple store in Manhattan may have had a longer line for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus than for other launches. Sarah Tew/CNET

Further away from the cube, Jonathan Lawrence, a 23-year-old college student from Brooklyn, said he had waited since 4:30 p.m. local time Thursday and had spent a sleepless night outside. Still, he smiled about the idea of getting his iPhone 6 Plus before most of his friends, saying it would make him "very, very happy."

Nearby at Grand Central Terminal, two long lines stretched from either side of the entrance to the train station. The night before, Noah Selling, a 31-year-old IT professional, was sitting on a camping chair, waiting patiently since the early evening for his chance to buy an iPhone 6 Plus. He had already preordered the phone through AT&T, but found out his device wouldn't ship to him until October, so he decided to try getting it earlier by camping out for the night.

"I thought I'd take a risk here," he said, but lamented that it was "going to be a long night."

The first person out of the flagship Manhattan store wasn't the first person in line. It was Andreas Gibson, a preorder customer who "only" had to wait outside since 3 a.m. local time. Sarah Tew/CNET

As the Fifth Avenue store was about to open, a group of Apple employees surrounding the entrance cheered and then counted down, as a crush of television cameras crowded the sidewalk nearby. The first two in line were Mississippi residents Moon and Jason Ray, who were there to promote the Video Medicine app, which lets you video-conference with doctors. They weren't originally first in line, but then their company paid $1,250 each to the first two people -- Brian Ceballo and Joseph Cruz -- so that Moon and Jason Ray could step into the first slots.

Still, the first out of the store was Andreas Gibson, a preorder customer who only had to wait outside since around 3 a.m. local time. He ecstatically held up his iPhone 6 Plus as he came out of the store and the media swarmed him, as has become tradition.

It wasn't all smooth sailing. At around 7 a.m ET people lined up near the back of the line on 59th Street started running in an attempt to skip. The line appeared to be on the verge of breaking down, but Apple employees slowed them down, and were able to halt the rush.

SAN FRANCISCO -- As of 2 p.m. PT on Thursday, only 30 people waited in line at the Apple Store near San Francisco's Union Square. By 8 a.m. Friday, the line had swelled to what appeared to be more than 1,000, and people just kept joining the line. People who've been to previous iPhone launches at the store said the line appeared to be much longer than earlier years, stretching around all four sides of the block.

The line at the San Francisco Apple Store stretched more than four blocks long on Friday. James Martin/CNET

Huong Dinh, the first person in line, arrived at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, along with five companions. Some were buying devices to send to family members. Further down the line, Marco Abella and Raj Kaur arrived at 1:30 a.m. on Thursday in the midst of the first rainstorm San Francisco has seen in weeks. The 25-year-old nurses, wielding umbrellas, said they planned to buy the 64GB iPhone 6 Plus in gold.

"I've wanted to try a bigger phone since the Samsung one first came out," Kaur said. "Now I can rub it in Samsung peoples' faces that the iPhone's bigger too."

Cassidy Szarnicki, a 19-year-old student about to start her freshman year at UCLA, arrived at the store at 1 a.m. to be about 10th in line. She bought the 64GB iPhone 6.

Buying his phone from Switzerland via a telepresence robot, Anil Dharni appears in the Stockton Street Apple Store in San Francisco via his iBot. His friend, Andy Keidel, waited in line with the robot. James Martin/CNET

"I originally was going to preorder online, but it said it was backed up," Szarnicki said. "I didn't want to wait."

Anil Dharni, meanwhile, "virtually" waited in line with his friend, Andy Keidel. The two entrepreneurs live in the Bay Area, but Dharni was traveling in Switzerland on Friday. They originally planned to pay someone to wait in line for them but were worried about the risks involved. Instead, Keidel waited in line, and Dharni talked with store employees through Apple's FaceTime videoconferencing app, running on an iPad fixed onto a cardboard robot.

"Telepresence is becoming bigger," said Keidel, who got in line at 7 p.m. Thursday and was joined by Dharni and the virtual "iBot" at 1 a.m. "So why not make something that makes that look respectable?"

Some of the first customers in line for the iPhone at the Apple Store near San Francisco's Union Square make their purchases. James Martin/CNET

He was quick to note the iBot was not a business or any product but was just something fun to do for waiting in line. He and friends built the cardboard robot just before getting in line, buying the speaker to project Dharni's voice -- and music overnight -- from the Apple Store before it closed Thursday. Both bought the iPhone 6 Plus in 128GB and space gray.

Apple Store employees escorted the "personal pick-up line" customers into the store first. Those were people who had ordered and paid for the device online but chose to collect it in the store. Joshua Cook, the first person allowed in the store and the first person out, left Sacramento at 2:30 a.m. to get in line in San Francisco at 5 a.m.

"It's worth it," said the 37-year-old, who has bought every iPhone on the first day they're released. "Inside, it's almost like you're a superstar. They treat you like you're one of a kind."

Watch this: iPhone 6 launch mania in NY: Bigger phones, bigger lines