Apple Fan Frenzy as iPhone 6 Hits Store Shelves

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (San Jose Mercury News/MCT) -

Scores of people across the country turned out early at Apple stores on Friday to get their hands on new, supersized iPhones.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were met with delirious excitement by fans, many of whom had woken up at the crack of dawn — or even camped out — to be among the first to buy the new gadgets. With significantly larger screens, the latest iPhones help Apple match competitors like Samsung, which have long offered devices that blur the line between smartphone and tablet.

Apple loyalists clogged San Francisco’s Marina District, where the line to enter the Apple Store wrapped around the block. Many were fatigued after a sleepless night in the cold, but they perked up once they’d secured the prized phones. Raul Ramos, a 68-year-old San Francisco resident, was jubilant as he strolled out of the store with a gold 6 Plus in hand.

“Once I got the phone, I woke right up,” said Ramos, a retired pharmacist who has camped out for every new gadget since the iPhone 3. “I’m not going home to sleep. I’m going to be playing with it.”

Ramos was fourth in line, sitting just behind Klaus Bandisch, a 59-year-old San Francisco resident who had arrived nearly 24 hours early to secure his spot. Parked in his folding chair, he said a competitive spirit drove him to be among the first to get the iPhone 6 Plus.

“Second is the first loser,” said Bandisch, who is CEO of 140AdAgency.com, a company that makes mobile websites.

Exiting the store with a space grey 6 Plus, Bandisch, a first-time camper, said the device was worth the wait.

“The screen is so crisp and clear,” he gushed. “I love the size, and it seems very light.”

But supplies of the 6 Plus did not last for long. Tony Ring-Dowell, a 26-year-old who was about 20th in line, said the device was sold out by the time he entered the store. He was content with his space grey iPhone 6, though.

“I’m even more excited because the phone is so different,” said Ring-Dowell, a first-grade teacher.

Apple offered the first glimpse of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus on Sept. 9, as part of a wave of new products and services at a star-studded event. A long-awaited smartwatch stole the show, but the spruced-up iPhones will mean much more for the company’s bottom line in the near term.

Now that Apple has finally answered the call for larger screens, analysts expect the new iPhones to trigger a gusher of sales. More than 4 million pre-orders for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were placed on Sept. 12, the day they became available online, twice the volume Apple saw for the iPhone 5. If supplies don’t run out, analysts predict that Apple will sell more than 10 million iPhones this weekend, up from 9 million during the opening weekend for the iPhone 5s and 5c last year.

The iPhone hysterics extended far beyond Apple’s Bay Area stomping grounds. In Australia, the first country where the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus went up for sale, more than 1,400 people lined up outside Apple’s flagship store in Sydney Friday morning, according to technology news site ZDNET.

Consumers in Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore and the U.K. were also able to buy the devices on Friday, before Apple opens up sales in more than 20 additional countries on Sept. 26. But it is unclear when the new iPhones will be released in China, as Apple is still waiting for the approval it needs from regulators there. It’s an issue Apple must resolve quickly, as 15 to 20 percent of its iPhone shipments are sent to China, said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas.

The iPhone 6, which measures 4.7 inches diagonally, costs $199 with a two-year contract, while the 5.5 inch 6 Plus starts at $299. Apart from their superior size, the phones offer sharper displays, improved battery life and an upgraded camera, Apple has said. In addition, the gadgets are equipped with Apple Pay, a mobile-payments service that allows users to buy items in stores with a wave of their phones.