By KELVIN CHAN
AP Business Writer
(AP) - In a now familiar global ritual, Apple fans jammed shops across the globe to pick up the tech juggernaut's latest iPhone.
Eager buyers formed long lines Friday 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 New York, several hundred people lined up outside Apple's 5th Avenue store. Jimmy Peralta, a 30-year-old business management student, waited three hours before getting the chance to buy his new gadget. Was it worth the wait?
"Definitely," he said, noting that the new phone's larger screen and lighter weight compelled him to upgrade from the iPhone 4. "A little treat for me on a Friday morning, why not. Why not be part of something fantastic? It's just such a smart phone it does all the thinking for you, you can't get any easier than that."
Catheryne Caveed, 23, was in line at a Verizon store in the Queens borough of New York. An iPhone 4 user, she had no regrets about skipping last year's model, the iPhone 4S. The only real upgrade in the 4S, she said, was Siri, the voice-controlled "personal assistant."
"The 4S looked the same as the 4," Caveed said. With the 5, "everything is different _ even the headphones."
Apple's stock closed up $1.39, or 0.2 percent, at $700.09. The stock surpassed the $700 level for the first time earlier this week, as excitement for the launch mounted.
For Apple, the iPhone introduction is the biggest revenue driver of the year. Analysts expect the company to sell millions of phones in the first few days. This spring, iPhone sales slowed down from their historical growth rates, apparently because potential buyers were holding off for the arrival of the "5."
Apple now needs to sell tens of millions of phones before the end of the year to justify its position as the world's most valuable public company. Although Samsung Electronics Inc. of Korea sells more smartphones, Apple's iPhone profits are far greater.
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 went 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 next week. The iPhone 5 is thinner, 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 a new map app that early users have deemed inferior to Google Maps, the software it replaces. 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.
In downtown Sydney, Todd Foot, 24, showed up three days early to nab the coveted first spot. He spent about 18 hours a day in a folding chair, catching a few hours' sleep each night in a tent on the sidewalk.
Foot's dedication was largely a marketing stunt, however. He writes product reviews for a technology website that will give away the phone after Foot reviews it.
"I just want to get the phone so I can feel it, compare it and put it on our website," he said while slumped in his chair.
In Paris, the phone launch was accompanied by a workers' protest _ a couple dozen former and current Apple employees demonstrated peacefully to demand better work benefits. Some decried what they called Apple's transformation from an offbeat company into a multinational powerhouse.
But the protesters _ urged by a small labor union to demonstrate at Apple stores around France _ were far outnumbered by lines of would-be buyers on the sidewalk outside the store near the city's gilded opera house.