The complete iPhone 5C and 5S lineup, seen on the day of its debut at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.
Apple sold "a record-breaking" 9 million 5S and 5C models in its opening weekend and, in the five days since iOS 7 has been available, 200 million devices have taken advantage of the free update, the company said in a press release.
"Demand for iPhone 5s has exceeded the initial supply, and many online orders are scheduled to be shipped in the coming weeks," adds the Monday morning statement. It's not clear whether the sales figure includes those devices that will be shipped later, but perhaps not, since "sold" probably means that a credit card was charged.
"The demand for the new iPhones has been incredible," the press release quotes Tim Cook as saying, "and while we’ve sold out of our initial supply of iPhone 5s, stores continue to receive new iPhone shipments regularly. We appreciate everyone’s patience and are working hard to build enough new iPhones for everyone."
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While some may be surprised by an incremental iPhone update breaking a sales record, there are multiple factors that would explain the unprecedented performance:
First, the new iPhones launched in more countries than ever before, and for the first time included China in the first wave.
There are two distinct iPhone models instead of one, so there are more choices, and more eye-catching retail real estate. (And for those playing along at home, the winner was definitely the flagship 5S, at least in the U.S., where it was activated 3.4 times more often than the cheaper, candy-colored 5C, according to data firm Localytics.)
The lack of 5S pre-ordering was also a factor, said wireless analyst Jeff Kagan. "This year, anyone who wanted a new iPhone (5S) must get into line. That bolstered the lines and strengthened opening weekend from a PR perspective," he wrote in a note, adding, "This upset users, but made for great numbers."
Finally, look at the smartphone market. Although 2012 saw the shipment of 700 million smartphones, that was up from 490 million the year before, says market tracker Strategy Analytics. And analyst firm IDC predicts, none too wildly, that 2013 will be the year that over one billion smartphones get shipped. Apple's expected to take a nice chunk of that market — and even grow its own market share a bit in the years to come, as Android loses ground to Windows Phone.
Wilson Rothman is the Technology & Science editor at NBC News Digital. Catch up with him on Twitter at @wjrothman, and join our conversation on Facebook.
First published September 23 2013, 6:06 AM