Apple: Weekend sales top 5 million for iPhone 5

Apple on Monday said first weekend sales of the iPhone 5 topped five million, beating the opening weekend for the iPhone 4S nearly a year ago by 1 million units.

Demand has been “incredible,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. He also confirmed that the company sold out completely of its initial shipment. “We are working hard to get an iPhone 5 into the hands of every customer who wants one as quickly as possible,” he said.

While the phone is hard to come by, many early shoppers found a few things to complain about — and a hidden feature that wowed many.

Apple’s Map app. Corporate warfare had Apple replace Google Maps with its own maps feature, and many users said the new Maps is inferior. Chief complaints: wrong directions and the lack of local transit information. Twitter hashtags (used to help in searches) started popping up this weekend: #Mapsgate, #Mapocalypse and #Thanksapple as folks talked about their bad experiences online. Apple says it’s “just getting started” with Maps and that the app will improve as more people use it.

A hidden surprise. The iPhone is offered for sale with three carriers — AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint — and isn’t supposed to be interchangeable among their separate networks. But the Verizon version of the iPhone 5 works on AT&T’s network, as well, the Associated Press discovered. The AP found that a Verizon iPhone 5 accepts an AT&T “SIM card” — a chip that identifies a phone to a network. The phone can then be active on AT&T’s network. That is, if you can find an iPhone5 for sale.

Calls to stores in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Orlando, Los Angeles and Columbus, Ohio, reported sell-outs for Verizon and AT&T iPhones. A handful of iPhones with Sprint service were available on Sunday. One Apple store in Philadelphia had a handful of Sprint phones with 64 gigabytes of storage available. That device sells for $399 with a two-year contract, up from the entry-level $199 with 16 GB of storage and a two-year contract.

AT&T phones were the first to sell out, in part because the carrier was the first to sell the original iPhone when it launched in 2007. Verizon began selling the iPhone 4 in February 2011, and Sprint joined in with the iPhone 4S in October 2011, so AT&T customers were the most likely to be ready for a contract upgrade.

“The reality is, because of the supply, they could have sold more,” says PiperJaffray analyst Gene Munster. “They ran out faster than we thought they would.”

On Monday, the company said only that “stores continue to receive iPhone 5 shipments regularly and customers can continue to order online and receive an estimated delivery date.”

“We appreciate everyone’s patience and are working hard to build enough iPhone 5s for everyone,” Cook said in Apple’s press release.

Stores contacted on Sunday said they expected more shipments Monday. But Munster says it will be “weeks” before customers can walk into a store and find an iPhone 5 on the shelf.

Apple’s website promises shipments delivered in 3-4 weeks. The carriers — AT&T, Verizon and Sprint — offer similar shipment dates on their websites: 21 to 28 business days.

Apple first made the new iPhone 5 available for pre-order more than a week ago but quickly sold out the initial shipment. The company reported early pre-order sales of 2 million.

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