iPhone 5 sends Apple juggernaut into overdrive

Online orders for the phone exceeded 2m on Friday, the first day consumers could makes purchases over the web, Apple said yesterday .

The performance more than doubled the 1m mark for first-day online sales set by the iPhone 4S last year. The Californian company warned that the strength of demand meant that not everyone who made an online order would get their phone delivered this month as promised.

The iPhone 5 will be available in shops in the UK, the US and seven other countries from Friday, with a further 22 countries getting the device a week later. As Wall Street digested the early sales figures, a small band of people were already camping outside Apple’s flagship store near New York’s Central Park in anticipation.

“Although more consumers are opting for the pre-order method around new Apple product launches, we still expect long lines at stores this Friday,” said Brian White, an anlyst at Topeka Capital Markets.

The launch is the latest example of Apple’s ability to defy the slowdown across the western world, a trend that appears unchecked by the death last year of Steve Jobs, its co-founder and driving force.

Expectations for the iPhone 5 had intensified in recent months as consumers put off buying the 4S ahead of the new model’s introduction.

Sales of the iPhone, which is still Apple’s best-selling and most profitable product, fell sharply to 26m last quarter from 35m in the first three months of the year. Although the iPhone 5 is lighter, thinner and has a larger screen than its predecessors, some were left disappointed by a device that is forced to compete in an increasingly crowded market.

Online orders suggest any doubts are not shared by consumers, and analysts were yesterday ratcheting up forecasts. Michael Walkley of Canaccord Genuity predicts between 9m and 10m of the phones will be sold by the end of the month, while analysts surveyed by Bloomberg believe more than 50m could be purchased by Christmas.