Australia kicks off launch of Apple's iPhone 5

The launch could be Apple's biggest ever for the iPhone

The global launch of Apple's iPhone 5 began early Friday morning in Australia when stores in the country opened their doors at 8 a.m. The phone has attracted massive attention from consumers, and some analysts expect it to be Apple's biggest phone launch ever.

Hundreds were waiting in line outside Apple's flagship store in Sydney and at a store of Telstra across the street. A 10-second countdown -- something common at Apple Stores when major products go on sale -- signaled the global launch of the phone, which is the sixth in Apple's iPhone line.

(Follow the global iPhone 5 launch with our live blog.)

Announced only one week ago, the iPhone 5 attracted pre-orders of 2 million units within 24 hours, according to figures from Apple. The pace was double that seen for the iPhone 4S, the previous handset.

With the launch in Australia now done, the spotlight moves to Japan. A queue of several hundred people are already waiting for the 8 a.m. start of sales there. The biggest launch event in Japan is expected to take place outside the flagship store of carrier Softbank Mobile in Tokyo's Ginza district. There, Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son is expected to attend and hand an iPhone 5 to his first Japanese customer.

The phone will also go on sale in Hong Kong and Singapore before the launch shifts to Europe. The U.K., France and Germany will see the iPhone 5 go on sale today with launches in the U.S. and Canada rounding off the first day of sales.

Next week the phone will go on sale in an additional 22 countries.

(Jeremy Kirk reported from Sydney.)

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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