Apple buyers rue high price of new 'low cost' iPhone

Apple buyers rue high price of new 'low cost' iPhone

TOKYO - Apple acolytes in Asia kicked off the global rollout of two new iPhones Friday, but complaints about its high price and no new alliance in the vast Chinese market threatened to dampen the mood.

The once-unbeatable king of the smartphones was brandishing a potentially lucrative new deal with Japan's biggest mobile carrier, but was without any new partnership in China.

That, and rumblings over the high cost - even of the pared-down iPhone 5C - looked set to mute the fanfare that routinely accompanies launches, observers say.

The double debut kicked off in Australia when stores threw open their doors to crowds at 8:00 am (2200 GMT Thursday).

Jimmy Gunawan, 33, was first in line at the company's flagship Sydney store, but was surprised he only had to stake his place 20 hours earlier.

"Last year, I got here around the same time and there was already a queue of about 20 people," the freelance graphic designer said.

In Tokyo, diehard fans began lining up last week and even sat out a weekend typhoon to keep their spot in a queue that grew to around a kilometre (half-a-mile) in length by opening time, police estimated.

Media helicopters hovered over the Japanese capital, where Batman was among those outside the Apple store in Ginza.

Actor Ken Watanabe, star of "Inception" and "Letters From Iwo Jima", was on hand to welcome buyers at Docomo's main Tokyo shop, marking the new alliance between Apple and the country's biggest carrier.

The firm, which has about 42 per cent of the Japanese market, has shed more than 3.5 million subscribers to rivals since 2008, when SoftBank first rolled out the iPhone in Japan, local media have reported.

Hisako Nagashima, a 34-year-old manicurist who was waiting to snap up an iPhone 5S in gold, said it had been make-or-break time for her relationship with the company.

"If NTT Docomo had not released iPhone this time, I would have changed carriers," she told AFP.

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