Attendees look at the new iPhone 5 during an Apple special event in San Francisco.… (Justin Sullivan, Getty…)
CUPERTINO, Calif. — Well, that was fast.
Just one hour after Apple began taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5 at 12:01 a.m. Friday, the company sold out of the first batch and informed later online buyers that the shipping date for the smartphone was being pushed back to Sept. 28 or later. The iPhone 5 will be available in physical retail stores Sept. 21.
The overwhelming demand, which intermittently shut down Apple's website, fueled a rally in its shares, which hit an all-time high and raised the company's market value to $648 billion. No company in history has ever been valued so high, not adjusted for inflation.
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Apple is now more valuable than the gross domestic product of Denmark, Finland and Hungary — combined. And much of that growth has been on the back of the iPhone, which accounts for more than half of the company's profit.
"I've never encountered anything that sold out this fast," said Peter Misek, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. In comparison, Apple didn't run out of the initial launch-date inventory of the iPhone 4S until 22 hours after it began taking pre-orders last year. "We said it would be the biggest product release in consumer electronics history, but I guess we even underestimated it. It's a mania."
Other iPhone 5 sellers experienced a similar rush of pre-orders and were forced to announce their own shipping delays. By Friday morning, AT&T's website said new orders wouldn't ship for 14 to 21 business days. Verizon, too, sold out of its release-date stock, with orders now estimated to ship Sept. 28. Sprint said the 16GB version of the iPhone 5 would ship in up to two weeks, but was still showing launch-date delivery for the 32GB and 64GB models as of 1:30 p.m. Pacific time Friday.
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Apple did not disclose how many phones it sold, but analysts said the iPhone 5 was likely to easily surpass pre-orders for the iPhone 4S, which topped 1 million units in a single day.
Apple introduced the iPhone 5 during a splashy invitation-only event in San Francisco on Wednesday. The new phone features a 4-inch retina display screen, high-speed 4G LTE connectivity, better cameras and a controversial smaller dock connector called Lightning.
Even though the iPhone 5 wasn't considered a huge upgrade for the company's signature device, pent-up demand and unabashed adoration of all things Apple caused orders to pour in.
Analysts say they expect the iPhone 5 to be the bestselling smartphone ever and have estimated that Apple could sell as many as 10 million iPhones in the first 10 days and as many as 58 million during the holiday quarter. Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple sold 37 million iPhones during the last three months of 2011.
In trading Friday, Apple closed at an all-time high of $691.28, up $8.30. It had been steadily rising for months in anticipation of the iPhone 5 launch.
Apple's website was down occasionally after midnight, as were the sites of some of its wireless carriers. Fans flooded Twitter and other social media sites with ordering advice, and also to gloat when they were able to successfully purchase the phone.
"iPhone 5 has been pre-ordered...boiling with excitement!" tweeted David Christensen, a Web designer in Los Angeles.
"Got my & the wife's iPhone 5's pre-ordered. Haters, you may proceed with your hating," wrote Shahin Ourian, a digital content creative strategist in L.A.
Dustin Pagliughi, a television producer who lives in the Miracle Mile district, said he woke up at midnight to pre-order a black 32GB iPhone 5. He used his iPhone 4 to make the purchase.
"It's one of those items that I've been waiting for them to announce, so I figured, why not?" the 32-year-old said. "I wanted to get it as fast as possible."
For those who don't want to deal with shipping delays, the iPhone 5 will go on sale at Apple retail stores at 8 a.m. local time on Friday. AT&T, Sprint and Verizon will also be selling the phone in stores that day, and retailers including Target, Wal-Mart and Radio Shack have announced they will sell the iPhone 5.
Times staff writer Salvador Rodriguez contributed to this report.