Sales of Apple's new iPhones began Friday, a day that's already arrived in some parts of the world.
That includes Australia, where the first iPhone sales began at 8 a.m. local time. Online sales kicked off hours before that, with new buyers of the 5S facing a 7- to 10-day ship time, and 5C buyers looking at 1 to 3 days.
The entry-level iPhone 5C comes in around $698 US dollars there, while Apple's charging $820 for the higher-end iPhone 5S (prices that include tax, and are for the unlocked model).
Both devices are going on sale in 11 countries this time around (up from 9 last year), and for the first time that includes China, where Apple has said it hopes to lure in first-time buyers. Apple then plans a staggered rollout to reach some 270 carriers in 100 countries by the end of the year. This first rollout includes Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, the UK, and US.
Onlookers are paying close attention to initial consumer interest in both devices, in no small part because Apple's kept quiet on how many iPhone preorders it received during its first day. This is the first time Apple's launched two new iPhone models, and the company only made the less expensive, colorful iPhone 5C available for preorder in most places.
Several reports have also suggested iPhone 5S stock will be slim, with one analyst pointing to the new fingerprint sensor technology as being difficult to produce. Early reports from our CNET colleagues in Australia suggest that information is accurate, with the gold color of the 5S selling out in at least three stores there.
The two distinct devices, and a boost from including China, could put Apple on top of the number of sales it pulled in the last year, says Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. In a note Wednesday, Munster said he expects Apple to at least match last year's 5 million opening-weekend sales (which included iPhone 5 preorders), and possibly going beyond to 6 million.
"Given last year's in-store sales numbers (for iPhone 5), we are comfortable that Apple could sell 2.5 million iPhone 5S units this launch weekend," Munster said. "Our estimate for the 5C is 3 million units sold during the launch weekend including 1 million online preorders and 2 million in stores."
A similar such note from RBC Capital Markets earlier today settled on an identical sales target. Apple is expected to release that metric early next week, though is highly unlikely to release specifics on which device sold more.
The two new phones, which CNET has rated at four out of five stars, are Apple's seventh iPhones yet. The product spun out of Apple's efforts to make a touch-screen tablet, which debuted as the iPad in 2010. The iPhone has quickly risen to become Apple's most popular, and profitable, device, and accounted for 46 percent of the company's $35 billion in sales during its last quarter, and a little more than half the company's entire sales during all of 2012.
Update at 4:18 p.m. PT: Initial online stock of iPhone 5S models in France, Germany, and the UK is backordered 7 to 10 days for new buyers. It's unclear if online buyers in the US will face similar ship times for the device, which goes on sale through Apple and its carrier partners at 12:01 a.m. PT Friday.