iPhone 5 poised to become fastest-selling gadget in history

Apple expects to sell over 10m devices by the end of the month, writes Adam Satariano

Apple unveiled a taller, lighter and speedier iPhone that’s poised to become the fastest-selling gadget in history — even as competition accelerates in the €170bn smartphone market.

"This is going to be the best-selling consumer electronics device of all time, bar none," said Carl Howe, an analyst at Boston-based Yankee Group, who predicted Apple will sell more than 10m by month�s end, surpassing the record set last year by the predecessor device, the iPhone 4S.

CEO Tim Cook took to the stage in San Francisco to tout iPhone 5, which runs on faster wireless networks, boasts a bigger screen and has a chip that handles tasks more quickly than past versions.

While the debut revealed few surprising new features, Apple is betting that the device is loaded with enough functionality to set it apart in a market swiftly crowding with phones by Nokia Oyj, Microsoft Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co.

"Apple has never been stronger," Cook said during the presentation.

Apple may sell as many as 58m units of the iPhone 5 by the end of the year, according to analysts. That could generate as much as €28bn in sales for Apple.

Apple also upgraded the software that runs on the iPhone to include new mapping and turn-by-turn navigation features, as well as tools that make it easier to share photos and other content with social network Facebook.

Sold with a wireless contract, the iPhone 5 will cost $199, $299 or $399, depending on how much memory it contains. The device will be available for orders on Sep 14 and lands on store shelves on Sep 21 in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the UK. It goes on sale in another 22 countries on Sep 28.

Apple gained 1.3% to $678.49 in early trading in New York. Through yesterday, the stock had increased 65% this year.

The iPhone, introduced in 2007, has helped make Apple the world’s most valuable company.

Once a niche computer maker, Apple now generates higher profit than technology competitors, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Google. Having popularised handheld touch-screen devices that offer swift Web downloads and a range of games, entertainment and productivity tools, Apple is now battling with manufacturers led by Samsung for market dominance.

The event marked Apple’s first iPhone introduction since co-founder Steve Jobs passed away in Oct, a day after the iPhone 4S was unveiled. Cook, who succeeded Jobs as CEO, made brief introductory remarks at the start of the event before turning it over to other executives to show off the new iPhone, as well as changes to the iTunes music store and line of iPods.

As much the iPhone 5 represents innovation, it also demonstrates Apple’s penchant for following competitors on some features, including screen size and compatibility with faster wireless networks.

"We’ve worked on that for a few years to come to what we think is the optimal size to give you more screen, but something that is super comfortable, easy to use and is thin and light and fits in your pocket," said Phil Schiller, Apple senior vice president for marketing on the new 4in screen. "We think this is the ideal size."

Like previous iPhones, the new model will be available in black and white.

Yesterday’s event highlighted how the high level of interest in Apple has made it almost impossible for the company to keep products secret. Pictures of the new iPhone that were posted on websites before the announcement proved accurate.