customer response to iPhone 5 has been phenomenal," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing.
Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the iPhone 5 - a lighter, thinner and more powerful version of its iconic mobile device, staking its claim to leadership in the red-hot smartphone market. AP Photo
Apple unveiled the new version of its iconic smartphone last Wednesday and opened up pre-orders on Friday.
The first customers in the United States and several other countries are expected to get the device September 21, but Apple said some would have to wait.
"Demand for iPhone 5 exceeds the initial supply and while the majority of pre-orders will be delivered to customers on September 21, many are scheduled to be delivered in October," an Apple statement said.
Phil Schiller introduces Apple's new iPhone 5 in San Francisco. Reuters Photo
The iPhone 5 will be available from the Apple Online Store and its retail stores, and for US customers through AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, Best Buy, RadioShack, Target and Walmart stores and other resellers.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook called the launch "the biggest thing to happen to iPhone since the iPhone."
At a packed launch event in San Francisco, Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller said of the new iPhone: "It is an absolute jewel. The software and engineering that went into this product is the most challenging our team has ever taken on."
The introduction has been among the most keenly anticipated in the tech world, with rumors and leaks over several months about the new device from the biggest company in the sector. How iPhone became King of smartphones
Phil Schiller said pre-orders would begin on Friday and shipments would start a week later in the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Australia and Japan.
Schiller said US pricing would be the same as for the prior version of the iPhone, starting at $199 and increasing to $399 with increased memory.
"It is the thinnest iPhone we have ever made, it's the world's thinnest smartphone and weighs just 112 grams," just under four ounces, Schiller said.
Apple's iPhone 5 showing 3D maps. Reuters Photos
"It is 20% lighter than the iPhone 4S."
Schiller said the new, taller iPhone, made of glass and aluminum, features a new design to nestle in one's palm to naturally align with thumbs and works on the faster mobile Internet networks known as LTE.
"When you carry your phone it should fit beautifully in your hand, that is just how we designed iPhone 5," he said.
"Everything you do looks gorgeous on this beautiful widescreen display," he said, describing the so-called Retina high-definition four-inch (10 centimeter) display used on other Apple devices.
The new device features Apple's own new A6 processor, which according to Schiller doubles the speed for loading Web graphics. 11 things to do with your old iPhone
He also said the phone would address consumer complaints by extending battery life, to eight hours use with mobile phone and browsing and 10 hours if Wi-Fi connections are used.
The iPhone 5 includes an improved camera with "new dynamic low-light mode," and "a precision lens alignment," Schiller noted.
Analysts expect Apple to sell tens of millions of the new iPhone in the coming months, luring in smartphone buyers who have been waiting to upgrade.
Apple's iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy SIII. Reuters and AFP Photos
"This iPhone 5 will turn out to be Apple's biggest home run yet. This will be the biggest and most successful Apple iPhone launch so far," independent analyst Jeff Kagan said.
Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty said it is possible Apple may ship between 48 million and 53 million iPhones in the fourth quarter and "up to 266 million" in 2013.
She said the company could sell eight to 10 million in the third quarter, or in just the opening days it becomes available.
Apple has fierce customer loyalty and has been rapidly gaining users, but has lost market share to the faster-growing segment of smartphones powered by Google's Android operating system.