The gold version of the iPhone 5S is displayed at...

The gold version of the iPhone 5S is displayed at an Apple store in Manhattan. (Sept. 20, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Apple Inc. sold 9 million iPhones in the weekend debut of two new models, almost double the previous record, even as supply constraints held back availability for some customers.

Demand for the 5s --  the higher-end version of the new phones -- exceeded initial supplies, Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple said in a statement today. Analysts had predicted the company would sell 5 million to 7.75 million units of the upgraded iPhone 5s and multicolor 5c models.

Apple’s shares rose in early trading as the results alleviated investor concern that growth is slowing at the world’s largest technology company. The iPhone is Apple’s most important product, accounting for half its sales. The company has seen its sales and profit growth slow and has ceded market share in the $280 billion smartphone market to Samsung Electronics Co. and other rivals.

The smartphones went on sale Sept. 20 in U.S., Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore and the U.K. It’s the first time Apple rolled out its flagship product for sale in China on the same day as elsewhere, abandoning the usual three-month delay, as the company seeks to lure new customers in the world’s largest mobile-phone market.

The more feature-rich iPhone 5s has an improved camera, fingerprint-reader and faster processor. It comes in three color variations — black/gray, white/silver and white/gold — and costs $199 to $399 in the U.S. with a two-year wireless contract. The less-expensive 5c model is a reconfigured version of last year’s iPhone with a plastic casing that comes in five colors. It starts at $99 with a contract.

Long lines

Shoppers lined up at Apple Stores in Manhattan, Munich, Tokyo and other cities, with some waiting for days to get their hands on the new models. The gold version emerged as the hottest seller, and AT&T Inc., Sprint Corp., T-Mobile US Inc. and Verizon Wireless won’t be able to ship gold iPhones until October, while the others are available this month, Apple said on its website.

Sales and profit growth has slowed at Apple in the absence of major new product categories, and the company is counting on the new iPhone designs to lure new customers and spur growth.

Analysts’ estimates varied on iPhone sales over the debut weekend due to projected limited supplies of the iPhone 5s. Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray Cos. said Apple would probably sell 5 million to 6 million, while Citigroup Inc.’s Glen Yeung predicted as many as 7.75 million.

Apple was criticized by many analysts, who said the company priced the iPhone 5C too high for many emerging markets where customers don’t get the discount associated with signing up for a wireless contract. In China, where Apple is seeking to generate further growth, the iPhone 5C costs more than the equivalent of $700, or two months’ pay for the typical urban worker.

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