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Business & Technology
Sep 21 2012 1:41PM
Blackberry service down in Europe, Middle East, Africa
BlackBerry announced the issues in postings on Facebook and Twitter on Friday. Picture: Getty Images
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BlackBerry is reporting an outage affecting users in Europe, Middle East and Africa - interrupting service for customers on the very day Apple Inc. unveiled its hot new iPhone 5.

BlackBerry announced the issues in postings on Facebook and Twitter on Friday, and says it is urgently working to fix the troubles. It apologized to customers for the inconvenience caused.

The outage brought up unpleasant memories of troubles with emails and chat messages last year that left users bereft for three days. In the United States and Canada, the outage was shorter, but many of the world's 70 million BlackBerry users were affected.

The timing could not have been worse: lines formed outside of Apple stores in Britain as the new iPhone 5 went on sale.

The lines of eager fans outside stores looked set to make the latest iPhone another commercial success for the trend-setting US tech giant, with Apple saying it had received more than two million orders online.

Australians were the first to get their hands on the device. In Sydney faithful fans filmed the experience on their iPhones and iPads as staff inside clapped and cheered when the doors opened at 8:00 am (2200 GMT Thursday).

Companies looking for publicity took advantage of the media glare accompanying the launch, with the first dozen or so in the queue wearing promotional T-shirts or carrying advertising materials.

"Seven of us are here from our company, since midday Tuesday," said Todd Foot, 24, who was first in the line and works for an organisation that reviews mobile phones.

The same was true at Apple's store on London's Regent Street, where at the head of the queue, Richard Wheatcroft and George Horne camped out for a full seven nights to promote their bakery, staffed by victims of domestic violence.

"We decided to buy four iPhones and auction them off. Anything raised will go towards the bakery," Wheatcroft told AFP. "We're just putting them on eBay now and then we're going to get some sleep."

Compared to the iPhone 4S, Apple's new smartphone boasts a bigger screen, stronger battery and faster connection to the latest 4G networks.

It is lighter and slimmer, and its operating system iOS 6 contains tweaks designed to improve the user's experience.

But many analysts say Apple has fallen short as other companies such as Samsung improve rival offerings powered by Google's Android operating system.

"Unless Apple ups its device innovation game, we may be seeing Apple's iOS empire approaching its zenith," Tony Costa of Forrester Research said.

Apple has also been hit by a barrage of criticism after it ditched Google's maps application in favour of an inhouse system that is reportedly riddled with errors.

Many users have protested that the new maps misplace some landmarks and leave others off altogether.

The new maps are included in the iOS 6 system, which comes pre-installed on the new iPhone and became available for download by existing iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users on Wednesday.

But enthusiasm among early-bird shoppers was undimmed as stores opened in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, France, Germany and Britain. The phone was due to go on sale in the United States and Canada later Friday.

Ryoho Yamashita, a 23-year-old student, had queued since midnight at a Softbank store in Tokyo and said there had been a celebratory atmosphere among those waiting.

"It's like a festival that I enjoy every year," he said, brandishing his new phone.

In Hong Kong, grey-marketeers pounced on anyone who emerged from the city's official Apple store, offering a premium in the hope of re-selling it for even more given shortages of the coveted phone.

In Singapore, staff at an Apple reseller were turning people away, having run out of phones within hours of opening.

Meanwhile in Munich, southern Germany, 17-year-old schoolboy Benjamin Scholtysik arrived with 10,000 euros ($13,000) in his pocket, having camped overnight with three friends.

"I had to have it, because it's new," said Scholtysik, who was buying a total of 14 new iPhones for his friends and said he was passing down his now out-of-date iPhone 4 to his mother.

In France, Apple's flagship Paris store was doing a roaring trade as a threatened strike by workers over a pay dispute failed to materialise.

Apple, whose shares soared past US$700 in anticipation of the launch, says the iPhone 5 will be available in 100 countries by the end of the year.

Samsung says it is considering adding the new iPhone to a patent infringement case as part of a long-running global legal battle between the rival electronics giants.

"Our company considers adding Apple's iPhone 5 to the (patent infringement) case... but we cannot say when," a Samsung spokesman told AFP.

"Our decision will be made after our company has analysed the iPhone 5 to see what aspects of its device constitute patent infringement."

Some analysts have tipped Apple to sell 10 million units globally in the opening days and 50 million before the end of 2012, giving a small but welcome boost to the US economy.

-Sapa-AP and AFP

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