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Friday, December 14, 2012, 12:01 am PT (03:01 am ET)

Apple opens iPhone 5 sales in China, 32 more countries

Apple kicked off sales of the massively popular iPhone 5 handset in China and 31 other countries on Friday, fending off supply constraints as the company continues its fastest rollout ever.

iPhone 5


As noted by The Next Web, the usual long lines seen at past Apple product launches in China were staunched, largely in thanks to the combination of a snow storm and the preorder system instituted by the country's two official partner carriers.

The Sanlitun Apple Store, the company's first retail outlet in China, saw workers milling about waiting to greet customers that never came. The lack of walk-in purchases is in stark contrast to reports of strong pre-sale number that had cellular carrier China Unicom sitting at over 300,000 preorders days before Friday's launch.

China is now Apple's second-largest market, and holds the world's biggest base of mobile subscribers. While the Cupertino, Calif., company has been able to broker deals with China Unicon and China Telecom, Apple has yet to tap into the vast pool of the world's largest carrier China Mobile. An arrangement has been rumored to be in the works for years and China Mobile's president recently acknowledged that the two companies are in talks, but chances are slim that a partnership will be reached in the near future.

Along with China, the iPhone 5 also launched in the following countries on Friday:
Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Ecuador, Grenada, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Kuwait, Macedonia, Malaysia, Moldova, Montenegro, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Taiwan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

The smartphone will debut in over 50 countries in December with the next wave of releases scheduled for a week from today.