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Apple sells a record 9 million new iPhones in weekend debut

Apple Inc. sold a record 9 million iPhones in the weekend debut of two new models, as the company China in the rollout and consumers snapped up handsets with more colorful options and a fingerprint reader.

Sales almost doubled from the previous record even amid supply constraints for the iPhone 5s, the higher-end version of the two smartphones, Apple said in a statement Monday. The results also led Apple to say that quarterly revenue and gross margin will be at the top end of a prior forecast.

“While we’ve sold out of our initial supply of iPhone 5s, stores continue to receive new iPhone shipments regularly,” Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said in the statement. “We appreciate everyone’s patience and are working hard to build enough new iPhones for everyone.”

Apple’s shares rose 5 percent, the biggest jump since July, as the sales exceeded even the loftiest analysts’ projections of less than 8 million. The iPhone is Apple’s most important product, accounting for half of revenue. The company has seen sales and profit growth slow and has ceded share of the $280 billion smartphone market to Samsung Electronics Co. and other rivals.

“The rumors of Apple’s demise are severely exaggerated,” said Laurence Balter, an analyst at Oracle Investment Research in Fox Island, Wash., whose clients are Apple investors. “Those numbers blew away anything I could have imagined and just show that they are still producing the best-quality phones in the industry.”

The results underscore how Apple has upended the global technology industry since the iPhone’s 2007 debut. Based on $581 for each iPhone sale – about what Apple made on average last quarter – the company probably generated $5.2 billion in sales in three days.

Apple, which for the first time introduced two phones instead of one, began sales Friday in the U.S., Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore and the U.K.

The iPhone 5s proved most popular with the initial rush of customers. In a Piper Jaffray survey of 416 people waiting in line, 95 percent were going to buy that model, which 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. On eBay Inc.’s website, gold models were selling for well over $1,000.

The less-expensive 5c model is a reconfigured version of last year’s iPhone with a plastic casing that comes in five colors – pink, green, yellow, blue and white. It starts at $99 with a contract.

Of the 9 million Apple said were purchased during the weekend, about 3.5 million were iPhone 5c models that the company sold to global wireless carriers, according to Munster.