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Apple fans line up overnight for newest iPhone: Worth the wait?

The new phones have less dramatic improvements than last year's redesign, but include improved camera quality and 3D touch, a display technology that gauges how hard users press the screen.

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Customers are covered in blankets as they wait in front of the Apple store in Duesseldorf, Germany, as Apple Inc. launches worldwide the sales of the new iPhones on early Friday.

Martin Meissner/AP

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And so it begins: Today marks the launch of the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, Apple’s most popular product and moneymaker.

A record 12 million to 13 million iPhones are expected to be sold this weekend, analysts say, up more than 10 million from last year when the iPhone 6 launched (though then it was delayed in China, the most lucrative smartphone market). 

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Fans all over the globe have camped out for days in anticipation of the release.

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The new phones have less dramatic improvements than last year’s redesign, which saw an enlarged screen and the introduction of mobile payments. This year, they feature improved camera quality and 3D touch, a display technology which uses a "Taptic Engine" to gauge how hard users press the screen. Pricing starts at $199 and $299 with a two-year contract by the service provider.

But even on Day 1, critics say they have noticed one fault: battery life.

"The rumors are true – the battery capacity is down a bit, and we suspect the reduced battery size is to accommodate the Taptic Engine," repair firm iFixit said on its website.

Apple insists battery life remains the same in the new phones.

"Today is like Christmas for pocket filmmakers all around the world because the iPhone 6S Plus is like the newest, greatest toy we have to play with," Jason van Genderen, who makes movies on smart phones in Sydney, told Reuters.

The iPhone’s sales performance is crucial to Apple’s success: Nearly two-thirds of its revenue last quarter came from the bestselling device, which was first released in 2007 to considerable fanfare.

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Rival Samsung’s weak offerings this year will help distinguish Apple in the marketplace, says analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy.

"Samsung didn't bring a whole lot of compelling features to consumers with their new lines of phones,” Mr. Moorhead told Reuters. “Over the long haul, the 6s will eclipse the 6 as Apple is even more competitive versus Samsung in emerging regions and is gaining share in traditional regions.”

For now, it seems Apple is unstoppable at maintaining market share. The company has said there is room to grow this year since most iPhone users are due for an upgrade.

"The stage is set for Apple to show year-over-year growth over the Herculean iPhone 6 sales," FBR Capital Markets senior analyst Daniel Ives told Reuters.

This report contains material from Reuters.