A group of thieves in Japan got a jump start on nabbing Apple Inc.'s iPhone 5 before anyone else in the world Friday morning.
At a time when thousands of eager Apple fans were already lined up outside outlets around the world, Osaka police said 191 of Apple's latest must-have smartphone were stolen in the wee hours leading up to the official launch.
As of Friday at noon, three stores were hit across Japan's western metropolis in an unusual string of robberies targeting the hottest tech toy this fall.
Authorities said they discovered 33 iPhone 5's were missing from one of KDDI Corp's au-brand shops in Ibaraki city, a suburban nook in Osaka prefecture. The iPhone is available on KDDI's au network, one of the two Japanese carriers that provides services to the U.S. giant's sleek gadgets. The police went to check out the outlet after some nearby residents called a little before 3 a.m. saying they saw three men snooping around the store. The men and the phones remain at large. A police spokesman said there was no one lined up outside the store at the time of the robbery.
About two hours later, a Softbank Corp store in the western district of Osaka city was wiped clean of its iPhone 5 stock. All 116 devices were stolen, including one store display. The police said they were taken from the locked backroom within a four minute span from 4:24 a.m. as shown on security camera footage. The video recording also showed there were three culprits, all likely to be male. The police said it is uncertain whether the robbery is related to the incident in Ibaraki, located about 20 minutes away by car. The store manager called the police at around 7:45 a.m. when he arrived at the store and discovered the lock to the store pried open. The police valued the stolen goods at ¥7.45 million. The store didn't open on Friday.
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