A total of 1,297 people were queueing as the doors opened at 8.01am, according to researchers from 63336, a question-and-answer service that has monitored the queues for Apple launches over the past few years.
It wasn't only London. As many as 1,000 people were waiting outside the Apple Store in the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, some having arrived at 2am to create the biggest queue ever seen there. The store opened at 8am, two hours earlier than normal.
Robert Goodman, Bluewater's general manager, said: "That today has created a new record in terms of the number of people is a testament to both the unique appeal of the Apple brand and Bluewater's reputation as the place to buy the latest and greatest products."
The huge queues were in stark contrast to the criticism aimed at Apple on social media sites and by commentators over the functionality of its new Maps product on the iPhone 5, and in the software now being rolled out to all its phones released since 2009.
Apple has been widely criticised for the poor quality of the mapping data in the new iOS6 software powering the iPhone 5, and which has been made available for existing iPhones back to 2009's iPhone 3GS.
Rather than using Google's mapping software, as it has done since the original iPhone in 2007, Apple has dumped the search giant's data and is now using a combination of data from satnav company TomTom and its own sources – leading to errors such as relocating London to Ontario, losing Paddington station, turning Helsinki railway station into a park and turning a 35-acre Irish greenfield site called "Airfield" into an airport.
In a statement on Thursday night, Apple said: "We launched this new map service knowing it is a major initiative and that we are just getting started with it. Maps is a cloud-based solution and the more people use it, the better it will get. We appreciate all of the customer feedback and are working hard to make the customer experience even better."
None of the criticism about the maps seems to have punctured enthusiasm among the growing number of people who own Apple iPhones and iPads to download the software – with internet providers showing a huge spike in traffic as people began installing iOS6 on Thursday night – and, in some cases, to buy the phones at retail.
Buyers of the phones will face the challenge that the iPhone 5 does not work with existing SIM cards, but requires a new "nano-SIM" whose specifications were only agreed earlier this year.
Helen Wright, general manager of 63336 said: "We honestly felt that Apple queues were starting to shrink with pre-orders taking over and without the allure of Steve Jobs' cult following. In fact, the queue for the iPad 3 was a few hundred smaller than the 4S. Today's queue, on the other hand, is almost double that of last year's iPhone 4S."
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