Barry Eitel

How does Apple do it?

The iPhone 5 is already exceeding everyone’s expectations. Two million pre-orders were made available on the company’s website last Friday at 3 AM EST. Every single one was sold within 24 hours.

The iPhone 4 only sold approximately 600,000 units in the same amount of time back in 2010. The iPhone 4S did a little better last year, moving a bit more than a million in 24 hours.

But clearly consumers were much hungrier for the iPhone 5. When it becomes available at Apple Stores on Friday, expect lines going for blocks all around the country. Inside of those stores, expect rabid Apple fans and the sense that the mob actually has some fatal tropical disease and the iPhone 5 is the only cure.

Wall Street is also going nuts for the latest gadget. Apple’s stock past $700 a share today for the first time ever. They are currently part of an elite camaraderie of American companies called the “$700 Club.”

This kind of extreme response to an Apple release hasn’t really been seen since 2007, when the first iPhone was released. Those lengthy queues of people became the stuff of legend.

The surprising difference is that the first iPhone was truly innovative—it played media, it took calls, it texted, it went online. It revolutionized the telecommunications market and birthed new industries; it is why there is an app for that. Like the iPod six years earlier, the iPhone cemented Apple’s status as the leader of Silicon Valley and put Steve Jobs in the running as innovator of the century.

The iPhone 5, on the other hand, has roundly been described as “mediocre at best.” Tim Cook’s release event on Wednesday received a chorus of “meh” and Wall Street didn’t respond much at the time.

The iPhone 5 is a significant redesign, to be honest. The screen is long enough to allow for an extra row of icons, the phone is much slimmer, and, apparently, this iPhone will survive more drops on concrete.

Let’s not forget that this version has a completely new docking system (nicknamed “Lightning”) that is a radical departure from pretty much every Apple product since 2003. That means buying brand new car chargers, iHomes, etc.

A thinner iPhone is pretty cool, no doubt. But it doesn’t seem a likely cause for salivating, ravenous hordes of hipsters and businessmen. Yet it is.

So while Apple may not be injecting the tech world with much-needed vitality, Cupertino might just be saving the country’s economy.