Apple’s latest iPhone models hit the stores on Friday and while the 11 series was seen as an incremental upgrade, early indications suggest more people than expected were keen to get their hands on one.
The new line of hardware, including three new phones and an updated Apple Watch and iPads, was introduced on Sept. 10 and customers were able to place preorders last week to either be delivered or picked up in stores today.
Long lines snaked around Apple’s flagship on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan as people waited to get in to the gleaming glass cube and descend to the underground space, which as been under renovation for two years and emerged Friday bigger and brighter. Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook was on site for the opening and stood out on the store’s plaza across from Central Park taking selfies with fans.
Sam Sheffer had already picked up his green iPhone 11 Pro in Manhattan’s SoHo store Friday morning, waiting in line for less than five minutes. But he went uptown to see the new store and potentially get a glimpse of Cook.
“For me, a die-hard enthusiast, I wouldn’t be able to live knowing there was an iPhone I didn’t have,” Sheffer said.
Apple shares were up less than 1 percent Friday morning in New York to $222.02, valuing the company at just over $1 trillion.
Apple’s latest iPhone faced some hurdles heading in to its annual revamp. Sales of the iconic smartphone have declined in the past three quarters, as prices crept above $1,000 and people hung on to their current models longer. A lack of revolutionary features on this year’s model could keep some fans holding out until 2020, when significantly faster 5G networks and a revamped design will open up new possibilities with the phone. At the same time, a trade war between the U.S. and China is also starting to take a toll.
But some early reports from analysts pointed to encouraging signs for Apple. Rosenblatt Securities said it’s seeing “some new model production increases for September and October for the new iPhone models.” Jun Zhang, an analyst at Rosenblatt, wrote that the firm now sees volume increasing by 3 to 5 million units more than earlier expectations, to 68 million to 70 million units.
Apple set the base model price at $699 for the iPhone 11, down from the iPhone XR’s $749 price last year and below some analysts’ expectations. That might help attract some first-time buyers to its expanding entertainment and services ecosystem.
It may come as a disappointment to those waiting on line on Fifth Avenue, but if they haven’t preordered their phone, they could face a two-to-three week wait, according to Zhang. That’s a longer wait time than the one-to-two weeks for last year’s iPhone XR, but, “there is a lot of inventory at other retailers,” Zhang said.
Longbow Research analyst Shawn Harrison said Apple could be seeing a “potential higher floor in iPhone demand,” and that “initial iPhone search trends are positively surprising.”
Lines outside Apple stores around the world were typically shorter or non-existent this year, but tourists and customers thronged the Fifth Avenue location. Daniel Akinsulire found himself stuck deep in line on 58th Street, waiting to pick up phones for his family. “I didn’t know it would be this packed,” he said. “I might be late for work.”