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The lines to buy a new iPhone on launch day are shorter than they were last year (AAPL)

Kif Leswing
iPhone XS line September 2018

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  • Apple fans love lining up outside Apple stores before a new iPhone comes out.
  • This year, lines around the world were shorter than they've been in previous years for the new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. 
  • Apple has encouraged customers who want an iPhone on the first day it's available to pre-order or schedule a pick-up. 

For the past decade, Apple fans around the world have lined up for new iPhones on the first day they went on sale. The images are famous — people with tents and chairs and food, biding their time until they can buy the latest Apple gadgets. Some people even dressed up as the iPhone. 

Turns out, they're still lining up. But this time around, it looks like the queues aren't as long as they used to be. 

On Friday, when the new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max went on sale, several reports suggested that there were fewer hardcore iPhone users lining up overnight to secure a device on launch day.

At one store in Tokyo, where the phones went on sale before Europe and the United States, the line was half the size as it was last year, Nikkei Asian Review reported

One Apple Store in a mall in Syracuse, New York, opened to a crowd of 12 people in line. 

In New York City, the lines seemed to be shorter than last year's lines, by some reports — but they're still longer than in other so-called "S" years; the years when Apple updates the iPhone's internals without changing its design, as it did with the iPhone XS. 

"The lines outside of the Apple retail stores we visited in New York City were noticeably shorter this year than the iPhone X and the iPhone 8/8+," BTIG analyst Walter Piecyk wrote in a note distributed on Friday.

Still, some Apple fans did turn up. One of Apple's flagship locations in London had 250 Apple fans waiting in front, Bloomberg reported

Lines have been shrinking in recent years; Apple has encouraged customers to make pre-orders or schedule in-store pickups instead of launch day walk-ins. Lines at wireless carrier stores like Verizon or AT&T have also been getting shorter recently, Piecyk wrote.  And so, lines on iPhone launch day aren't the leading indicator for demand they perhaps were a few years ago. But this most recent launch day seems to have less buzz than in past years.

"As a reminder, line size does not correlate to demand, but it's fascinating that consumers continue to line up for the iPhone despite the availability of online pre-orders," Piecyk wrote. 

Still, if you wanted a new iPhone XS, you would still have to wait between 2-3 weeks if you ordered it today. That shows that there is some demand, but even then, it could be softer than the same time last year. 

"Compared to the iPhone X launch last year, this year's iPhone Xs lead times were, on average, 68% shorter, and the Xs Max lead times were 43% shorter," Loup Ventures founder Gene Munster wrote earlier this month, referring to estimate ship dates on Apple's website. 

The new Apple Watch models, called the Series 4, may be in shorter supply than the new iPhones, Bloomberg reported, with estimated ship times slipping into the end of October. 

iPhone XR colors

Stephen Lam/Reuters

A lower-cost iPhone which comes in a range of colors, the iPhone XR, goes on sale next month starting at $749. Analaysts believe that device's lower price could spur higher sales compared to the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, which start at $999 and $1099 — and, perhaps, some longer lines.

iPhone money

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