Long lines are back at Apple retail sites for iPhone X

Long lines formed outside Apple Inc. stores around the world, a sign of strong demand from consumers waiting for the company’s 10th anniversary iPhone X, which goes on sale Friday.

Beginning Thursday night, crowds surrounded Apple’s retail stores in Singapore, Japan, and Australia, recalling the throngs that formed on the first day of iPhone sales on June 29, 2007. One big difference is the price: the iPhone X starts at $999, double the $499 entry-level price of the first version.

Videos and photos published on Twitter showed security guards sectioning off those waiting in line outside Apple’s Orchard Road store in Singapore. In Sydney, fans set up lawn chairs while others sold their spots in line just hours before the phone was scheduled to go on sale in the region. Lines outside Tokyo’s Ginza Apple Store snaked down more than two blocks.

Mazen Kourouche was among the first to get the iPhone X on Friday at the Apple Store in Sydney, which opened at 8 a.m. local time, an hour earlier than usual. The 20-year-old software engineering student, who pre-ordered the X, said he upgrades his iPhone every year.

“The whole size and the screen and the new dimension of it, that’s the most beneficial feature for me,” Kourouche said. “It’s a full screen, edge to edge, it looks nice.”

At the Apple store in Tokyo, Iori Watanabe and his brother arrived two days early to be the first ones in a line of more than 500 people. Watanabe, a 21-year-old who works at camera maker Olympus Corp., said he wanted to replace his iPhone 5 and was most interested in the new phone for its screen and facial-recognition technology.

Apple is known for creating hype around each new iPhone launch. But in recent years, online pre-orders and other buying options reduced store lines. This year, Apple has marketed the iPhone X heavily, and new features like facial recognition and the edge-to-edge screen are stoking demand.

Concern about limited initial supplies of the phone may also have drawn shoppers to Apple stores on launch day. In an announcement last month, Apple encouraged those without reservations to “arrive early,” an indication of its anticipated crowds. CEO Tim Cook said Thursday that demand for the iPhone X was “very, very strong,” without being more specific.

Apple stopped reporting opening weekend iPhone sales with the iPhone 7, citing demand that far outstripped supply. However, the company hasn’t indicated if it will follow that trend with the iPhone X (it didn’t report opening weekend numbers for the iPhone 8 last month). The company’s strongest weekend launch was the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus in 2015, which saw more than 13 million units sold over the initial days.

In the past few weeks, Apple started video advertisements, put posters on the walls of its retail store chain, and has replaced its web homepage with pictures of the sleek, new device.

When the phone became available online last week for pre-orders, people around the world went to drastic measures to secure one, staying up all night armed with multiple devices ready to place an order at midnight California time. Many were disappointed when they found that instead of receiving their phone Nov. 3, they’d have to wait in to December, as the initial stock sold out in most major cities within half an hour.

Those hoping for a second-chance, by walking in to an Apple store on Friday, face lines the likes of which haven’t been seen in many years. But some online customers got good news: Some orders originally scheduled for delivery in the middle of November are seeing shipment notifications indicating that their devices will arrive early next week.

Waiting times for new iPhone X orders also improved on Thursday, with the shipping time changing to three-to-four weeks from five-to-six weeks on Apple’s online stores in the U.K., Singapore, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, Australia, and Greater China. Shipping times remain five-to-six weeks in the U.S. and Canada, while Hong Kong still lists online orders as “unavailable.”

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