Fans cheer, but iPhone 7 gets a subdued welcome

Fri Sep 16, 2016 2:53pm EDT
 
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By Adam Jourdan, Tom Westbrook and Julia Love

SHANGHAI/SYDNEY/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple employees enthusiastically counted down the last moments before stores from San Francisco to Shanghai opened on Friday to launch the iPhone 7, but the ranks of shoppers were notably thinner than in previous years.

Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote) fans assembled at stores around the world to be among the first to buy the iPhone 7, the retail phenomenon that accompanies the launch of the company's updated flagship product each year.

The tech giant announced earlier this week that the larger iPhone 7 Plus had sold out, prompting some who had set up camp outside Apple's marquee store in San Francisco to pack up their bags and head home.

To be sure, online pre-orders have made lines unnecessary for all but diehard fans, and in Chinese stores only those who had ordered in advance were queuing to collect.

Yet in markets like China, online interest in the new phone has also been muted, as cheaper local brands amp up their design and marketing.

Wu Ting, a 28-year-old from Nanjing, was surprised to find herself first in line at a downtown Apple store in Shanghai on Friday, a holiday in China.

"I found last year that there were crowds of people, but this year almost no one. I came an hour early thinking I'd have to wait a long time before getting seen," Wu said.

The stakes for the iPhone 7 are high after sales of the gadget dropped during two straight quarters this year, the first declines in its history. The iPhone is Apple's lifeblood, accounting for more than half of the company's revenue.   Continued...

 
The new iPhone 7 smartphone goes on sale inside an Apple Inc. store in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 16, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson