Asian fans snap up new iPhone but crowds smaller despite sell-out

By Reuters/Tom Westbrook, Sijia Jiang and Adam Jourdan   September 16, 2016 | 08:55 am GMT+7
Asian fans snap up new iPhone but crowds smaller despite sell-out
People wait in line outside an Apple store to purchase Apple's new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus at Tokyo's Omotesando shopping district, Japan, September 16, 2016. Photo by Reuters/Issei Kato

Sales in China will be the acid test for Apple's year ahead.

Apple Inc fans from Sydney to Tokyo, the first to snap the new iPhone 7 off the shelves, cheered as they left stores on Friday brandishing their purchases, flanked by applauding sales staff.

But underneath the usual fanfare, and despite complaints that the larger size of the new phone and the new jet black colour were sold out, crowds were smaller than in past years.

Some 200 people were gathered in Sydney light drizzle for the privilege of being the first worldwide to hold an iPhone 7. Apple will launch in its key Asian market China later on Friday.

"It feels great to be the first in the world to have the iPhone 7. It was 100 percent worth it," said Marcus Barsoum, a 16-year-old "diehard Apple fan" who spent two nights camped outside the Sydney store.

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Apple customers wait in the rain outside the company's Australia's flagship store in the minutes leading up to the first sale of the iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 in Sydney, September 16, 2016. Photo by Reuters/Steven Saphore 

Weary but elated, Barsoum charged in to the store at 8 a.m. to the cheers of Apple staff. He emerged with a matte black iPhone 7 although he had wanted a 7 plus in jet black.

Dale Adams, who works at J.P. Morgan in Sydney, arrived only 15 minutes before the store opened and was able to buy a 7 Plus, having ordered it online more than a week ago.

"I'm certainly not one of the hardcore Apple fans but I think the bigger capacity, better battery, better camera, that's enough to make the jump," he said.

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Apple's new iPhone 7 Plus is displayed after the new iPhone 7 Plus went on sale at the Apple Store at Tokyo's Omotesando shopping district, Japan, September 16, 2016. Photo by Reuters/Issei Kato

Chatter about the launch on Chinese microblog Weibo has been far more muted than when the iPhone 6 debuted in 2014. An index of searches on Baidu Inc, China's equivalent of Google, shows the new phone lagging both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 5.

Sales in China will be the acid test for Apple's year ahead: the mega success of the iPhone 6 in China drove sales last year, while the slower-burn 6S contributed to Apple's first global revenue drop in over a decade earlier this year.

Stores open in China later on Friday, a holiday. 

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