LONDON: Apple’s iPhone 7 launch generated trademark queues and brisk sales in stores around the world on Friday, but excitement mixed with frustration due to supply shortages that left many fans empty-handed.
Buyers queued up outside stores in Australia early on Friday to become some of the first consumers worldwide to get their hands on the device which comes with an improved camera, no headphone jack, and a water resistant body.
The picture was repeated elsewhere in Asia and then in Europe, where stock quickly sold out — either a deliberate sales tactic or because of supply problems, analysts said.
“I really wanted the new camera and new software,” said 49-year-old Paul du Buf, who was at the head of a queue of dozens of people under pouring rain at the Apple store in Covent Garden in central London.
There has been much chatter among Apple fans since the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus were unveiled about the groundbreaking decision to eliminate headphone jacks and embrace a wireless future.
The California-based group is seeking to regain momentum and set new trends for the industry but it remains to be seen if it can generate the same excitement that surrounded previous versions of the iPhone.
While the company has touted total iPhone sales of one billion, the number sold in the quarter ending June 25 fell 15 percent from a year earlier, highlighting concerns over growth for the key profit driver.
Mobile phone markets are saturated and Chinese firms including Huawei are becoming increasingly popular.
Apple also faces stiff competition from traditional rival Samsung, although the South Korean giant is currently on the back foot after being forced into a massive recall because of exploding batteries.
Apple shares finished up 3.4 percent at $115.56 on Thursday as the firm said the iPhone 7 Plus and jet black version of the iPhone 7 had already sold out in pre-orders ahead of its debut in stores.
– Tight control on supply –
Analysts were divided over the cause of the shortages, with some saying the handset was more popular than expected, while others suggested the tech titan may be deliberately limiting supply or could be experiencing supply problems.
“Apple clearly controls supply tightly,” said Matthew Kanterman, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.
“They’re possibly keeping supply artificially low, or at least lower than demand, so as to avoid having the oversupply of previous years.”
As Asia woke up, consumers in Sydney who had camped out in the rain were among the first in the world to get their hands on the new phones — though others were left bitterly disappointed.
Bishoy Behman, 17, had been sitting outside the Apple store since Wednesday morning but said he and others in the queue found out on Thursday that some models were already sold out.
“I really wouldn’t have lined up if I had known that,” he told AFP. “For them to have not allocated some stock is ridiculous.”
– ‘Demand not as strong’ –
Ahead of Friday’s launch, Apple released a statement saying the two sold-out models would “not be available for walk-in customers”.
In Tokyo, student Rei Yokoyama, who queued in front of a store since 4 am, was unable to get an iPhone 7 Plus.
“I’d like to try the dual camera on the iPhone 7 Plus, though today it was sold out so I got the iPhone 7,” he told AFP.
Apple has said it will not provide figures for launch weekend sales as it has in the past.
In mainland China, a key market for Apple, scenes were energetic as crowds of customers tested out the new handsets.
Apple faces a complicated picture in China, where it ranked only fourth in the Asian giant’s smartphone market in the first half of this year, facing strong competition from low-cost local firms.
In Hong Kong, some customers were seen near the Apple store in the Causeway Bay shopping district, reselling new phones at a profit.
“The demand is not as strong as it was with the last model,” a reseller who declined to give his name told AFP, adding however that there were people looking to buy the rare jet black models.
Candy Leung, 26, who bought a 7 Plus model, seemed unimpressed by the new wireless earphones: “My first impression is that they could be lost really easily.”
The new phones are to hit stores later Friday in the United States.