Apple's iPhone 4S preorder pop means smaller lines, less fanfare

The buzz for the iPhone 4S is lacking in the lines outside Apple stores. Why? A lot of people preordered the device online.

Apple customers lined up for the iPhone 4S on Friday, but the energy just wasn't there in the queue. Reason to panic? Not quite. A lot of folks---1 million of them in one day---preordered the iPhone 4S and U.S. carriers are sold out.

Credit: CNET/Marguerite Reardon

That fact leaves the people in line largely doing it for a cultural experience or some publicity. CNET News' blog on the New York City launch noted:

The anticipation is killing me. Well, actually not. Honestly, this launch just doesn't have the same energy and spark as other Apple product launches. But I'm sure they will sell the heck out of these things. My guess is most people who really wanted the iPhone 4S preordered it online. Smart move, if you ask me.

Of course, preordering is a smart move, but buying online diminishes the fervor. Stephen Shankland, writing from Paris, said:

Despite the healthy-sized crowd, though, I didn't see much evidence of the sort of fanboy passion that sometimes accompanies the arrival of Apple products these days.

In the UK, noted that O2 said sales are brisk for the iPhone 4S, but that distribution channel means there won't be massive lines outside of Apple's London outpost. Meanwhile, the Guardian in the UK said that half the people in line at the Apple store in London were there because they missed out on preorders.

ZDNet and CNET Australia noted a similar vibe Down Under. Australia was the first to start the iPhone 4S launch day parade.

CNET Australia's Joseph Hanlon noted:

Apple's iPhone 4S went on sale across Australia this morning to far less fanfare than has been seen in previous launches, with most eager iPhone shoppers in Sydney choosing the flagship Apple Store itself rather than the telco alternatives.

Stores selling the iPhone 4S opened at 8am rather than at midnight, prompting a far more civil and noticeably less festive experience than seen for the launches of the iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4.

Apple staffers lined the windows across the levels of Sydney's flagship store in the city's CBD, welcoming a crowd of several hundred customers waiting on the street below.

None of these observations are likely to hamper iPhone 4S sales.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said in a research note:

We are modeling for Apple to sell 25m iPhones in the Dec-11 quarter, up 77% from the 14.1m iPhones Apple sold in the Sep-10 quarter, when the iPhone 4 launch sales hit. In other words, we expected iPhone 4S to be the strongest iPhone launch ever, which Apple has now confirmed. While it is still early, this data point increases our confidence that iPhone 4S has the momentum to meet or exceed our 25m unit estimate for the Dec-11 quarter.

Also see CNET's iPhone 4S Sprint review.


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