Apple: Lines and No Inventory, a Typical Day in Fall


Apple (AAPL) released a new phone today, and the ritual counting of people on line for it was part of Wall Street’s day.

An old hand at iPhone counting, Gene Munster, formerly the analyst on Apple at Piper Jaffray, now a venture capitalist with Loup Ventures, hasn’t given up his line-counting ways. He writes that he chatted with 134 people waiting and found that 99 of them were looking to buy the higher-capacity 256-gigabyte model of the iPhone X.

He thinks that’ll be good for Apple’s average selling prices. The vast majority of them were already iPhone owners, most of whom had the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, he relates.

Munster is even still compiling estimates for Apple. This data bumps his 2018 estimates to $285.5 billion in revenue from $278.9 billion.

He notes, too, a quarter of these “fanatics” are saying they’ll buy an Apple Watch in the coming year.

Another party who was scoping things out today was Walter Piecyk with BTIG Research, who visited Apple retail stores and also carrier outlets.

He notes there “there was little or no inventory available for sale” at the phone companies’ locations.

“The operators joined the Apple stores in opening early for the launch, but in some cases were only able to offer 3 or even no iPhone X for walk-in customers.”

As far as lines, he notes they’re not really a “good indicator of overall demand,” given how much is now done with online pre-orders versus years past. Still, he notes the line at Apple’s “flagship 5th Ave. store in Manhattan was long, but not as long as for iPhone 6 in 2014:

The line there was well short of the iPhone 6 lines that wrapped around the block, but longer than some other recent iPhone model launches. This year’s line snaked down the length of 58th Street between 5th and Madison avenues in 3 rows and then crossed over Madison Avenue. This compares to prior model launches when customers queued up in the store plaza, which is under construction, then moved down the street, wrapped north along Madison Avenue, and then around 59th Street.

Update: At about 9:30, there was still a line stretching down the block on 58th Street outside the flagship Fifth Avenue Store as I walked by.

Two hours later, the line was gone, and the Phone was sold out. Store staff said to return in the morning, starting at 6 am, for more inventory.

The store was lively, filled with people trying out the phone. I noticed many were also looking at the iPhone 8. There were even people looking at the other items in the store.

It’s a nice phone. As always with these things, pictures and spec sheets don’t capture the feel of it entirely. The main impression I was left with was how much more the screen dominates the overall physical presence of the device. That, and how much it feels smaller than the iPhone 7 Plus from last year despite the screen area.

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