Apple had a coming-out party for the iPhone 8 this morning, but barely anyone showed up.
The new phones are officially available to buy at Apple Stores, carrier stores, and online (pre-orders started a week ago), which for just about every other iPhone release for the past decade has meant long lines of eager Apple fans and shipping delays for online shoppers. Thanks to the impending iPhone X, however, that’s not the case this year.
Crowds at Apple Stores in Australia and London weren’t as big as previous years, so I went to a few locations around New York City first thing this morning to gauge the turnout Stateside. I found short lines, almost as many Apple employees and hired security as shoppers, and a large portion of the crowd looking forward to getting their hands on the $999-and-up iPhone X instead of the brand new iPhone 8 and 8 Pluses right in front of them.
My first stop was the Apple Store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. When I showed up at 8 a.m. Eastern Time, the line outside the door was only about seven people deep and moving quickly. Roughly that many Apple employees stood on the corner outside waiting to help out, eager to pull in people off the street. The store was busy inside, but there were no overly long queues, so people flowed in and out unimpeded.
I talked to one of the people waiting in line, Cooper (he declined to give his last name), who was there to pick up his pre-ordered 256GB iPhone 8. He said he arrived at the store at 8 a.m., and the line was moving quickly, so he wasn’t bothered about having to pick up the phone in person as a T-Mobile customer on Apple’s upgrade program.
He said he might get an iPhone X next year, but he’s a bit apprehensive about the new Face ID system. “It’s a new thing, and if there’s no backup I don’t want to go back to using a PIN.”
Next stop: Apple’s West 14 Street location in Manhattan. The short lines on either side of the store were only for those registering to buy a phone on the spot, without preodering — otherwise, you could walk right in to check out the goods, and customers who already pre-ordered a device were directed to a small queue inside to pick up their device. Again, there were almost as many Apple employees and security guards onsite as shoppers.
Only 9 or so waiting to get an iPhone 8 outside the Apple Store on 14th – some more inside and around the corner, but less than I expected pic.twitter.com/gOTSKLZ5cI
— Brett Williams (@bdwilliams910) September 22, 2017
I walked in to look at the new phones, and spoke to a few people milling around the displays. One person said he pre-ordered an iPhone 8, but he was looking forward to seeing the iPhone X next month and was open to upgrading next year. Another was excited to see the new phones but was holding off on buying an 8 or 8 Plus until they see the X in person. They said cost wasn’t a factor — they might consider buying one of the new Apple Watches along with an 8 Plus if the X doesn’t wow them.
The last person I talked to was only there to pick up a Watch band. They said they’re “all in” on the X and plan to buy one as soon as possible, but praised the new 8 Plus so much I almost registered to buy one on the spot. This was the type of Apple fanboy I expected to meet, but they were in short supply.
Outside the store, one of the workers was visibly surprised about the small crowds, and estimated that only around 150 people had walked away with a new phone. They told me I could register buy an 8 and walk out of the store with it in about 15 minutes if I wanted.
On Apple.com, just about every version of the 8 or 8 Plus can be shipped within the two weeks, with the longest delays estimating delivery by Oct. 13. That will likely change as more people order new phones — but there was no shopping frenzy to push supplies back at levels we’ve seen in the past.
Apple declined to provide any early details about iPhone 8 pre-orders or sales numbers when we asked for more details.
If you want a new iPhone, this might be the first year that you can walk right into the store without camping out on Day One and walk out with a brand new device. Don’t expect to be able to do the same when the iPhone X hits the streets — from what I saw today, the hype is building up for the real release frenzy on Nov. 3.