The significance of the iPhone X and the return of Apple Store lines

Tripp Mickle, Wall Street Journal:

Long lines outside of Apple stores around the world showed strong initial demand for the new iPhone X, but analysts said the real test would be the company’s ability to sustain that level of interest over the coming months as it works through supply bottlenecks.

This really puzzles me. That word “but” in the middle of that paragraph. This good news followed by doomsaying seems so unnecessary.

Tim Cook said this on yesterday’s results call:

There’s always doubting Thomases out there and I’ve been hearing those for the 20 years I’ve been here and suspect I’ll hear about them until I retire. (laughs) I don’t really listen to that too much.

But I digress.

Sales of the iPhone X began Friday, and hundreds of customers lined up in Australia and Singapore, aiming to be among the first in the world to get their hands on the most expensive iPhone ever, with a starting price of $999 and features including an edge-to-edge display and a facial-recognition system.


At an Apple store in central Sydney, lines snaked around the corner midmorning local time, despite the store opening at 8 a.m., an hour earlier than usual, to cope with expected demand.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen these lines, and these are not isolated cases. At the very least, this shows a deep level of excitement for the iPhone X.

My take on the iPhone X is that it is not the latest iPhone, but the first in a brand new line of iPhones. So much new technology, wrapped in a new form factor, with its own uniquely tweaked interface. The return of these lines shows how excited people are to watch their beloved iPhones evolve into something new.

The fact that people are so motivated to get up, go to an Apple Store, and be part of the line-waiting social experience is a harbinger, not of doom, but of rebirth. Numbers, shmumbers. The iPhone X is already a huge win for Apple.

  • John Kordyback

    Apple’s guidance for the next quarter is $84-87 billion. Translation “We’re fracking the shit out of iPhone sales”.

    • Janak Parekh

      Yep, this is all that matters. Reporters and analysis looking for a storyline angle variant of “Apple is doomed!!!” is nothing new. I’m utterly bored of it; I wish everyone else was, too.

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  • GlennC777

    My son, 17yo, 12th in line at the Aspen Grove store overnight, just messaged me a pick-up time of 10:00 for his X.

    Apple seems to be pretty much killing it right now. $900B market cap this morning.

    Good for TC and Apple for their extraordinary execution: for now, embarrassing their critics.

    • James Hughes

      “for now, embarrassing their critics.” Always.

  • agreed that besides being the new iphone, it’s a new type of iphone. form factor, and being their first step into contextually aware computing.

    • Janak Parekh

      Apple in fact has two fundamental new paradigms for the next decade; it’s unclear to me which one is more important yet. The Watch is redefining wearables and always-with-you computing, and the iPhone is going full-on into context-awareness + augmented reality.

      But, hey, that’s a good problem for Apple to have. Bake both aggressively and see which one takes off. I do hope they invest properly in both… I see it on the iPhone X but watchOS, interestingly, is starting to lag the Watch hardware—which has been on a remarkable run.

      • John Kordyback

        Apple Watch:

        v1: It’s a little iPhone! v2: Just kidding, it’s actually a fitness tracker! v3: OK, no kidding this time, it’s really an iPod…

        • Janak Parekh

          v1, IMO, was hobbled by Apple’s secrecy and the infancy of the product—they were conservative on software because they didn’t know how good the hardware would be and what people would use it for.

          v2/v3… if you want to work out, fitness tracking and iPod is exactly what people want. I use my Series 2 every single day in the gym and love it.

          IMO, eventually, we will get to the point where it’s a little iPhone. That’s incredibly exciting. That is, if the software keeps up (which it isn’t, yet.)

        • got the Series 0 at launch primarily for fitness tracking; there had long been rumor apple was going to make a fitbit-type device. the notifications, music, payments, and apps were nice value adds on top.

  • Quentin Mercier

    Apple’s guidance for the next quarter is $84-87 billion. Translation “We’re fracking the shit out of iPhone sales”.

    • John Kordyback

      I gotta admit, I like the way you think.

  • bdkennedy

    “So much new technology…” I don’t understand why people think this. Aside from having a full screen and removing the home button, and the True Depth camera. It’s an iPhone 8.

    • Matt Gillette

      OIS in both lenses and the OLED screen (that’s better than most other OLEDs).

      • rick gregory

        Yeah, but bdk is kind of right. It’s not like the X can do a ton of things that the 8 series cannot. CPUs are basically the same, Bionic chips in both. The OIS is nice but it’s an edge case thing for most people.

        Right now, the selling point (aside from the sheer newness of the design) is really two fold:

        1) The screen. Minor to me, but some people love OLED.

        2) The size of the screen in a smaller package because of losing the bevel. This is a big deal to a lot of people. I’m fine with a Plus because I’m 6’6″, I have large hands and it fits fine in a pocket. But a lot of people who wanted that size screen just couldn’t deal with the size of the Plus – this is huge for them.

        And then… it IS new and shiny. That counts for something.

    • you have it backwards, sonny — the 8 is a stripped down X.

      and as we schooled you AppleInsider, you cannot do contextual computing on the 8 like you can the X.

      stop whining.

  • Meaux

    The thing is, something like line length is very easily manipulated by a company like Apple (one that controls production and distribution channels). Apple has an excellent idea of what their demand is and can adjust channel balance how they wish. Apple Watch had no lines because Angela Ahrendts specifically wanted to focus on the online channel and stores did not get the watch until demand hit equilibrium. OTOH, it sounds like the retail channel has a good amount of inventory and the online channel was a bit more constrained.

    This is pretty clearly a marketing strategy predicated on generating buzz. Now after a couple years of no/few “long lines at the Apple Store,” all of the sudden people are there. Apple can sure play the media like a fiddle.

    • tinfoil hat nonsense. the Watch was in much smaller supply, which is why it was so late to market. there aren’t that many stores to seed with X units compared to the millions of people who pre-ordered online at the exact same time.

      • Meaux

        It’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s an analysis of retail strategy.

        If Apple isn’t consciously trying to drive lines and traffic, why not allow people to order for in store pickup the day before as you can do with the 8 and could do in prior years?

        The X went to December delivery by the time the East Coast woke up on launch day, seems like a pretty tight supply relative to demand. OTOH driving people to store could potentially lead them to buy other things if there was some sort of gift centered holiday coming up soon.

    • John Kordyback

      Yup, I have to agree. It’s always a clever idea to constrain your supply chain and disappoint your most loyal customers. Gosh I don’t know why more companies don’t do that.

      Ping me if you’re doing a startup. I’ll be happy to invest.

      • Meaux

        It’s not constraining the supply chain, it’s just how you distribute it. Like squeezing a balloon. The amount of air (devices) is constant, but the bulges are different. The total amount sold is the exact same.

        If you want to drive foot traffic to stores, you constrain online in favor of retail. If you want to distribute a bit more efficiently, you prioritize online. Strategically, it makes sense. Watch came out in the spring, X comes out in the holiday season. People are much more likely to spend more this time of year.