Apple began selling the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus on Friday. The new smartphones are available in a dozen countries and are expected to sell swiftly. So where were the big, unruly lines of year's past?
I drove past my local Apple Store at 6:30 a.m. on Sept. 25 and was surprised to see no more than two dozen people standing in line. Last year, I arrived at the same store at 4 a.m. and was stunned to find close to 200 people in front of me.
At 9 a.m., I walked into the Apple Store to buy an iPhone 6s Plus and was helped right away (because I had a reservation). The number of people waiting in the line for walk-ins was no greater than 30.
Pictures from some of Apple's biggest stores around the world showed hundreds of people queued up for the new iPhones, but the line for the flagship 5th Avenue store in New York City didn't circle multiple city blocks as it has in years past.
Tech journalist Harry McCracken shared a photo from the San Francisco flagship store with the caption: "iPhone line crazy by normal standards, sane by iPhone standards."
Apple staff told me the new reservation system played a big role in keeping initial lines to a minimum.
This year, customers pre-ordering the iPhone were asked to select a time and store in which to pick up their new handset. The reservations are spread across the entire day and pretty much guarantee customers will get the iPhone they want no matter when they arrive. In other words, there's not as much need to show up early for fear the phones will sell out. Distributing pick-up times from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (or later) truly cut down on the early-morning frenzy.
[Here's our comparison of the iPhone 6s and the Galaxy S6.]
There are other possibilities, however, that aren't as pleasant to contemplate: People aren't as interested in new iPhones as they used to be. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are variations on last year's iPhones. They toss in a few new features -- primarily 3D Touch and a better camera -- but they're by-and-large the same.
For many consumers, these changes aren't enough to warrant lots of excitement. To wit, the number of people I still see using the iPhone 4/4s and iPhone 5/5s is surprisingly high.
Apple would have us believe otherwise.
"Customer response to the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus has been incredibly positive, we can't wait to get our most advanced iPhones ever into customers' hands," said Philip Schiller, Apple's SVP of Worldwide Marketing, earlier this week. The company says first weekend sales should surpass the record 10 million it sold last year. We'll see.
The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are available in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Singapore, the UK, and the US. Pricing starts at $649.