The Apple iPhone 7 and 7 Plus hit retailers in many countries on Friday.
The iPhone’s September launch has been known in the past for drawing lines of enthusiastic fans out the door, but this year’s response has been more muted as online pre-orders wiped out initial quantities of the iPhone 7 Plus and the new jet black color of the smaller iPhone 7.
But instead of massive lines outside London’s flagship Apple store in Covent Garden as seen in previous handset debuts, there were just a few people waiting on the sidelines.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster estimates that the iPhone 7 launch line at Apple’s flagship 5th Avenue store in New York City was around 400 people, versus 650 for the iPhone 6s and 1,880 for the iPhone 6. But he believes that demand remains strong, according to a research note, since pre-order commentary was positive.
Sales of the mobile device are closely watched on Wall Street, seen as a bellwether for the performance of the world’s most valuable company. Shares of Apple were down 1 percent on Friday, but were still on track for their best week since 2011.
IPhone sales also important part of the holiday season for retailers: Before the launch of the iPhone 7, retailer Target posted a double-digit same-store sales decline in electronics during the second quarter, including a “significant drag" due to a 20 percent slide in sales of Apple products.
Industry watchers have given the new handset reviews that are solid, but not earth-shattering. Still, Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi said that the pool of existing iPhone users is about 50 percent higher than two years ago, which could raise iPhone sales to consumers in need of an upgrade, regardless of the 7’s specs.
“Really with the Samsung recall, the carriers have one new premium-tier phone, and they’ve been very aggressive with the subsidies. It’s really surprised us," Mike Walkley, Canaccord Genuity analyst, told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street" on Friday. “So basically, as a U.S. consumer, if you’ve paid off your iPhone 6 through your installment plans, you’r basically going to get the iPhone 7 for free."