By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
September 21, 2012

FORTUNE — Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster, who has been counting heads at iPhone launches since 2008, says that Friday’s launch of the iPhone 5 in the U.S. was the biggest ever.

In a note to clients issued at 10:00 a.m. he estimates that based on counts at Apple Stores in New York, Boston and Minneapolis, the lines Friday were, on average, 83% longer than those for the iPhone 4S last October.

This despite what he says is a trend of decreasing Apple product lines at flagship store due to the company taking a greater number of online pre-orders.

FYI, team Piper Jaffray’s head count at Apple’s (AAPL) Fifth Avenue store was pretty close to mine (775 vs. 820), which isn’t bad given that we both had to estimate how many hundreds of customers were packed in that pen in front of the big glass cube.

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