Here’s why the Apple Store iPhone 6S lines aren’t longer

September 25, 2015, 2:47 PM UTC
Courtesy of YouTube

The queue for the iPhone 6S at Apple’s Fifth Ave. store at 8:00 a.m. Friday was about 650 customers long, compared with 1,880 for the iPhone 6 at this time last year.

Both numbers come from Gene Munster’s team at Piper Jaffray, which has counted heads at every iPhone launch since the 2008.

“We view the shorter line as generally in line with our expectations for three reasons,” Munster wrote in a note to clients Friday.

  • First, we believe that for last year’s iPhone 6 launch, about 50% of people in line appeared to be purchasing phones to be resold overseas. Given that China was added as a launch country for the 6S, the number of resellers seemed to decrease to about 20% of people in line. Adjusting out the International presence would suggest the core line was down 55% for the iPhone 6S vs the iPhone 6. We note China was 27% of revenue last quarter.
  • Second, we note that typically “S” cycle launches (3GS and 4S) are down compared to the associated number change launches. In the 3GS and 4S cycles, lines were down 35% and 65% respectively, from their corresponding number change cycles, thus the iPhone 6S line change is on the low end of limited historical data. The iPhone 5S lines did not follow the down pattern as there were no pre-orders available for that launch. The 5S is the only launch since the iPhone 4 that did not have pre-orders.
  • Third, we believe Apple has continued to push more customers to pre-order devices to avoid long lines on launch day. The company did not offer walk-in purchases for the Apple Watch during its launch in April. Also, Apple had a 16-day window between the time of the 6S announcement and launch day compared to 9 or 10 days for each of the four prior launches. We believe the longer window allowed for more pre-orders than typical.


Below: Munster’s spreadsheet

See also: Fair-to-middling lines greet the iPhone 6S around the world (video)

Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter at @philiped. Read his Apple (AAPL) coverage at or subscribe via his RSS feed.

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