Support Skift’s Independent JournalismMake a Contribution Now
Going on an iVacation?
The long lines of people eager to get their hands on Apple Inc.’s latest iPhones took on a new flavor this year, as queues swelled with tourists joining in the revelry to buy handsets that aren’t yet available back home.
Russians standing in line in Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm sang “Katyusha” and drank vodka, while Brazilians traveled halfway across the world to Sydney to pick up the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models, while Mandarin, Vietnamese and Spanish were being spoken outside San Francisco’s Apple Store.
“We decided to line up because it’s cheaper here,” said Eva Trancoso, 27, who was in Tokyo waiting with two other Dutch tourists at a shop in Shibuya. “And it won’t be available in Holland” for awhile, she said.
The globetrotting shoppers lining up on the first day of iPhone sales in Australia, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, France, U.K., Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. were there because they won’t be able to buy the new bigger-screen smartphones until Sept. 26 at the earliest in the next batch of countries. While the new iPhones make ideal travel gifts, they’re also an attractive investment opportunity for resellers planning to market them at a premium in their home countries.
Apple’s iPhone rollout is the most important event this year for the Cupertino, California-based company. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook is counting on the handsets to maintain Apple’s sales growth. The devices generate more than half of the company’s annual $171 billion in revenue and precede a swath of other products, including new iPads and Apple Watch. The iPhones have screens of 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, compared with 4 inches for previous models, which is helping to boost their appeal to new consumers.
“I came here for tourism, and my wife and friends asked me to bring them the new iPhone,” Yury Shchepetkov, a 24-year-old power engineer from Moscow, said while waiting in Berlin. “I had no idea I would be stuck in line for two nights without a sleeping bag.”
Tiago Amorim was waiting outside of Apple’s Fifth Avenue store in New York after flying up from Brazil to get his hands on one.
“We love iPhones,” the 14-year-old said.
Amorim was in a line that, as of 8 a.m., was 33 percent longer than last year’s debut of the iPhone 5s and 5c, according to Piper Jaffray Cos.
“There was an even more significant influence of international buyers, even more than last year,” Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, wrote in a note to investors today.
Apple hasn’t said when China and Brazil will get the new iPhones. They aren’t on the list of countries that will get the phones in the next wave, which includes Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
“We traveled about 35 hours to get our hands on the new iPhone before everyone else in Brazil,” said William Marchiori, 25, who flew to Australia from Sao Paulo. “We took three flights and got here two days ago, and we lined up.”
The new iPhones are targeted directly at bigger-screen smartphones popular with consumers in Asia. Those phones typically run on Android and are made by Samsung Electronics Co., Xiaomi Corp. and Lenovo Group Ltd., among others.
“It’s a big status symbol everywhere,” Tim Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies Inc., said of the new iPhones and the global interest.
Carolyn Wu, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for Apple, An didn’t respond to a request for comment of about when phones would reach Brazil and China. She previously declined to comment on when the new models will be available in China other than to say the iPhone 6 “will get here as soon as possible.”
Among the hundreds of people lined up to buy a phone at an Apple store in Paris was Elias Kartout, a 22-year-old student from Belgium, who was in line with four friends. They’d been vacationing in Italy when they changed course.
“The new iPhone’s not on sale back home in Belgium, so we’re making a detour to buy it in France,” he said.
More than 1,000 people lined up in the rain at the Apple Store on London’s Regent Street, where people sat on pieces of cardboard to stay dry and two Russian tourists dressed up as a banana and a bear.
Not everyone in that line was in a good mood. Llewellen Fourie, 39, a surveyor from London who had been in line since Sept. 18, said he was frustrated because he expected most of the people in line were planning to resell them overseas.
“They should make people open it and activate it in the store,” Fourie said. “People will have it in China tomorrow.”
Last year, was the first — and so far only — time that Apple’s phones were available in China on the same day as the global debut.
Previously, the typical three-month lag before the iPhone’s debut in China helped fuel smuggling of about 20 million iPhones into China annually, according to Jun Zhang, head of China equities research at Rosenblatt Securities Inc. in San Francisco. As many as 5 million iPhones may be smuggled into China before the new models are officially available, according to Neil Shah, Mumbai-based research director for devices at Counterpoint Research.
Several people in line in San Francisco said they planned to buy phones to resell. Others were there to soak up the atmosphere, including Ramzan Keshwanies, 27, a flight attendant based in Hong Kong who arrived in San Francisco and was spending his day off waiting in line at the Apple Store.
“I was supposed to be here on the launch day of the iPhone 6 and I thought maybe I should go and do camping and get my hands on iPhone 6,” he said “It’s good fun.”
In nearby Palo Alto, California, CEO Cook posed for photos at an Apple Store and later tweeted, “Thanks to all the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners around the world!”
–With assistance from Nichola Saminather in Sydney, Yuji Nakamura in Tokyo, Marie Mawad in Paris and Amy Thomson in London.
To contact the reporters on this story: Tim Higgins in San Francisco at email@example.com; Doni Bloomfield in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org; Cornelius Rahn in Berlin at email@example.com To contact the editors responsible for this story: Pui-Wing Tam at firstname.lastname@example.org Reed Stevenson