iPhone 7? Not that you'd notice at this Apple Store

Here's what was capturing consumer attention at Apple's flagship store in New York during the big reveal: Tinder, The New Yorker and olive oil.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
3 min read
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The Fifth Avenue Apple Store soaked in the sun during the iPhone 7 event across the continent.

Alfred Ng/CNET

While Apple breathlessly announced it was killing off its headphone port, regular folks were hanging out at its flagship Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan -- mostly to kill time.

The debut of the iPhone 7, as you can imagine, garnered CNET's full-court coverage. A half-dozen staffers attended Wednesday's Apple event in San Francisco. Many more were glued to their screens in offices around the world.

And here I was at an Apple Store.

My mission was simple: Witness what the heck happens at one of Apple's nearly 500 retail outposts during the company's biggest annual event. I wasn't sure what I would find or if the trip would be worth my time. But I'm new and embrace any assignment, even if it means missing the free pizza back in the office.

What I found was a scene out of any mall. At least a dozen people sat on the circular bench at the bottom of the winding stairs, some escaping the heat outside and others waiting for family or friends to finish shopping. Employees barely acknowledged that anything was even happening, and many visitors were blissfully unaware of the "magical" and "courageous" event going on 3,000 miles to the west.

Apple's event, by the way, also brought news of the second-generation Apple Watch and, most radically of all, AirPods, the wireless earbuds that spell doom for the headphone jack.

The largest huddling was at the base of the store's iconic glass spiral staircase, where people were paying more attention to Tinder, The New Yorker and the label on an olive oil bottle than to the 12-megapixel dual cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus.


Here's where people were checking Tinder and a purchase of olive oil.

Alfred Ng/CNET

On a nearby iMac, one man had been watching a stream of "Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh" on YouTube instead of Apple's big reveal. I've never seen the 1995 horror movie, but I assume it was more exciting than the iPhone 7's new color -- wow, jet black!

Not that Apple's most loyal followers were a complete no-show at the store. A small colony formed in a corner, watching Apple's event on three store Macs. The only quirk was that none of them was streaming the official site, instead relying on third-party sources. As a result, the audio was badly out of sync.

When I asked an Apple Store employee if the store would be playing the stream for everyone instead of this cacophony of CEO Tim Cook, he answered, "You know, that is a good question."


Some loyal Apple followers gathered in a corner of the store to watch the event on three separate streams -- in case one wasn't enough.

Alfred Ng/CNET

The streams drew Miguel Gonzalez, from the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, who walked over and asked what was going on. The 26-year-old said he was waiting for his shift at a local restaurant to start.

Gonzalez said he loves Apple products, citing his iPhone 6, Apple Watch and MacBook Pro, but was clueless about Wednesday's phone announcement.

"I didn't even know it was being released today," Gonzalez said. (Actually, this was the unveiling. Preorders start Friday, and the phones are expected to ship September 16.)

The self-proclaimed superfan left about halfway through the event. Can't be late to work, you know.

Had it been a cooler day, Hamish Osborne, 23, wouldn't have even been inside the Apple Store. He was visiting New York from Australia with his wife, who wanted to tour the city. Osborne said he just wanted to get out of the sun.

Waiting to meet up with his wife, he turned his attention to a third-party stream of Apple's announcements on his iPad. Osborne, who works on the business end of a cloud storage company in Australia, said he was only watching in case there was a surprise at the end of the event. There wasn't.

He kept his expectations low for the iPhone 7, deciding to hold his excitement until next year.

"I'm more interested in the iPhone announcement for its 10th anniversary," Osborne said.