iPhone XR goes on sale around the world, but fans mostly stay home
The iPhone XR might have been dubbed the best value iPhone in years, but shoppers weren't giving it the usual show of love.
Claire ReillyFormer Principal Video Producer
Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
ExpertiseSpace, Futurism, Science and Sci-Tech, Robotics, Tech CultureCredentials
Webby Award Winner (Best Video Host, 2021), Webby Nominee (Podcasts, 2021), Gold Telly (Documentary Series, 2021), Silver Telly (Video Writing, 2021), W3 Award (Best Host, 2020), Australian IT Journalism Awards (Best Journalist, Best News Journalist 2017)
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
ExpertiseAbrar has spent her career at CNET analyzing tech trends while also writing news, reviews and commentaries across mobile, streaming and online culture.Credentials
Named a Tech Media Trailblazer by the Consumer Technology Association in 2019, a winner of SPJ NorCal's Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2022 and has three times been a finalist in the LA Press Club's National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
The usual crowds that line up for Apple's newest smartphones didn't bother to show for the
Apple Stores around the world opened their doors on Friday for the first day selling the iPhone XR, and while Apple has offered something a little different than on previous launches -- more colors and arguably the best bang for your buck from the iPhone in years -- the queues were nowhere to be seen.
Watch this: iPhone XR goes on sale around the world with a pop of color
At the Apple Store in the middle of Sydney, the entrance was quiet in the hour before doors opened. Where lines have stretched around the corner in anticipation of buying Apple's newest phone as recently as last month's iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max launch, there were just a handful of people waiting for the iPhone XR. Meanwhile, there were a few dozen people at London's Covent Garden store and the Fifth Avenue New York store.
According to staff at the Sydney store, most customers were coming in to pick up preorders at assigned times throughout the day, a system that Apple has also had in place for previous launches.
The lack of big crowds is a first for Apple, which has gained legendary status for its ability to draw fans and lines around the block over the past 11 years. But the tech giant threw a wrinkle into this year's launch, first offering the higher-end iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, more likely to attract hardcore Apple fans, and saving the more budget-friendly iPhone XR for a month later.
It could be that queueing is becoming less necessary. Wait times for those who order the iPhone XR online in the US are three to five days rather than the weeks we've seen with some launches in the past. It could be that the lower-priced, colorful iPhone XR is pulling in people looking to upgrade a 3-year-old model, or those looking for a less pricey phone for their kids. That could also be why the YouTube iPhone unboxers (and those who buy the phone to quickly flip it) were nowhere to be seen.
An Apple spokesman wasn't available to comment on the smaller crowds.
may have had to follow behind the iPhone XS, which went on sale in September, but it still gives Apple fans a way to trade up to a new iPhone without having to push up to the $1,000 mark for the iPhone XS (or stretch their hands and their budgets for the larger
iPhone XS Max
, which starts at $1,099).
And while the iPhone XS launch saw buyers ponying up for premium features including the Super Retina display and dual 12-megapixel rear cameras, the iPhone XR still has its own selling points. CNET's Scott Stein says the XR still delivers most of the iPhone X and XS features, including an excellent big screen, fast performance, Face ID and wireless charging, and a camera that's mostly as good as the iPhone XS.
First in line at the Sydney store for her preorder was 23-year-old paralegal Rosa van de Pol, who was buying a black iPhone XR for her husband "mainly because of the price point."
"I think it was a good option, compared to the other
that came out," she said. "The whole phone is the screen, so that's great."
But van de Pol admitted that considering the lack of queue, getting down to the store half-an-hour early "was a bit of overkill."
The scene was also quiet at the London launch, where doors opened at the company's historic Covent Garden store at 8 a.m. on a dark and drizzly morning.
Apple's policy of booking people in for specific time slots meant the crowd before opening time was modest -- there were around 30 people in total -- and the atmosphere inside the store was serene and civilized.
Many of the customers picking up their iPhone XRs were of the opinion they'd bagged themselves a bargain by opting for the cheaper model.
"We felt there was more value for money," said 54-year-old David, who was buying an iPhone XR for his 21-year-old daughter Joanna. Both are self-described "Apple freaks," although they've never queued to pick up an iPhone on launch day before.
"We thought we'd make the effort to come and see the store as well, because it's just been refurbished," said David. "It's quite an exciting day really."
Inside Apple's revamped London Regent Street store
The iPhone XR launch in London coincided with the reopening of the Covent Garden site following refurbishment, which sees a new forum area for talks added in the central atrium.
The refurbishment brings the store in line with other Apple Stores around the world. At both its main retail locations in London (the other being its flagship Regent Street store) Apple has been careful to work around the listed heritage status of the buildings, to ensure their original features are kept intact. The arched porticos just outside the Covent Garden store are a great example of this, and also make it the better location of the two to shelter from the London rain while standing in line for phone launches -- even on days like this, when the queue is relatively short.
The chilly morning breeze had the customers in line at the Fifth Avenue store keeping their hands in their pockets, shifting legs to stay warm.
The line was surprisingly short, not even half a block long. The first one in line was Mark Guliaiev, a 20-year-old student from Ukraine. He had been waiting since 2 a.m. He got one yellow iPhone XR.
"There was no people whatsoever. It was the least crowded day ever," he said. "I'm buying it for my parents, but if they don't like it, I'll just return it. I'm getting it for fun. I just want to be number one, simple as that."
Compare that with last month's iPhone XS launch, which drew two different block-long lines. Some people had to wait more than 8 hours for their phone.
Patricia Disessa, a 28-year-old engineer from Brazil, was second in line and had been waiting for one hour. Her phone was stolen so she was buying a new one.
"I think the XR is the most cost-benefits [balanced]," she said.
Eddie Suarez, 36, works in security. He had been waiting less than 50 minutes. His iPhone XR was an upgrade from last year's iPhone 8 Plus.
"It's affordable. It's the more affordable [one] out of the bunch," he said. "It's updated. It's like a car, everyone wants to buy the next car for the year, the next video game for the year. Just to keep up with the times I guess."
Varoon Malik was surprised to be the first person to arrive outside the Union Square Apple Store in San Francisco early Friday morning.
"I was expecting a line," the 36-year-old from India said.
Malik was mistakenly told the store would open at 7 a.m. (an hour earlier than reality), so he arrived at 6:45 a.m. He was soon joined by a few other customers.
Malik came to buy the iPhone XR in red for his wife, who was still sleeping at their nearby hotel, and his sister back home in India. "I was threatened that I better take this back with me," he joked.
Malik's wife and sister are upgrading from the iPhone 7 and 7s, respectively. But he won't be getting a new iPhone for himself. "I'm an Android guy," Malik said.
Malik wasn't the only person there buying the new iPhone for a spouse. Princy Agarwan, 27, came to buy the iPhone XR in blue for her husband in India. He currently has the iPhone 6, and held out for the iPhone XR because of the lower price and range of colors.
Agarwan was fourth in line when she arrived at 7 a.m.
"I expected a long queue, as I've heard in the past, so that's why I came early," she said. "I wanted to be first."
Jenny Leipziger came all the way from Napa with her 16-year-old daughter Sabrina, who was upgrading from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone XR in black. Leipziger works at AT&T and was surprised she and her daughter were just 6th and 7th in line.
"I remember when the first [iPhone] came out, and there were really long lines," Leipziger said. "People were spending the night. I was a little worried that 7 wasn't going to be early enough."
It turns out Leipziger didn't have much to worry about. When the doors to the store opened at 8 a.m., there were only about 25 people in line.
Apple: See what's up with the tech giant as it releases new iPhones and more.