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No iPhone 7 Plus? No problem on Apple launch day

Apple warned there'd be no iPhone 7 Plus for anyone who hadn't reserved one. That didn't scare away the fanboys but meant disappointment for some.

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For some, Apple launch day didn't bring the usual joy and excitement.

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus officially went on sale as the clock ticked over to Friday morning in time zones around the world. The first big moment fell to Australia, with Sydney's George St. Apple Store the honorary "first buyer" location for worldwide coverage (though many other stores open at the same time along Australia's East Coast).

The iPhone launch has become an annual spectacle, drawing in fanboys and enterprising individuals who line up in front of stores -- sometimes for weeks -- to nab Apple's latest and great. Some are there to bask in the glory of being first, while others just want the attention. This year, Apple added a little wrinkle: It issued a warning on Wednesday that many of its iPhones were allocated to advance orders, and that the iPhone 7 Plus and jet black iPhone 7 would be unavailable to buy on the spot.

The shift in emphasis toward reservations and delivery has long been part of Apple's attempt to bring order to the often mind-bogglingly long lines that form on launch day.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said lines were shorter this year -- about 23 percent shorter at the stores he visited, on average -- because more people order online and "this year's line appeared to have little to no representation from overseas resellers that we have seen in the past." The iPhone 7 was available in more countries on the first day of launch than ever before, which meant resellers from China and other regions didn't need to buy the device in the US. And, Apple had sold out of some of the flashiest new iPhones.

The emphasis of online orders meant some fans who lined up well ahead of Apple's warning left empty-handed or with their second choice.

Now Playing: Watch this: Apple iPhone 7 Sydney launch
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Marcus Barsoum, 16, was at the front of the line in Sydney, in place with a friend since Wednesday. He wasn't pleased by that news.

"I finished my exams so I've got no school for the next few weeks," said Barsoum. "We were hoping for the 7 Plus in the jet black, so we were devastated at the time [we heard it wasn't available] but I'm personally happy to have a 7 matte black."

Barsoum was near the front of the line in 2015 and back then bought the rose gold 6S because "that's the one that shows off it is the new model."

While the line in Sydney was nowhere near as long as for past launches, it still stretched a half a block from the store.

A damp London launch

Later in the day in London, the doors to the Apple Store swung open in perfect synchronicity with the end of summer. A post-heatwave storm unleashed torrents of rain on the small line of customers clustered at the Covent Garden arches.

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Dreary scenes in London's Covent Garden, where the fast-moving queue was shorter than in years past.

Katie Collins/CNET

A new system in the UK and other countries across Europe this year means there are no iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus devices available for walk-in customers on launch day. The only walk-ins allowed are for the Apple Watch Series 2.

Apple Store employees have spent the last couple of weeks advising people inquiring about the new phones that they should reserve or preorder online, and on Friday they were checking all reservations in the line and at the door. As a result, the line was much shorter than it has been in years past and most customers waited only a matter of minutes before being led into the store.

But people haven't been discouraged from lining up. In Berlin, a small group of regular queuers gathered earlier this week in spite of preordering, said a staff member, just because they enjoyed the social aspect of waiting in line with other fans.

The iPhone 7 Plus, with its new dual-lens camera module, sold out globally during the preorder period, but the people CNET quizzed in the line and in store were less fussed about the bigger phone. The more diminutive of the two iPhones seemed more popular in London, and there didn't appear to be much interest in the new jet black color either.

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Customer Brad Karp unboxes his new iPhone 7 in London.

Katie Collins/CNET

Computer scientist Brad Karp, who was picking up a black iPhone 7, said that he was upgrading from his iPhone 6, drawn by the optical image stabilization on the latest model. He wasn't willing to buy the bigger Plus just to get the dual-lens camera.

"When they can fit that into this form factor then I'll be interested," he said. "They just need another couple of years and I'm sure they'll sort it out." Karp added that he purchased the phone in matte black as he was worried the jet black coating might be more predisposed to getting scratched.

On Saturday, British stores will be selling the iPhone 7 to walk-in customers in all colors except for jet black, which as with the iPhone 7 Plus, sold out during preorders.

Heartbreak in New York

Luis Lorenzo had waited in the line in front of the Apple "Cube" store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan for 14 days and 15 nights, eager to purchase his iPhone 7 Plus.

When told by CNET on Thursday that there would be no Plus model available for purchase, Lorenzo clung to his hopes -- and his spot -- until this morning when Apple Store manager after manager confirmed there would be no larger iPhone 7 available. That's when he admitted defeat and left the line.

"It's a total bummer," Lorenzo, a 46-year-old from Queens, said. "I'm disappointed because I waited so long for the iPhone 7 Plus. They sold out completely and I was second in line at the flagship store."

Last year, his perseverance in holding out for the 6S in rose gold worked out, despite reports those models were sold out.

"I thought it would be like deja vu," he said. "I guess that wasn't the case."

Meanwhile, Matt Zimmer, 28, had just joined the line. The Manhattanite wants to get an iPhone 7 in rose gold for his birthday, which coincides with the phone's release.

He decided at the last minute that he'd wait in line for the iPhone to celebrate.

"It wasn't the way I was expecting to," Zimmer said.

Jaime Gonzalez, 39, of Queens, was first in line and first to get an iPhone 7. He bought two.

Though he'd been hoping to get the Plus, he was still so excited to show off the phone that he walked out without paying and had to go back into the store -- where he'd left his credit card and ID -- to pay for it after the media frenzy.

All things considered, it was an improvement on 2015's iPhone launch. "Last year I didn't preorder," he said, "so I went from being number 1 to number 500."

After more than three weeks on Fifth Avenue this year, he's looking forward to finally going home. "I haven't slept in my bed for the last 23 days. Right now what I'm gonna do is go home, take a shower and pass out."

Gonzalez is looking forward to being first again next year for the 10th anniversary iPhone.

Order and short lines in San Francisco

Justin Harris, the first person in line at Apple's new store in San Francisco's Union Square, wasn't sure if he'd even buy a phone since the model he wanted, the iPhone 7 Plus, was sold out. The 19-year-old from Oakland had been waiting in line for a week mostly for the experience, he said.

"I'm not getting anything at this moment," he told CNET before the Apple Store opened. "I'm walking in and experiencing life."

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The lines at Apple's San Francisco flagship store were shorter than in past years.

James Martin/CNET


Apple Store employees convinced him to buy a matte black iPhone 7, but Harris said he doesn't "plan on keeping this more than the return period." He's going to order the 7 Plus online instead and hope it gets here before he has to return the iPhone 7. If not, Harris may keep buying and returning smaller versions of the phone until he gets the 7 Plus, he said.

Lines in San Francisco were shorter than in years past, not even stretching the distance of a city block at the time the store opened. Apple's new store features two different entrances -- one through the huge front doors and another through a back courtyard. It lined up people who'd reserved their device in the courtyard, while everyone else lined up on the sidewalk along the building. The two entrances got people through the line quicker but made the exit of people with their phones much less dramatic.

Tod Barnett, a 29-year-old about a dozen people into the line, got to the store a little after 3 a.m. with the hopes of nabbing a 7 Plus. When he found out it wasn't available, Barnett decided to stay anyway to buy his younger brother an iPhone 7 and himself an Apple Watch. And, he hoped, Apple just might find some 7 Plus devices in the store. They didn't.

Instead, Barnett, who's participating in Apple's upgrade program, will buy his own device online.

Lou Kosak, trading in his rose gold iPhone 6S as part of the upgrade program, reserved his 128GB jet black iPhone 7 for an 8 a.m. pickup. He arrived at 6:50 a.m. for that appointment because "last year I showed up half an hour early and it was a really, really long line." Kosak opted for the smaller phone over its larger sibling because the Plus "is a lot of phone."

Updated throughout the day: To include launches from Australia, London, New York and San Francisco.

iPhone 7 launch leaves some fans disappointed