iPhone XS goes on sale, drawing fewer crowds but plenty of fans

South Korean student Teddy Lee and YouTuber Mazen Kourouche walk out with two of the first iPhone XS handsets sold in the world in Sydney, Australia.


Claire Reilly/Techhnews

The crowds might have been smaller than at last year’s iPhone X launch, but if you thought 10 years of launches would lessen the die-hard Apple fandom, think again.

Apple’s newest iPhone models — the snappily-named iPhone XS (that’s “ten S”) and iPhone XS Max — are hitting stores around the world on Friday (officially knocking the iPhone X out of Apple’s lineup in the process), and Sydney was one of the first cities to get a bite.

Crowds queued outside the Apple Sydney store on George Street in the early hours on Friday, waiting to get their hands on the iPhone XS and larger XS Max — devices offering incremental upgrades on last year’s iPhone X, with virtually the same hardware appearing in the two different-sized handsets.

And the verdict? The smaller iPhone XS was the pick of the day for queuing shoppers, which included a raft of students, YouTubers and even a small phone cover company from London that spent £3,000 on flights (that’s three new iPhones’ worth) to get their hands on the new devices before everyone else in the UK. 

While last year’s iPhone X launch drew crowds looking to buy the first-of-its kind device (goodbye home button, hello Face ID), this year’s queue included plenty of people just out to buy a new phone.

Namrata Singh, 37, a pilot on holiday from India, said she came down in the morning to buy a new iPhone after dropping her last one. But while she said there’s an Apple store in New Delhi, India doesn’t do the big launch day crowds.

“I haven’t seen people queue up for Apple in India at all,” she said. “So I’m quite surprised to see these queues… it’s fairly fascinating. We walked by last night and there were people setting up tents, so I really thought we’d be at the other end of the block by the time we got here this morning!”

There were certainly fewer people waiting first thing on a Friday morning in Australia (there were 65 people in the walk-up line 30 minutes before the doors opened), but that may change when the lower-priced XR goes on sale next month on Oct. 26.

First out the doors a few minutes after the store opened at 8 a.m. were Teddy Lee, a 20-year-old South Korean student studying in Sydney, and Mazen Kourouche, 21, a launch day regular (four years and counting) who buys Apple’s new devices to film for his YouTube channel.

Lee, who’s making the switch from Android, opted for the XS, saying he was keen for the better screen (compared to the XR) and the gold body.

“My first smartphone was iPhone 4,” said Teddy Lee. “Currently I’m using Samsung but I’m going to switch to iPhone because iPhone is more [of a] fit for me.”

Kourouche bought an XS, XS Max and Apple Watch Series 4 to unbox for YouTube. While he also plans to buy an XR when it goes on sale, he was out on Friday for the gold iPhone XS, which he sees as “more on the premium end.” And as for what he’ll do with all that new gear?

“I do flip a lot of my tech,” he said. “Sometimes I do give them to family members. People sometimes buy them and I get to review them before I give [the phone] to them… and if they don’t, I tend to buy it myself and then flip it because I’ve got to get my hands on it either way.”

If you’re not flipping, those products don’t come cheap.

In Australia, shoppers weren’t leaving before spending more than AU$1,500 for a new iPhone. The starting price for the 64GB iPhone XS in Australia is AU$1,629 (it’s $999 in the US and £999 in the UK). Upsize to the iPhone XS Max and the price moves up to an eye-popping AU$1,799 ($1,099, £1,049). More budget-conscious shoppers will still have to wait for the lower-priced iPhone XR (AU$1,229, $749, £749).

For that price (on both the XS and XS Max), you’ll get dual rear cameras, a front-facing camera with portrait mode, Apple’s new A12 Bionic chip (which promises to launch apps 30 percent faster than 2017 iPhones), Faster Face ID unlocking and dual-SIM card support. Read our full iPhone XS here and iPhone XS Max review here.

Techhnews’s global team will cover all the Apple news as the iPhone XS goes on sale around the world — stay tuned for hits from Singapore, London, New York and San Francisco.

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