Phone lines

Singapore among 1st to launch iPhones, drawing foreigners

The queue for the Apple iPhone 7 and 7 Plus outside the EpiCentre store in Ion Orchard, before the doors opened at 9am yesterday.
The queue for the Apple iPhone 7 and 7 Plus outside the EpiCentre store in Ion Orchard, before the doors opened at 9am yesterday. ST PHOTO: DON CHI

Consumers were out in droves queuing for Apple's new iPhone 7 and the larger iPhone 7 Plus yesterday, with the black versions of the handsets being hot picks.

With Singapore being one of the first countries to get the new phones, many foreigners flocked to stores to snag them too.

Vietnamese student Sophia Tran, 25, from the Nanyang Institute of Management, was the first person in line at Courts Orchard, opposite 313@Somerset mall, at 1pm on Thursday. The student and nine others from her school queued for 19 hours, armed with snacks and portable chargers. All 10 were queuing to buy iPhones for a friend, who wanted to send them to his family in Vietnam.

"We left the line only if we wanted to go to the toilet," said Ms Tran. "It is a nice feeling to be the first person to get it."

Most of the 30 people queuing there at 8am yesterday to buy the iPhone without a contract were foreigners, as many Singaporeans would have placed their orders through local telcos at discount prices that come with mobile plans.

Singaporean Keith Heah, 58, arrived at the Courts Orchard shop five minutes before it opened at 8am yesterday to get a black iPhone 7 Plus for himself.

"Normally, this outlet is not very crowded, from what I have seen during previous years (during iPhone launches)," said the retiree, who lines up for the iPhone regularly.

Many customers told The Straits Times that they were keen on the black and jet black versions of the phones.

At authorised Apple reseller EpiCentre's outlet in Ion Orchard, more than 100 people were queueing at about 7.30am yesterday. Most were foreigners.

At the EpiCentre store in 313@Somerset, about 300 people, many of them foreigners, were in the queue at about 9am yesterday.

Without a contract, prices for the 4.7-inch iPhone 7 start from $1,048, while the larger 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus retails from $1,248. The devices, which run on Apple's iOS mobile operating system, were unveiled by Apple on Sept 7.

The new handsets are of the same sizes as last year's iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, but have added resistance against dust and water, dual cameras for optical zoom, and the faster A10 Fusion processor.

What has drawn the most attention is what it lacks - a 3.5mm headphone jack. In its place is Apple's proprietary Lightning port for audio output.

But the missing headphone jack in the new handsets did not seem to dampen enthusiasm.

Mobile consultant Amila Fonseka, 29, said: "I am very happy that the headphone jack is gone."

Mr Fonseka, who is from Sri Lanka but works here, prefers using wireless headphones because they do not have dangling wires that can get caught on things. He took time off work to get his hands on the gold iPhone 7 Plus.

Mr Maxime Blein, associate director at advisory firm PwC Singapore, noted that Singapore is among the first few Asian territories to launch the new iPhones.

The others are China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.

He said that this might be why many foreigners are queueing up at stores here to buy them.

Mr Anshul Gupta, research director at information technology research and advisory firm Gartner, said consumers are undeterred by the lack of a headphone jack in the new iPhones as these have an adaptor that allows regular headphones to be used instead.

So, Apple is "not cutting off (users) completely", he said.

Correction: An earlier version of the story stated that Mr Amila Fonseka is from India instead of Sri Lanka. This has been corrected.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore among 1st to launch iPhones, drawing foreigners'. Print Edition | Subscribe