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Diminished crowds await the Apple iPhone 11 in China as consumers move online, consider Huawei

Apple's launch in China came a day after Huawei revealed a new phone series of its own

Apple store in Shanghai
Dozens, not hundreds, waited in line at stores in Beijing and Shanghai

Apple Inc's (NASDAQ:AAPL) new iPhone 11 hit retail shelves in China on Friday, but the crowds of people clamoring to be among the first to buy were noticeably smaller than in recent years. 

Dozens, not hundreds, waited in line at stores in Beijing and Shanghai, according to media reports.

However, the reduced crowd size may have something to do with a shift towards online shopping. Chinese e-commerce retailer JD.com said pre-sales of the iPhone 11 on its site were nearly six times greater than comparable sales of the iPhone XR, which launched last year. 

READ: Google to spend $3.3B to expand European data centers

The Apple launch comes just a day after Chinese smartphone giant Huawei revealed the new Mate 30 line of phones that it claims are more compact, have better cameras, and most importantly, feature a 5G chip.

One thing Apple does have going for it: access to Google apps like Gmail, Google Maps and Youtube, thanks to an executive order from the Trump administration banning US companies from doing business with Huawei.

The baseline iPhone 11 sells for $699, while the Pro Max variety, three camera lenses and all, retails for $1,099.

Meanwhile, in New York, crowds are surging, according to an anlyst note from Wedbush published Friday.

"Demand looks strong out of the gates for Apple as the lines at its flagship NYC store were up [roughly] 70% today compared to what we saw last year," Wedbush said. "We are continuing to see delivery times extend for iPhone 11 pre-orders across a range of colors and models, with our expectations now that iPhone launch units could exceed 75 million."

The figure compares favorably for Apple compared to initial Street estimates of around 70 million units, a bump Wedbush attributes to demand in China — in-person or otherwise.

"The base model iPhone 11 currently we estimate is seeing pre-order activity in the all-important China region that is 'roughly double' from a year ago with XR as it appears the lower price points, dual camera functionality, and added colors is hitting the sweet spot for consumers that have been waiting to upgrade," the firm said.

Having come away impressed with the iPhone 11's first day, the firm maintained its Outperform rating and $245 price target. Apple stock declined along with the broader market Friday afternoon, sliding 0.7% to $219.47.

Contact Andrew Kessel at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kessel

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