Crowds are light for the new iPad Air

The arrival of a new iPad on Friday didn’t generate the kind of frenzy that has become the hallmark of the company’s product launches, but Apple loyalists were still thrilled to be among the first to get their hands on the redesigned tablet.

After arriving at the Beverly Center at 7:30 a.m., Ivan Stanchev, 22, found himself first in line at the Apple Store for the new iPad Air. By the time the doors opened half an hour later, there were only about two dozen people waiting, most of them to pick up pre-orders.

Stanchev, a student from Bulgaria, said although he wasn’t a diehard Apple fan, he wanted to get the iPad Air on the first day so he could “brag about it to friends.”


“It’s actually super, super light,” he said as he unwrapped the tablet outside the Los Angeles store. “It’s beautiful.”

And so it went around the globe, as fans lined up in London, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Unlike in September when many versions of the iPhone 5s quickly sold out, consumers found the new iPad generally available. One analyst, though, said stores in Hong Kong and New York City ran out.

The fifth version of Apple’s iPad, dubbed iPad Air, is significantly lighter and thinner than previous versions. Apple and its investors hope the iPad Air, along with a second iPad mini with a Retina screen, will get iPad sales growing again.

Apple has been losing market share to Android tablets in recent months as iPad sales have flattened. During a recent earnings call with analysts, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said he believes this will be an “iPad Christmas.”

Just how jolly, though, may depend more on the new iPad mini. The smaller iPad has become the more popular version, and Apple has said it won’t be available for purchase until later in November.

For that reason, analysts didn’t expect huge lines Friday for the iPad Air.

“We believe lines were slightly better than our low expectations and note that investors need to remember that today is only the launch for the iPad Air,” wrote Gene Munster, an analyst for Piper Jaffray, in a note to clients.

Projecting sales this weekend has been tricky for analysts. That’s in part because the iPad mini isn’t available, but also because the iPad Air is being sold in China on launch weekend — a first for the iPad line. Munster said he expects Apple to sell between 2.5 million and 3 million iPad Airs this weekend, compared with 3 million last year when two models were launched.

Sales may also get a boost this weekend because retailers have already started offering discounts. Wal-Mart, Target and Staples are offering $20 off the 16-gigabyte iPad Air, which has a list price of $499.

As always, there were some folks determined to be first to get Apple’s latest thing.

By 5 a.m. Friday morning, about two dozen people were in line outside the San Francisco Apple Store near Union Square. In Emeryville, across the San Francisco Bay, about 25 people were in line when the store opened at 8 a.m.

Many of them had already gone online starting at midnight and ordered the iPad Air for pickup in the store. At the Emeryville store, about 200 iPad Airs that had been pre-ordered were stacked up, waiting to be picked up.

Jeff Gutkin, an Oakland attorney, stopped by mid-morning to grab the 128-gigabyte iPad Air he had already bought online.

“I have an iPad 2 and this just seems like a pretty big upgrade from that,” he said. “And I’ve been reading the reviews and they all have been pretty much raves.”

Over at the Berkeley Apple Store, Artem Yudin, an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, rode his bike down between classes to pick up his new iPad Air that he’d already ordered.

Yudin said he’s a big Apple fan, with the iPhone, an iPad 4 he bought just last year, and a new MacBook Pro he purchased two days ago. He said he wanted the iPad because after updating his iPad 4 with iOS 7 a few weeks ago, it seemed to slow to a crawl.

“IOS 7 was so painfully slow on it,” he said. “It was just becoming too hard to use on the old iPad.”

The good news for Yudin was that he got $311 for trading in his iPad 4 at the Apple Store, which he put toward the new iPad.

Shoppers at the Beverly Center Apple Store who were looking at the store’s demo units said they liked how they could hold the tablet in one hand.

Although West Hollywood filmmaker Rick Montano owns an iPad mini and an iPad 3, he didn’t hesitate to pre-order the Air online.

“The 3 was too heavy and the mini didn’t have retina display and I missed the larger screen,” the 29-year-old said. “This seems like the perfect convergence of the two.”

O’Brien reported from San Francisco and Chang from Los Angeles