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iPhone rings up its fans

Eric Caprilla of Lancaster has lined up for every Apple iPhone launch since the first generation hit stores in 2007. Cassandra Montanez of Rochester has the iPhone 6 Plus, but wanted the new iPhone in rose gold. Brenden Deady didn’t have a reservation and walked away empty handed.

They’re just some of the hundreds of consumers who passed through the Apple Store in Walden Galleria on Friday, when Apple began selling the latest generation iPhones, 6s and 6s Plus.

The store opened two hours early at 8 a.m. Workers walked alongside the line throughout the afternoon, giving advice about apps and phone activation, and pushing a cart full of accessories for sale – chargers, speakers, Beats headphones. Apple employees also stocked a cart with free coffee, bottled water and snacks to ease customers’ wait times.

Thanks in part to Apple’s pre-order reservation system, lines moved quickly. Plenty of customers opted to walk in and try their luck that the store would have the color and model they wanted in stock. Those lines moved pretty fast, too.

Across Western New York and around the world, iPhone retailers and cellphone carriers bulked up stock, opened early and had all hands on deck to greet the latest Apple iPhone rollout.

New iPhone Day is always a big deal, for customers and Apple alike.

The California-based tech powerhouse makes more than 60 percent of its revenue from the iPhone. Since 2013, iPhone sales have increased an average of 35 percent each quarter. In October to December last year, Apple sold 74.6 million of the phones – about 34,000 iPhones per hour.

But demand appeared slower this time around. Andy Hargreaves, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities, studied Google search data, shipment times and third-party surveys and predicted this year’s sales could be “meaningfully” lower than last year.

That’s partly because the latest model is at the point in its two-year design cycle that entails less dramatic change. In the first year, Apple tends to overhaul the look and feel of the phone’s hardware. The following year, marked by an “s” after the model number, the device gets subtler changes.

The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are like last year’s versions, but have an improved camera, faster processor and 3D Touch – a feature that allows users faster access to apps by pressing down on the screen instead of swiping through different pages.

The phone also comes in a new color – rose gold – which is a bigger deal than some might expect. As much as 40 percent of phones were pre-ordered in the new color, contributing to manufacturing bottlenecks and delays, according to AppleInsider.com.

Jay Tagliarino, a T-Mobile district manager for the Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse markets, said people who might not normally have upgraded to the new model right away did so just to nab the new color. That helped his stores set new pre-order records.

“Everybody absolutely wants that,” Tagliarino said. “That color was a key thing that brought people out to stores.”

That was the case for Montanez. She paid off the last $200 on her iPhone 6 Plus so she could get the new model in the special new color. She has a buyer who will take the old one for $550.

“I’m not really losing money,” she said.

Another lure was Apple’s new monthly installment payment program, which allows customers to buy the new unlocked, 16 GB iPhone 6s in 24 installments of $27 with no down payment. Customers can pay an additional $5 or so more and get a new iPhone at every launch.

That was ideal for Lokietek of Fredonia. When he gets a new iPhone, everyone in his family gets a new iPhone. He gives his previous generation phone to his wife, she gives hers to their oldest child, and so on down their line of three daughters.

“I’m content with my phone,” he said. “I’m doing the upgrade for everyone in my house, not for me.”

Others, like Caprilla, are diehard Apple fans who would no sooner miss an iPhone launch than they would miss their child’s birthday.

“I like the newest and the latest and the greatest,” he said, sporting an Apple Watch. “You can’t let somebody else have something you don’t have.”

Bloomberg contributed to this report. Send your retail tips and news to schristmann@buffnews.com