Apple’s iPad Mini Launch Draws Smaller Crowds Than Previous Product Debuts

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The iPad mini officially went on sale today, and the response at physical retail stores has been mixed. Some areas are seeing decent-sized lines, according to Reuters this morning, including Tokyo and Seoul Apple Stores with crowds of 100 or more, but overall, the news organization notes that crowds are smaller than they have been in the past for other launches. The Apple Store in Sydney, for instance, had 50 people in line when it opened compared to a line covering several blocks for the iPhone 5.

Some locations had more sizeable lines than others, like the Amsterdam Apple Store, as well as Apple’s Munich location. And while lines in New York City lines seemed to be suffering as New Yorkers dealt with more important issues, as of this morning it looks like lines at some locations at least were building considerably. At a store in La Cañada, Spain, a decent-sized group of customers also queued.

The Covent Garden Apple Store in the U.K. saw maybe one of the smallest crowds according to reports on Twitter, and at the Regent Street location you can apparently walk in and buy an iPad mini right now. And reports from various U.S. locations including Maryland, Ohio, Florida and Buffalo show only small lines in those locations only an hour or so ahead of stores opening on the east coast. Regional locations always have smaller lines than the bigger flagship stores, but for the iPhone 5 launch lines were considerably larger in small town locations even at partner resellers like AT&T.

Compared to previous device launches this year, the crowds are fairly underwhelming. About 450 people lined up in Tokyo ahead of the iPad 3 going on sale, for instance, and lines stretched into the hundreds at locations around the world. The iPad mini is a new category of device for Apple, and users might not have had time to make up their minds about this novel product yet. Yet with other new device launches, like that of the original iPad, lines were huge in a variety of places.

The iPad mini goes on sale in 34 markets today, and was available for pre-orders beginning Friday, October 26. Pre-orders sold out over the course of the first weekend, but it remains unclear how many were available in that initial crop. Analyst estimates for initial iPad mini sales vary, but Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster says to expect around 1.5 million, compared to the iPad 3′s 3 million over the launch weekend. These lines suggest conservative estimates are likely on the right track, but it’s also worth noting that only the Wi-Fi version of the iPad mini goes on sale today, so customers could be waiting for its LTE-enabled sibling, which doesn’t ship until later in November.