Huge queues have formed outside Apple stores around the world as people wait for a chance to pay more than ever before for the new iPhone. And that’s more than a little strange.

Apple and its iPhone might be known – and mocked – for the fact that people queue outside for days and even weeks to get hold of new models as soon as possible. But it has actually been discouraging people from doing that, in part because of its reputation.

This year, however, it launched its risky anniversary phone with a revival of the queue. It didn’t just fail to encourage people to buy online, but actively told them to try and turn up early if they wanted a shot at paying £1,000 for the new handset.

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For many, it was the only chance to get the phone quick. Shipping estimates on the Apple Store website and app now suggest it won’t turn up for weeks

That was a rare break for the iPhone, which Apple moved towards mostly selling online in its early days in an attempt to get rid of the queues. All of the last four models have come in the same basic design, meaning that Apple has been able to churn them out much more quickly and keep up with demand, which didn’t happen this time around with the X.

The major break with design, and the new features of the X, brought people out to queue. Hundreds stopped overnight in London and elsewhere to make sure that they’d be able to get hold of the phone – something that Apple had encouraged them to do.

Major changes have been made at Apple Stores to stop them being such destinations for queueing. They are being redesigned as “town squares” intended more to allow people to sit around and discuss their purchases. The Apple Store website and app have undergone redesigns apparently intended to encourage people to buy them there instead, and that has been easily the most dependable way of getting hold of an iPhone in recent years.

But for the iPhone X it actively encouraged people to turn up and queue for the new phone, sending out a press release that told them to “come early” if they were interested in buying a phone at the store. And it welcomed them into stores with applauding employees and celebrations, something that didn’t occur for the more muted launch of the iPhone 8 last month.

But the iPhone 8 was widely available when it launched, too. That’s thought to be part of the reason that Apple has re-introduced queues – supply is so low and demand so high that people are sure to turn up. The iPhone X is entirely different. Immediately, online orders saw weeks of waiting before they’d arrive.

The iPhone X goes on sale in London

Most analysts have predicted Apple won’t be able to catch up with demand until early next year. 

But the company is optimistic. “As we approach the holiday season, we expect it to be our biggest quarter ever,” CEO Tim Cook told Wall Street analysts Thursday. He added that the company is increasing its iPhone X production capacity every week. 

Apple is now giving delivery times of three to four weeks, down from five to six weeks, for those ordering online. Lines formed outside stores in New York, Chicago, Hong Kong, Milan, Italy, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, among others, as customers came to pick up orders or to grab one of the limited numbers available for same-day sales Friday.

Additional reporting by agencies

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