Apple employees enthusiastically counted down the last moments before stores from San Francisco to Shanghai opened on Friday to launch the iPhone 7, but the ranks of shoppers were notably thinner than in previous years.Apple Inc (AAPL.O) fans assembled at stores around the world to be among the first to buy the iPhone 7, the retail phenomenon that accompanies the launch of the company's updated flagship product each year.The tech giant announced earlier this week that the larger iPhone 7 Plus had sold out, prompting some who had set up camp outside Apple's marquee store in San Francisco to pack up their bags and head home.To be sure, online pre-orders have made lines unnecessary for all but diehard fans, and in Chinese stores only those who had ordered in advance were queuing to collect.Yet in markets like China, online interest in the new phone has also been muted, as cheaper local brands amp up their design and marketing.Wu Ting, a 28-year-old from Nanjing, was surprised to find ...

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