According to early exit polls from Dynamo PR, 397 people were in the queue when the doors opened at 7.58am this morning at the Regent Street store, down from 632 for the iPad 2 last year. A total of 451 people greeted the original iPad when it went on sale in 2010.
The poll data also indicated that four out of ten of those queuing were upgrading their iPad 2 to the new model, after being sold on the high resolution Retina display, faster A5X processor and better 5-megapixel iSight camera.
Perhaps encouraging for Apple, though, was that some 45% of those who queued for the new iPad had never owned a tablet before.
It was also not just Apple fans awaiting the new tablet. Some 63% of the queue were PC owners, while just 32% owned a Mac, up on last year when 44% of those waiting for the iPad 2 owned a PC.
The most popular model selected by those who queued was the premium 64GB model supporting WiFi and new 4G connectivity, which was favoured by 57% of people, in black rather than white. The most popular iPad 2 model at launch was the entry-level 16GB Wifi model, while for the original iPad it was the 32GB WiFi version.
Dynamo PR, which has collected data about all iPad launches to date, found that most people who bought the new iPad wanted it for surfing the web (45%), compared to the primary reason being gaming for the iPad 2 (33%).
The Retina display was said by most people (61%) to be the killer feature for the new iPad, but one in four people had not had their eyes tested in the last four years, raising questions over whether they will appreciate the 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution.
The split of favoured phones in the queue was broadly the same as in previous years, with 73% owning an iPhone, 10% having an Android device, 3% a Windows Phone and 14% owning other brands such as BlackBerry.
The average age of people in the queue was slightly higher than in previous years, at 26 years and two months, up from 24 years and 10 months last year. Just 12% of the queue was female, and more than a third of the men waiting had a beard.
"The surprising difference in this year's iPad launch compared to other years is the actual number of people queuing. It's significantly less than previous years," said Paul Cockerton, the co-founder and director of Dynamo PR.
"Whether that means pre-orders have been more successful, or selling in other retail stores takes some of this burden only Apple would be able to answer.
"What it definitely does show is that Apple might need to add something new to what's been a fairly predictable launch, both in terms of the fanfare behind it and the actual product."
Dynamo said that most people (54%) joined the queue at Regent Street just 'to be there', while 5% missed the first round of pre-orders, and 28% could not say why they'd queued.