The hype around the iPhone X has been building since the gadget was first unveiled in September.
On Friday, Apple’s new phone finally landed on store shelves. But hordes of eager consumers had already begun gathering outside Apple retail stores well before the doors opened. Whether motivated by a desire to be first, or a fear of Apple running out of stock, techies love to line up outside Apple stores — sometimes camping out for days — when the device goes on sale.
Word was that the crowds for the $US999 iPhone X, the tenth anniversary model of the iconic device, would be even larger than usual. And I decided that experiencing what it’s like to be part of this curious subculture of Apple fanatics and line waiters was something I couldn’t pass up.
As it turns out, a coworker in New York was desperate for the new iPhone X, so I volunteered to do the line thing and get it for her. I chose the Union Square Apple store in San Francisco. It’s a flagship location, and because of its central location I knew there’d be a big crowd.
I had no idea what was in store, but at 3:30am, my alarm went off and the adventure began.
Since I'd be getting there in the dead of night and San Francisco is getting chillier, my main concern was the weather. So the night before I laid out my many layers in preparation.
I claimed a spot at what I thought was the end of the line about two blocks up from the store entrance. I quickly learned that the line actually kept stretching around the corner, and moved to my place in the back.
The people in the very front of the line had been there since the morning before, and had come prepared with chairs, umbrellas, and lots of blankets.
It was a calm scene at that early hour, with most people chatting among themselves or looking at their phones.
Even at 4am, there were probably more than 100 people already waiting in line. Apple had security guards posted around the lines, which made me feel a lot better about being on the streets so early.
Chen has been to every iPhone launch event, and was planning on buying the Space Grey 64 gigabyte model.
'It's not a phone, it's an experience, the waiting for something,' he said. He was there with a few other people, and said that those at the very front had been taking care of each other, taking turns to get food or go to the bathroom during the long wait.
The nearby Saks Fifth Avenue store that we were lined up against began playing cheery music, and Apple employees brought around free Starbucks coffee and doughnuts to bolster our spirits.
There was something invigorating about being out and about in the dawn hours, and watching the city come to life.
Many of the people I met in line enjoyed the experience of the wait, and had been to launch events before.
Victor Aldeguer is a flight attendant from Spain. He had flown in the night before and was leaving the next day, but decided to spend his one day in San Francisco standing in line in hopes of getting an iPhone X. The last launch event he attended was in Spain for the iPhone 5G. He had waited 18 hours then.
Around 7am, Apple employees began arriving for their shifts and prepared to greet the masses.
As a launch event newbie, I had been under the impression that once the store opened, it would be a quick in and out process. I was very wrong.
Apple employees began greeting people waiting in line around at 8:45am, and signing people up for the exact make and model of the iPhone X that they wanted to ensure it would be waiting for them when they did finally make it to the front.
A security guard I had talked to earlier in the morning said Apple had prepared for around a thousand people, and didn't think the store would run out of stock until late in the day.
Alas, although I though I'd arrived at the home stretch, I was slightly dismayed to learn that it would be another 45 minutes before I'd be at the very front.
The Apple associate helping me out, Yev, simply scanned the reservation code I had been sent earlier and it was a done deal.
Total time in line: 7 hours.
Verdict: I'm glad I did it once to get the experience. It was entertaining and fun to meet some of the launch 'regulars,' especially on the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. But I have no plans to ever do it again!