Lining Up For The 3G Apple iPhone


In the interest of full disclosure, I need to let you know that I cut school to see the first Star Wars Prequel. I caught a midnight showing of each Lord of the Rings movie. I saw Snakes On A Plane in a theater where people dressed as Jules from Pulp Fiction. I know what it's like to be a rabid fan of something.

But the crowd at the Apple Store on Boylston Street in downtown Boston didn't have the feel of a carnival or a day off of work.

Oh sure, I met a couple Apple fan boys. Saw someone in an "I'm A Mac" T-shirt. I even met someone named Memphis who told me that Apple saved his life. When I asked how, he said because of a song on an iPod shuffle. Memphis's disjointed, rambling story was about a time he landed in a hospital and needed some music to get him through a rough patch. A friend gave him and iPod shuffle and from there, life saved.

So when I asked him which feature he was most excited about on the 3G iPhone I was surprised by his response. "Oh, I'm not here to buy a phone. I'm just waiting in line to support my friends."

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Of course you are.

Another interesting story was the 16-year old Francisco from Venezuela. He was the first in line to get into the store and had a whiteboard counting down the minutes until the doors opened. The whiteboard also told his story: 16, from Venezuela, wanted to be first to get an iPhone and looking to make friends. So, of course, he met a post-doc dentist who just moved to town and decided to wait with him. For five days. That's right, Francisco, in order to assure his place in line, plopped down in front of the Apple store Monday evening. But still, no costume, no excess, just waiting in line to get into the store.

Leo Langinger is from London, England and studying at Berklee. When asked what he was looking forward to, he responded: "iPhone? Nah, I'm just waiting to get a new pair of headphones." So clever. Leo's partner in line-waiting, Stacey-Michelle Reid, is a physics teacher from Boston. She's looking forward to using the iPhone to record her students' experiments in the classroom.

Hang on. Did Apple make a stealth announcement that the 3G iPhone now natively supports video? Maybe she's just planning on getting the hack.

At the ATandT Store, strategically placed two blocks down the street, the crowd was even tamer. A few people lined up at 5 a.m. Friday morning. The line was maybe 150 people long and everyone looked like they'd rather be in bed.

Lisa Staley, an Enterprise Mac Specialist, was just sort of hanging out when I ambushed her with a pad of paper and camera. She politely answered my questions and said she couldn't wait to get a new 3G iPhone -- it'd help with her work, she said.

Back up the Street at the Apple Store, 8 a.m. was rolling around and the sales associates were trying to get customers excited. When I pictured this scene in my mind on the way into Boston, I imagined a charged atmosphere with the sales people whipping a roiling crowd into a frenzy.

In actuality, the doors opened, the sales people formed a mob in the entryway cheering and applauding as customers were let into the door. The sales people cheered when customers made it to third floor of the store where the iPhones were being kept, like a princess trapped in a tower in a fairy tale. High-fives were flying around when credit cards were approved.

It all just felt a little too forced.

Maybe it was the fact that it took the first customer 20 minutes to have his phone activated and make it out the store. That person, incidentally, is an 18-year old from Boston named Yuri. Maybe iPhone customers had a feeling the iTunes store would crash, bricking some last generation iPhones temporarily and slowing the process of buying a new one.

People who have the phone swear by it. They're excited about it and ready to get to the App Store and personalize it. But let's face it, the 3G iPhone is still just a phone. Everyone was excited, but no one was dressed as Darth Vader or Gandalf, like they would be for a movie premier. In fact, most of the time, the people in line looked like they'd rather just be somewhere else.