iLine Report #3: First in Line, First With an iPhone 3G S

iLineI didn’t set out to be the first person in line to buy an iPhone 3G S at the Stonestown Galleria Apple Store. I merely wanted to get my hands on said phone early so I could begin to write about it for Technologizer. And I figured there might be some fun in blogging about the experience.

After weighing all my options, I decided that preordering from an Apple Store and picking up the phone in person was likely to be the safest strategy for getting a phone early. And it worked. They let the first people in the AT&T line into the mall a few minutes before we Apple customers were ushered in, so it’s possible one or two AT&T buyers got a phone before I did. But at 7:09am, I was walking out of the mall with my 32GB iPhone 3G S in hand. (It’s white, not black–I figured that if Apple wasn’t going to change the iPhone’s case, I needed a different color as a crutch.)

A few photos from the morning’s events after the jump.

For most of the three hours and 45 minutes I sat around in front of the mall entrance, there were no more than a dozen other souls there. But by the time the Apple Store opened, there was a meaningful iLine–dozens of people rather than hundreds, but it still snaked a fair distance.

Waiting to Buy an iPhone 3G S

At about 6:56am, a squadron of Apple Store employees rushed out. They were either genuinely excited or doing a solid job of faking it.

Apple Store Employees

When they identified me as the first person in line, they began lavishing attention on me, and asking me–again and again–what time I had shown up.  Every time I told them, they whooped it up. This made me uncomfortable on at least two grounds. One, I showed up so early for journalistic reasons, but it was too complicated to explain–and I felt guilty that they assumed I was an iPhone fanatic rather than someone hoping to be an impartial observer rather than part of the story. Two, each time I told them that I’d been there at 3:15am, it seemed like a goofier and goofier thing to have done.

I was helped by a guy named Gabriel. Like all Apple Store employees, he used a Windows CE wireless terminal to ring up my purchase–and as always, I wondered if these terminals’ use in Apple Stores is some sort of weird dig at Microsoft, since they don’t seem to work very well, especially for iPhone purchases. The first one he used didn’t seem to work at all, so he had to borrow one from a colleague.

Apple Store Employee Gabriel

Here’s my iPhone 3G S, still in all its shrinkwrapped glory. (Gabriel unwrapped it to activate it, which took less than a minute–which was a relief given that the in-store activation process melted down so badly last year that the clerk I bought my iPhone 3G from gave up and told me to activate it at home.)

iPhone 3G S, Still Shrinkwrapped

Here I am with Gabriel–and no, I didn’t ask for this photo to be taken; another employee more or less insisted. Gabriel looks thrilled; I look sleepy.

Harry and Gabriel

Some other Apple Store employees expressing their approval of the superb taste I showed in buying the phone.

Apple Store Employees

And here’s the first photo I took with my new phone on the way back to my car–it’s the bumper sticker on the van parked next to me.

iLine bumper sticker

And so it went. What the morning lacked in spectacle, it made up for in speed and simplicity. And yes, I qualified for the full discount. More thoughts on my purchase soon…


6 comments

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  1. dave June 19, 2009 at 8:48 am #

    Dude! Gabriel’s tats are awesome! 1984 theme. The classic INGSOC over V. Did he use newspeak on you? These iPhone 3GS’s are double-plus good.

  2. steve June 19, 2009 at 9:08 am #

    Great anecdotal story Harry! Strangely, I prepurchased one, but was told that I would have to pay the non-discount amount if I tried to wait and get it early today. So I’m waiting for a phone call… probably will be a few days for me. But 3:15 — wow! 😉

  3. Terri Molini June 19, 2009 at 9:23 am #

    Harry, I am impressed that you 1) woke up early or 2) stayed up to purchase the new iPhone 3G S. One thing is for certain the employees seem genuinely happy to see and assist their customers.

    I will be following your story.

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