Here in the U.S., the phenomenon of iMadness has occurred twice in known history. Once was on Friday, June 29th 2007, when the original iPhone was released (and I took the photo tothe left of a very small boy dressed as a very large iPhone outside the Apple Store in San Francisco’s Union Square). The second time was on July 11th, 2008, when the iPhone 3G went on sale.
In both instances, thousands of otherwise normal people woke up at 2am and stood in line outside Apple Stores and AT&T Stores for hours simply to become among the first consumers to own a new cell phone. Even though there was no shortage of said phones, and even though other consumers were able to stroll into the same stores shortly thereafter and buy iPhones with little or no wait.
(In the case of the iPhone 3G, there were residual signs of iMadness for many days afterwards–when I happened by Apple Stores, there were usually lines (not long, but lines nonetheless) ouside of people patiently waiting to buy new iPhones.)
The iPhone 3G S goes on sale on June 19th. Will iMadness reappear? It’s an interesting question, and I’m not sure about the answer. It’s in Apple and AT&T’s interest to stoke the release for everything it’s worth, obviously. If they announce special opening hours or other out-of-the-ordinary plans for the 19th, we’ll know that they hope to strike lightning for the third year running.
On the other hand, the 3G S is neither the first iPhone nor the first affordable high-speed one. It’s a nice new phone. (It’s also the first iPhone not to benefit from a Steve Jobs demo–Phil Schiller simply made it feel like a neat upgrade with some cool new features, not an Important Moment in World History.) Many of the folks who wanted an iPhone have one now, and relatively few of them will ante up to buy a 3G S. And some of the people who want iPhones but don’t yet have them will opt for a $99 iPhone 3G, which is available right now. And some of the people who do want the 3G S will figure out that they can probably buy one on day of launch without much waiting by sauntering in someetime in the late afternoon or early evening.
My guess is that there will be scattered outbreaks of iMadness, including people with beach chairs hanging out at Apple Stores at midnight. Maybe even little kids inexplicably dressed as smartphones. But this will be the most sane iPhone rollout to date. Probably. Any other predictions?