I spent a good seven hours (and most of my sanity) trying to get the new iPhone 3G on release day. I eventually succeeded.
Apple and AT&T really screwed this release up. Last year’s launch of iPhone 1.0 saw big crowds, but activation was smooth sailing — once you made into in the store, you simply bought the device, brought it home and hooked yourself up via iTunes.
This time around, the companies thought it was more important to thwart the entrepreneurial ambitions of the eBay horde and force buyers to activate in-store. What they didn’t anticipate, however, was the strain on the servers from a simultaneous global launch. Many customers were unable to activate the phones they just bought and, worse yet, some owners of the older iPhone found their devices mysteriously bricked.
Even when things were running "smoothly," it took a good 15-20 minutes per customer to turn on the phones. Multiply this by about 250 people in line at any given time, and you’ve got a recipe for severe annoyance. Of course, no one was forcing us to stand in line, but you’d still think Apple would’ve anticipated the burden on consumers.
I spent at least two hours before work at an AT&T store, only moving about three feet in that entire time. Then, we were told there were only 20 phones left in stock. Since there were at least 90 people ahead of me, I decided to bail.
At workday’s end, I decided to try my luck at the Apple store in Pentagon City. (I actually almost went INTO the Pentagon by accident, but that’s a different story.) Five hours later, I managed to get inside the store, where the employees — many of whom had been at work since early that morning — clapped, hooted and hollered whenever a customer was successfully activated. I was helped by a particularly nice young man named David D., who took the time to entertain my complaints at this clusterfuck of a launch.
One of the more interesting aspects about standing in line for an iPhone is the condescending remarks you get from passersby. "It’s just a phone," is a common comment, as is "why don’t you find something better to do with your time?" Like they’ve never waited around for "Lion King" or NASCAR tickets.
Also amusing are the folks who, having just crawled out from under their comfy rocks, ask, "what are you waiting in line for?" The only appropriate answer for this is to smile at them blankly and say, "the Rapture."
The device itself is so awesome that it nearly makes up for the hours of agony I sepnt procuring it. And I’m glad that my wife has one now, too, so she can stop coveting mine.