This was the fifth day in a row, and it was starting to get ludicrous. iPhone 3GSs were still out of stock at the Apple store, just like they had been for the last week. Across the street, two girls in smart black shirts and beige skirts presided over a forlorn looking Telstra store, empty even at the lunchtime rush. Knowing it was out of stock, I was hanging around to idle away the time, in no rush to return to work earlier than the full allotted hour.
Playing with the display model, I suddenly realised a shortcoming – there was no character count in the SMS composer, an absurd oversight given the number of Twitter apps that did exactly the same thing on the same device for a slightly different purpose. Did Apple think iPhone users didn’t care how many messages they sent? The seamlessness of the conversation layout made it all too easy to ramble on a little. The spell of the perfect phone was broken – how could I ever think to give up the speed that I had with the physical keys and the T9 dictionary on my two-and-a-half year old Sony Ericsson? Perhaps it was time to reconsider, to go for a Nokia N96, with its brilliant camera and physical keys.
That was when I noticed a rush – well, an orderly but high-speed stream – of people downstairs, away from where they’d been similarly playing with iPhones. I glanced at a store employee, who surely knew who I was by now, that same guy who came in on a late lunch every day and asked if there was stock in yet. He grinned, nodded, and said, “Stock just came in – go downstairs to grab it.”
Any lingering doubts were extinguished by the little boy inside screaming for his new toy now now now.
The queue was already across the entry, and snaking around. There were 5 tills ringing up sales of the unlocked phones at the same time, but even that wasn’t enough to get through the people waiting. Two additional tills were made available for those signing up for a plan, but the line for that was only 4 long. The line for people spending nine hundred, a thousand dollars, for a shiny new toy was at least 20 deep already, and we were being told that we could only get two to a customer, to the disappointment of at least one customer. Recession? What recession?
While I told of my story of coming in every day for a week, others told of waiting two weeks, the top of the range having sold out on the day of the launch. As we inched forward in the line, the music played an endless series of cheesy pop, and an security guard taunted by idly playing with his iPhone. A ripple stirred as someone wondered if there would be enough stock for the whole queue, to which we were assured that there was sufficient stock, “at least for today.” The salt in the wound was another employee placing a brand new poster by the entry of the retail availability page, finally deployed to Australia. Some had their old phones out, as though feeling the heft of a device soon to be made redundant. Still we waited.
An hour and a half into my hour long lunch-break, I had a compact little black brick in my hand, small but unbelievably heavy for its size. Alas and alack, I needed to get home to activate it. This would be the longest Friday afternoon ever.