iPhone 5 London launch: Three unsettling observations

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iPhone-5-launch-top.jpgreview-line.JPGThe rumours have been squashed, the phone has been revealed, the glowing reviews have come in and now Apple’s latest smartphone has hit the shops. Head down to your local mobile phone emporium and you can walk home today with the iPhone 5. If you’re among the hardcore Apple fans out there though, you’ve probably been queuing up outside one of the Cupertino company’s own stores for the last few days, braving the elements in order to be part of the mass hysteria that accompanies the release of their new products.

It’s kind of great: Apple’s gear is almost uniformly excellent, and as a fellow tech geek, it’s great to see others share my enthusiasm for bleeding-edge technology.

But it’s also sort of creepy and, arguably, increasingly exploitative. We headed down to the flagship Regent Street Apple store in London today, and noted a few things that were a little bit unsettling.
review-line.JPGSELF-PROMOTION > APPLE DEVOTION

In the past, the front of an Apple launch queue was the reserve of hardcore Apple fans, the sort of folk who buy every iPod, every year, and every incremental Mac upgrade that landed as soon as humanly possible. They’d go without a good night’s kip for the best part of a week in order to claim the coveted title of “The Most Devoted of Apple Fanboys and Fangirls”.

Today was quite different. Today, the majority of folk at the front of the queue had something to promote. Musicians, start-ups, all with an eye not on getting one of the first iPhone 5 handsets, but on pushing their own wares. Some, admittedly, we’re promoting good causes, and a round of applause is in order for Richard Wheatcroft who queued for days to promote the Hope Boutique Bakery, a charity for vulnerable women. But either way, the wide-eyed Apple fans who used to make Apple launches such bizarre fun had mostly been muscled out. And that’s a bit sad.iPhone-5-london-launch.jpgiPHONE TOUTS?

iPhone’s are premium products, no denying that. It’s a big purchase, dropping at least £529 in the Apple Store on the phone itself, before you’ve gone anywhere near a contract to go with it. You’d expect the queue to be mostly full of suited and booted city types then, and the rest perhaps slightly less wealthy young professionals who’ve saved up for it, plus a handful of kids who’ve pooled years and years worth of pocket money.

That’s not quite the scene I saw at the Apple Store today. Alongside the usual devotee, there were also lots of shady people in the line discussing how much the handset would bag them once they’d popped it up on eBay at an inflated price. There seems to be a whole new wave of “iPhone touts” on the rise. Touts are already the bane of the live music scene. Are they going to take the magic out of big tech launches too? iPhone 5 shortages seem a certainty in the next couple of weeks, and for the people now faced with lengthy shipping waits, it’ll certainly seem like they’ve been cheated out of their most prized tech possession. For the touts, there’s a new buoyant market to exploit.

APPLE GENIUSES ARE THE NEW BUTLINS REDCOATS

Apple products are cool, marrying top-end tech with genuinely beautiful design. Can someone pass this message on to the Apple Genius staff who run the iPhone launches? It’s frankly embarrassing, the cheers and whoops that accompany every single person who steps inside the store, and the fevered admiration that welcomes every purchase. I’m sure these bizarre rituals come from up high in the Apple boardrooms (and not the local staff themselves), trying to inspire excitement in the wavering, tired queuing masses, but it’s born from a cheerleading American culture that doesn’t really work on a UK crowd, in my opinion. Sure, give the first in line a round of applause and a pat on the back. But a slow clap building to shrieking hysteria is ridiculous, unless the people at the front of the queue happen to be the entire line-up of The Beatles, post supernatural resurrection.

So what do you think? Do you agree that true tech fans are being pushed to the fringes of these events? Or is it reasonable to gain from launch (perhaps unfairly) if you’re willing to get in line? Were you among those queueing today? What was your experience like? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Gerald Lynch

6 comments

  • This misappropriation of the Apple queue was inevitable given the press coverage it receives.

    I last queued (for around an hour!) in 2010 for an iPhone 4. No iPhone 5 for me – sadly my iPhone 4 is still such a joy to use I can’t justify replacing it (never been able to say that about a 2.5 year old phone before).

  • This misappropriation of the Apple queue was inevitable given the press coverage it receives.

    I last queued (for around an hour!) in 2010 for an iPhone 4. No iPhone 5 for me – sadly my iPhone 4 is still such a joy to use I can't justify replacing it (never been able to say that about a 2.5 year old phone before).

  • The Apple “Genius” staff are tech support, I think the people you are talking about are just sales, just fyi. I’d assume it’s the sales staff managers who run the launches. Having taken a mac in there before, I can confirm that they definately aren’t all “genius” and “Genius” aren’t managers – you get told to “Head up to the Genius Team” for a repair.
    Other than that, I think you’re quite right about the cling-on’s around the launch. I walked past earlier in the week (I’m not the kind of person to que up for a phone) and at that point there were only around 10 or so queing, but none of them seemed that interested in the phone itself, just being the first to get it/being on tv, which is pretty sad. A couple of years ago when they opened the store at Covent Garden, I asked one of those queing through the sqaure what was going on (thinking it’d be a product launch) only to be enthusiastically told they were awaiting the opening day. Again to me the guy’s a loon, but I admire the loyalty and enthusiasm – he still pops into my head whenever Apple gets mentioned on the news. That was definitely missing from the people I saw blocking the entrance to quicksilver this week.

    • Agreed – I couldn’t queue like this (though I did for a videogame when I was about 13!). I wonder where the guy you remember so well was today? It’s unlikely he’d have been able to make it to the front, even if he’d wanted to.

  • The Apple “Genius” staff are tech support, I think the people you are talking about are just sales, just fyi. I'd assume it's the sales staff managers who run the launches. Having taken a mac in there before, I can confirm that they definately aren't all “genius” and “Genius” aren't managers – you get told to “Head up to the Genius Team” for a repair.Other than that, I think you're quite right about the cling-on's around the launch. I walked past earlier in the week (I'm not the kind of person to que up for a phone) and at that point there were only around 10 or so queing, but none of them seemed that interested in the phone itself, just being the first to get it/being on tv, which is pretty sad. A couple of years ago when they opened the store at Covent Garden, I asked one of those queing through the sqaure what was going on (thinking it'd be a product launch) only to be enthusiastically told they were awaiting the opening day. Again to me the guy's a loon, but I admire the loyalty and enthusiasm – he still pops into my head whenever Apple gets mentioned on the news. That was definitely missing from the people I saw blocking the entrance to quicksilver this week.

    • Agreed – I couldn't queue like this (though I did for a videogame when I was about 13!). I wonder where the guy you remember so well was today? It's unlikely he'd have been able to make it to the front, even if he'd wanted to.

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