On June 15, Apple and AT&T began accepting pre-orders for the iPhone 4. We all know what happened. Demand was "unprecedented" and crashed Apple and AT&T's systems. AT&T had to stop taking orders. I was lucky. After about six hours of trying, I was able to make a reservation to pick up the iPhone at my local Apple Store. Early this week, I received an email confirmation from Apple reminding me to pick the phone up.
I woke up at 4:45, ate a yogurt, sipped some orange juice, and was out of the house by 5AM (in hindsight forgetting a coffee was a bad idea). I arrived at the Rockaway Townsquare Mall, where the local Apple Store is located, at about 5:05AM. To my amazement, over 100 people were already lined up outside the mall entrance closest to the Apple Store. Wow. (By the way, I live in the middle of nowhere.)
At about 6:15, an Apple Store employee -- named Pipe -- came out and asked everyone to form two separate lines: one for those who pre-ordered and one for those who didn't. After everyone was done shuffling around, I moved from 100th in line to 15th. I'd guess that 80% of the people hoping to get an iPhone 4 this morning had not made reservations. Woe be unto them.
Close to 6:40, mall security opened the mall doors and both the reserved and unreserved lines streamed in. It was chaos, people ran, people bunched together at the front of the line. Pipe returned and yelled and yelled and yelled until everyone sorted back into two lines again. I was now about 25th or 30th in the reserved line. Both the reserved and unreserved lines continued to grow.
At one point, a guy was walking down the unreserved line offering $100 to cut in front of people. One lady took him up on it. The guy and his two friends cut in line. The guy behind them? Not happy. He raised hell. He called security. He screamed. Eventually mall security asked the line cutter, his friends, and the lady who let the guy cut to leave the line and move to the back. Oh, and the lady had to give the $100 back. Ouch.
They started letting people into the Apple Store at about 7:05. The reserved line moved fairly quickly. While waiting, I checked my Twitter feed, which was full of friends sharing their iPhone 4 experiences around the country. Based on the TwiPics I saw, the lines at most stores were/are outrageous.
I entered the Apple Store at about 7:35. A representative got my iPhone 4 (black, 32GB), and tried to sell me on MobileMe and the Apple Protection Plan. I declined. A quick check of my driver's license, AT&T account eligibility, and swipe of the credit card, and the iPhone was officially mine.
Next, I was taken to another Apple Store employee to activate the new handset. He plugged it into a MacBook Pro. It was connected for about 30 seconds, and it was activated. That's it. He congratulated me and shook my hand. I walked out at 7:50AM with the new iPhone 4. Really, not a bad experience at all.
As I walked out of the mall, I had to pass the line. The number of people waiting in the reserved line had swollen to about 100. The number of people in the unreserved line? Probably twice that, 200. Every person who pre-ordered the iPhone 4 was going to be served before Apple started selling iPhones to the hundreds of walk-ins. They have a long day ahead of them.
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