iPhone 4 – Launch Day [update]

[update: Images corrected sorry about the delay.

This post will be and interesting mash up of thoughts as I am on a train to St. Louis, with nothing but time on my hands … Since, I have not had time to finish my iPhone 4 Launch Day post here it is… So, be prepared readers for an adventuresome ride… (and I just got a Corona from the "beverage cart")

iPhone 4 Launch Day

Like 600,000 other individuals I found my self excited to pony up $199 for a device I had "seen", but never held. It didn't matter, I wanted it… I was one of the fortunate who actually got into Apple AND AT&T's servers with relative ease. My journey started on June 15th. Up at 5:30am I immediately reached out to Apple's servers, and was rewarded with a not so nice 404 "Page cannot be displayed error." Hitting ByLine
icon, I learned that Apple opened the online store for pre-orders at about 3am CST. Something's up… A 6am attempt before I jumped into my car yielded the same result… no luck. Hopping into my car I headed into work for a training session I was leading that started at 8am. [got to get in before 8 or it will be 10a before I can try again]

At red lights, I found myself attempting to access Apple's pre-order page with no luck… [realization] There is nothing wrong with Apple's site, it is just getting slammed… [begin nervous, yet slightly maniacal laughter] Finally, at 6:35 success the page is up, and I am minutes away from work and highspeed access. Arriving at 6:50a, I immediately have my MacBook Pro open and am clicking on the iPhone 4 "pre-order" link. But, to no avail… between the car and office I have been shut out again. I click again, and I'm in! A brief trip though AT&T's authentication server and I have my 16GB iPhone 4 pre-ordered. [little happy dance]

So, for the next week I wait. Prepare my 3GS to be handed off to my wife (replacing her 3G). The morning of June 24th is glorious. No, seriously, it was, remember the day before… HUGE storms rolled through the Chicago area. Tornado spotted in Oak Lawn, IL, flash flood took out the Eisenhower expressway at the Des Plaines river… The 24th was every bit as beautiful as the 23rd was stormy. Now, even though I had "pre-ordered" I had set my alarm for 5am with the intent of being at Apple's Deer Park, IL store about an hour before it opened at 7am. My body had other ideas ;0) Arriving at 7am, I was greeted by the biggest line I had been in since the premiere of Indiana Jones in the 80's…

 iPhone 4 Launch – Purchase Line – it continued around the corner to the right (below)

image from gallery.me.com
 The rest of the "purchase" line

This was only 1/2 of the line. Another similar line was on the other side of the Apple Store which is just out of frame on the left. Getting concerned, I cautiously approached the gentleman in the red shirt,

Me: "Pre-order?!"

[poor] Guy in Red shirt: "Nope, over there…"

Me: "So sorry, good luck" (nothing else to say… ouch…)

So, I proceeded to walk "over there"

image from gallery.me.com

image from gallery.me.com

image from gallery.me.com
image from gallery.me.com

And here is where I started… completely around the corner on the other side of the building. It is 6:50am, 78 degrees, and not a cloud in the sky! It could not have been a more beautiful day. At 7:00am a collective cheer started rolling from the front of the Apple Store back. Those of us in the "way back" looked at each other knowing what it signaled, and at the same time tried to suppress the animalistic whoop of joy gurgling up from somewhere in the core of our being unbidden… joining our voices in enthusiastic hunger as the sound wave overtook us! It started! But curiously, we didn't move… Honestly, looking back on it why the heck we thought we could have any forward momentum… but, collectively we were aplomb… That was the start of 3 solid hours of standing in a long line on a beautiful morning, talking with strangers who had a common bond, and taking a step or two forward every 10-20 minutes…

In all honestly, it felt like it went quite fast. The day was great, conversation was lively, and the Apple Store staff kept coming around with coffee and water. Soon we were close.

image from gallery.me.com

So close…

image from gallery.me.com

And then, my old 3G battery went kaput… But, we were now in the "queue"… roped nirvana… but tradegy was to strike… An Apple Store staff member was beginning the "check in" process near us. Basically you provided your name and they queried it against their store's list of pre-order confirmations. A man and woman 5 people ahead of us complied providing name, rank, and serial number… but… they were not in the store's pre-order reservation list… Trying every tactic, they even pulled out their "confirmation email", but it was to no avail… if you are not in the store's system, they do not have an iPhone 4 held for you. The only alternative was to go to the end of the "OTHER LINE" and wait and see if there are any left…

Confused, Concerned, and a bit Horrified all those close (myself included) looked on like we were watching the weak get culled from the herd. Then all thought of concern for those poor bastards drained away as the Apple Gestapo employee stepped up to me. I could have sworn I heard boot heals snap together…

Did she just say, "Papers?!" … "Your last name sir?"

Me: [what is my name?!…] "Weidig"

Trying to stare over her shoulder, but not look like I am staring over her shoulder… willing my name to appear…

AE: "Scott – 16GB Got'cha! Should just be a few more minutes… Have a great day!"

Me: "Sa.. yeah… you too!' [nervous giggle…]

Once that poor person was requested nicely to leave the pre-reservation line, everyone was a bit nervous we could be next.

With that ordeal out of the way, our jubilance returned. WE WERE IN THE ROPED OFF QUEUE! Upon arriving at the door, I looked across at the front of the "purchase line" (those who had not pre-ordered).

Me: "When did you get here?"

Lucky next purchaser in line: "We have been here since 5:30pm LAST NIGHT!"

Me: "Woah…"

At this point, the Apple Store "greeter"indicated that it was my turn to enter nirvana passing me on to Adam, my personal shopper. I wished all in the "purchase" line good luck and went in.

Protocol for Launch Events

I diverge from my reverence for a minute to discuss Apple protocol for launch events. I think that Apple handle's launch events as good or better than any other organization. Knowing the demand, Apple sets aside all of the stock necessary to fill the pre-orders that have been created for a particular store. Additionally, knowing that there will be folks who simply show up at launch day, Apple sets aside additional stock to attempt to meet as much of the of the walk-up demand as possible.

When arriving at a launch day, Apple divides folks into the appropriate groups and begins catering to everyone there. In the past, Apple has passed out donuts, coffee, and water as needed. Staff members walk the lines answering questions, making small talk, and in general being as helpful as possible. Typically, a few minutes before store opening, the curtains covering the new store design are dropped to a roaring cheer from the crowd. Then the staff parades out of the stores and "hi-5's" the crowd in lines.

To allow as many people through the store as possible, and still respect both those individuals who pre-ordered, and honor those brave souls who simply showed up hours if not days before, Apple brings in folks from both lines, but at a 5-1 or 10-1 ratio. This keeps both lines moving (albeit slowly) and provides hope to all. Through Apple's robust reservation system all those who pre-ordered are guaranteed the item they wish. Apple uses that system to stop taking pre-orders as their supply starts to dwindle to certain levels. Then they leverage it again to ensure the allotment for each store is accurate, and to check-in pre-ordered customers. Any pre-ordered devices that are not picked up by a pre-determined time (typically 3PM or 9:30pm) are then released to be sold to any customer.

Additionally, when entering the store as part of a launch event, (and most other times) each customer is given a personal shopper to guide them through his or her Apple Experience. On one hand for experienced / tech savvy folks, this process can feel a bit slow. On the other, it keeps all experiences similar, prevents someone from leaving without everything they need, and helps provide that warm fuzzy and personal feeling that everyone who ever arrives at an Apple Store or talks to an Apple representative knows, appreciates, and sets Apple head and shoulders above any other technology buying experience.

Back to the story…

Adam made small talk while he walked me back to the Genius Bar (converted to be an iPhone 4 warehouse for the day), introduced me to an Apple Genius, confirmed my reservation for the 3rd time, and asked me if I needed any accessories. We talked about connectors being the same as the 3GS so all of my charging, car radio, and speakers would be compatible with the new phone. He also soft sold Apple Care (Apple's warranty program) although it was not necessary, I carry Apple Care on all of my Apple devices. Honestly, before I started the migration to Apple I had never purchased an extended warranty of any kind on technology. While I have only needed to leverage Apple Care a few times in the past two years, it has always been well worth it. Hours and hours of fighting PC-based technology companies are condensed to minutes on the phone, or with a Genius in a store, and complete satisfaction. Here is a previous post I have written on this topic…

Adam took possession of my 16GB iPhone 4 from the Genius, and we proceeded to an activation station. Sitting, we again made some small talk while I began the "unboxing". Adam scanned the box to get all the appropriate information on the phone, and with the financial transaction completed, it was onto activation. This is the process I was concerned about. With over 600,000 phones to be activated in 7 countries, thinking about the server crashes when attempting to pre-order, this was the part of the process that could take a while. I connected the iPhone 4 to a MacBook, and was rewarded with the "Waiting for Activation" screen… I looked at Adam and commented that this could be a long time… However, I got really lucky. In the half second it took to glance back at the phone, it popped "Activation Completed" and I was good to go. Even Adam was surprised at the speed that it activated. He remarked that for the last customer he helped, activation took over 20 minutes.

I thanked Adam, who was weary from being working since midnight, and proudly walked out of the Apple Store coveting my new treasure. All in all even with having to wait 3 hours in line to pick up my phone, it was really a great experience. The day was beautiful, and the experience memorable. As I drove away I couldn't keep myself from shooting my first HD video with my new iPhone 4. Below is a version I edited with iMovie for the iPhone 4. I have also complied a full iMovie for the Mac version and will be uploading it in the near future. I'll add it to this pose as a comparison.



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