Today I passed a number of people waiting outside the Apple store on London’s Regent Street. These people were following the great British tradition of standing patiently in line, but these guys had brought props. Folding chairs, blankets, water bottles- they were there for the long haul. The queue was so that they could be the first to purchases the iPad 3 which officially goes on sale on March 16th in the UK.
The bizarre thing about this for me is that I seriously can’t understand what they hope to gain by this. The iPad 3 is available for pre order online and starts shipping in the UK tomorrow. I don’t know how much stock local Apple stores are going to get, but even if they sell out completely on day one, they’ll be replenished within three weeks. If you’re super keen to get an iPad 3 it’s a fair bet to say that you already own an iPad- or an iPad 2. In which case, queuing in line merely means you have wasted a silly amount of hours to upgrade to something that looks and feels pretty much the same as your current model, but with a slightly better camera and a sharper screen (a.k.a retina display).
There are some things that I understand queuing for- for instance, people who wait all night to get the latest Gears of War. Though I’m personally not a fan, I understand that if you love the game you’re super excited to play the latest release so you may queue all night so you can get a copy and THEN RUN HONE AND PLAY IT. Sure, you could wait a week extra, but if you really really love the game it’s understandable you want to play it the very instant you can. Maybe even go online and do some co-op with friends who are equal fans and have queued with you.
If the final Robert Jordan (ghostwritten by Brandon Sanderson) book was suddenly released and I knew there would be only 100 copies in the country I’d run out and go wait in line – but if I knew that a week later I could get the book without ten hours in the cold, well, I’d probably hang on. Queues for high street designer collaborations like H&M Versace and Target Missoni are equally understandable- the stores purposefully only stock a limited amount to boost desirability, covetability and eBay racketeers sales. If you really love those designers and can’t afford the full price, queuing for some hours seems like an OK trade-off for some great gear.
What does an iPad 3 owner get for their hours of waiting? Apple doesn’t reward them with free cases or a new iPhone; they simply get an iPad that runs exactly like their old one but with a better display. Once they’ve run home and charged it they will use it EXACTLY as they used their last iPad- which is surfing, Facebook, Twitter, and ASOS- nothing has changed for them. If you’ve pre ordered it, you’ll have to wait around 2-3 weeks (current estimate) but will life really be that terrible if you’re not playing Angry Birds in HD?
Yes, it will be pretty exciting when your new email signature now reads ‘sent from my iPad 3’ but once that heady rush has faded, will those who queued really consider those hours waiting in the cold a worthwhile payoff?
I understand the desperation if there was a limited supply- but there isn’t one. There is a wait- and a short wait at that- and then you get your iPad. There is also no change to the form factor so they don’t even get The Nod of approval in the street from other cool hunters. The only real bonus I can see for these stalwart Apple fans is that when they read reviews in the press of the iPad 3 they can nod or shake their head alongside the printed word as they’ll have firsthand experience of whether they agree with the writer.
I’ve been in an Apple queue years ago when the iPhone suddenly put ‘3’ as an adjective, and this was for work purposes, as those 8 cold hours of utter boredom did not leave me feeling brightened, replenished and like my soul had been nourished with Apple-y goodness. My reasons were work related, but in the queue today I spoke to a student, a graphic designer, and someone who had two Harrods shopping bags (they didn’t explain them). All were there because they just ‘wanted one’ and none gave a reason better than that.
What makes this even sadder/stranger is that you don’t need to queue at the Apple store to get the iPad 3- it’s also available from licensed resellers such as John Lewis, who say that ‘The new iPad available online from 12.01am on the 16 March with a two-year guarantee’ and Carphone Warehouse, who will also start selling it tomorrow. So far, there are no queues at their central London branches- the die hard iPad 3 fans seem to have a clause with their logo- they want it from the Apple store or nada.
I hope all the people in the queue manage to get their hands on the iPad3 they so desperately crave, but I still don’t get what they’ll get out of the whole experience, or how it will change their life in any way whatsoever. Perhaps it’s me who just doesn’t get it, or maybe it’s an indication of the status obsessed society we live in- where desirability is more conceptual than actual as you queue for something that you can easily get and won’t readily affect any part of your life.
Either way it’s another win for Apple, but a sad blow for the state of society today.