The madhouse that will be iPhone launch

I stopped in at an Apple store tonight to discuss iPhone launch logistics, as many of us will be there at 8am or earlier. The nice floor guy had no info but listened to my ideas and sent me off to the manager.

The manager of the store informed me that there will be no braclets, no lists, no nothing. What will be there is increased security, whatever that means. So lets figure out how this is going to go.

  • People start lining up
  • 100 people are in line hours later for potentially forty phones (nobody knows)
  • 9 hours later, 5 friends show up to the fifth person in line, either: ** Causing no issues, people leave ** Causing a confrontation, scuffle, security hauling people off, etc

Apparently Apple wants this frenzy. They want it to be a zoo. After all, any press is good press. But do they need this kind of press? Everyone who shows up is a rabid fan. Why should they be put through a shoving match?

I can think of two reasons why I was told this:

The Lie

There will be crowd control – They just don’t want people to know so they ensure lots of people show up

The Truth

There really will be no crowd control and it’ll be a pushing and shoving match to get into the store, with smaller people being shoved, possibly knocked down, etc. Remember the guy who ran into the pole during the PS3 launch? Yeah.

I also spoke with a nearby AT&T store. They too have no plan. I explained that they should do something to reward the loyal customers.

I proposed the following to both Apple and AT&T, based on the plans of the Boston AT&T store:

  • Hand out bracelets at 10am based on who is in line
  • Take personal ID to associate with the bracelets
  • Require that people be back no later than 4pm to get in line, in order of their bracelet number.
  • Put up a sign when phones are gone for the day

Why? Who wants to stand in line for 11 hours to find out they ran out the person in front of you? That would suck. The iPhone already has plenty of press, plenty of buzz and more than enough demand. Do your best to make this the best, most fun experience for everyone. Let the crazies show up, get their bracelet and go home to blog about how excited they are. Come back at 4pm and have two hours of mad excitement.

  • The customer wins
  • Apple and AT&T employees win
  • The malls, stores win having less madness all day.
  • Apple and AT&T win with the two hour frenzy ahead of the sale.

Ok so who knows what will happen, but the goal of this blog entry is to get people writing to Apple and AT&T to at least voice concerns and ideas. We all want this to be a smooth, fun launch.

What I plan to do, which I did not do for the Wii launch (and should have) is:

  • Bring my own bracelets
  • Ask people in line if they want to use them
  • Take a codeword with each bracelet handed out (as well as name)

This ad hoc system would not be honored by either store, but at least if there was a contested spot in line, people would have some data to present to security to help resolve things in a calm and proper manner.

I hope the day is smooth and fun – I know many of us are looking forward to using our iPhones! Apple is all about the user experience – Lets hope they make our experience in or out of line great.