Inside the Line for the iPhone 5s

Ever wonder what it feels like to stand in line for a much-anticipated Apple device? To find out, we sent Michael Maxwell, one of our brave systems engineers who happens to be an iPhone-line veteran, to the Apple Store at the Cool Springs Galleria in Franklin last Friday. Apple fans will know that this was the release date for two new models of the iPhone, the cutting-edge 5s and the brightly-colored 5c, which broke Apple records by selling more than nine million units combined in the first weekend.

Michael arrived at the Apple Store around 6:30 a.m. to find a parking lot full of cars with Apple bumper stickers and a good 60 people in front of him in line. An hour later, he says, there were around 150 people in the iPhone line, which eventually grew to a number of over 200 excited folks. “There was definitely a lot of excitement,” Michael says, "You could tell everyone was anxious to get their phone.”

Anxious both in the sense of anticipation at the prospect of getting a brand new iDevice and in the sense of being worried that the store might run out—which, of course, if you were looking for the gold-backed version of the iPhone 5S, they did. Everywhere. If you were waiting at the Cool Springs store with Michael, you never even had a shot at one. “There was really high demand for the gold iPhone, but while we were in line they made an announcement that there were NO gold iPhones, very few black and white iPhone 5ses, and plenty of iPhone 5cs,” Michael remembers, echoing the observations of numerous observers all over the country.

Since, as Michael reports, most of the people waiting early Friday morning were there in search of the top-of-the-line iPhone 5s, he was lucky to score one for himself in the Space Grey color. In fact, he was the last customer to receive a 32 GB model of the phone. He left the Apple store that day with the latest, greatest iPhone to cheers from the Apple Store employees and his felow line-waiters.

And that, in a nutshell, is what waiting in line for an iPhone the morning of its release is all about—the customer experience that Apple creates. (Well, that and the bragging rights.) Michael spoke with an Apple employee to get a feel for just how much the store puts into making the release special for its customers: “He said they had been there all night setting up for the launch—replacing floor units, getting displays up, and preparing for sales.”

And, Michael says, the tireless Apple employees’ work paid off: “There’s something really awesome about the moment when you are walking out of the Apple Store, having all the employees and everyone in line clapping and celebrating for you.” As for how it felt to get to the store as early as he did to stand in line for as long as he did, Michael was thankful for the complimentary Starbucks coffee provided to the Apple faithful.