Are the iPhone queues for the fans or the publicity?

Are the iPhone queues for the fans or the publicity?

Summary: Apple launch events have turned into a honeypot for companies looking to get some free publicity, and the Australian launch of the iPhone 5 is no exception.

TOPICS: Apple, Australia

My impression of Apple's product launches had always been more akin to the scene in Flying High when the plane goes down and everybody is running around in a screaming frenzy (minus the random pair of knockers).

The queue at the Apple Store, Sydney
(Credit: ZDNet)

You get the Apple Store staff chanting, clapping, and dancing inside the store in their vibrant blue T-shirt uniforms, driving up excitement levels, while the Apple fanatics wait in a serpent-like queue outside, eagerly waiting to stampede the store to get their hands on whatever "i" product is being dangled in front of them.

Although I'm not one myself, I used to admire the dedication of Apple fanboys and girls braving the elements to support the brand they love and be a small part of tech history.

But these days, you'll find these queues populated by people who are paid to line up, and staff of companies that want to score some free publicity. What happened to all of the Apple fanatics?

On Wednesday, I went down to the Apple Store in Sydney to speak with the first person lining up ahead of Friday's iPhone 5 launch in Australia. His name is Todd Foot. I greeted him with a warm smile, introduced myself as a tech journalist, and asked for a quick interview.

His clothes and personal items were emblazoned with logos for a company called Mobile Phone Finder, an online company that he works for.

I was filming the interview, and he was very eager to get the company logo in the shot (which, to my credit, I managed to exclude from most of the footage).

As I was speaking to him, he was more interested in telling me about his employer rather than his experiences in lining up. As he recited his rehearsed script about the website at me in a monotonous robotic tone with a stiff smile, I was dying a little bit inside.

Where are all the Apple fanatics?

I looked down the small line of people outside the Apple Store. Nearly all of them were workers from Mobile Phone Finder. I'll bet my dog that their wages are still being paid as they idly lounge about waiting for the iPhone.

At the new iPad launch earlier this year, I was confronted by a similar experience. The first person to enter the Apple Store, Steve Parkes, had been lining up for several days. Too bad he was actually hired by outsourcing website Airtasker to be there, and he was all too eager to talk up the company to the media.

Thankfully, he didn't actually get the first iPad.

But it has become apparent that the fanfare behind Apple's launches is a honey pot for companies that want to get noticed. It's guaranteed publicity, as the media circus rolls in every time Apple brings out a new product.

To me, this is ruining the spirit and genuine excitement that I liked so much about Apple's launch events. It's sneaky marketing tactics that affront me rather than endear me to the brands that these people are advertising.

When I see or hear about Mobile Phone Finder or Airtasker, it just makes me want to roll my eyes.

Maybe these launch events just aren't that relevant anymore. On Friday, telcos like Optus will be delivering the iPhone 5 to the doors of customers who have made pre-orders. Telstra has even scrapped the idea of a midnight launch, and is instead going to open the doors of its George Street retail store to customers at 8:00 a.m. AEST.

All that these launch events are doing is giving companies the opportunity to foist their brands in the faces of unwitting consumers.

What do you think? Has the spark gone out of Apple's product launches?

Topics: Apple, Australia

Spandas Lui

About Spandas Lui

Spandas forayed into tech journalism in 2009 as a fresh university graduate spurring her passion for all things tech. Based in Australia, Spandas covers enterprise and business IT.

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  • Well done!

    Well done, you kept the Mobile Phone Finder logo out of the shot..

    And then managed to mention them three times in this article. ;-)
    Han CNX
    • Apple will patent this tactic

      "If you too have a line of excited customers we will sue you."
      • No need..

        Nobody lines up around the block for those products..
  • Well done!

    Well done, you kept the Mobile Phone Finder logo out of the shot..!

    And then managed to mention them three times in this article. ;-)
    Han CNX
    • Naming and shaming

      Thought it would be a good way to name and shame them :P At least I didn't link to the website!
    • Well done!

      "And then managed to mention them three times in this article. ;-)"

      You managed to post inane content twice.
  • and the answer is...

    You never answered your own question. Is this endemic, or is it an isolated case? As a journalist, it's your job to investigate this kind of stuff. That would be a very interesting read.

    By being part of the media circus, interviewing the payees, and going to great lengths to point out how you went to great lengths not to include the advertised company names but then make them the focus of your article anyway, I'm afraid you're doing an incredibly good job of perpetuating the problem you spend the entire article whining about on a superficial level.

    Dig deeper and make some waves (aren't mixed metaphors fun?).
    Marvin Atwater
    • Twice

      Hi Marvin,

      This is more an opinion piece rather than an investigative piece. It's based on my own experiences and, as I mentioned in the piece, something similar happened at the new iPad launch as well.

      To me, this isn't an isolated case.

      Kind Regards,

      • Opinions, absent facts,

        are worthless.
        • Technically.. she has provided facts...

          Just not the ones you deem are essential.

          She's been to two events. In both cases, the first person in line was a shill. In at least one of the events, a significant number of the people in line were shills.

          Apple only has two or so of these events a year (apparently, no one lines up for Macs)... so she has a very limited set of samples to start with - but the fact that it's happened in 100% of her samples indicates there's at least some correlation.

          She was also *very* careful to note that this is a problem that seems not to have always been there.

          I'd say it was a fairly balanced opinion.
      • They're usually speculators

        I know someone that used to get paid to do just that. wait in line, and but as many phones (Game consoles, tablets, etc) as they could.It's not done by Apple. There are other companies that artificially restrict the flow of their products, to create a false sense of demand. A particular Game console comes to mind, considering it had no cutting edge hardware, (it uses a DVD drive rather than a HD disk drive, and crappy DDR2 RAM)
        Troll Hunter J
    • It's her job to investigate this kind of stuff

      so you're blaming her because she can't be at 30 Apple stores at teh same time?

      And it's not like Apple launches the new product once a week, so it's hard for one person to get an answer to Is this endemic, or is it an isolated case, as she is isolated by the fact that she can only be at 1 store during the launch period.
      William Farrel
      • So Matthew Miller

        How many were lined up for the Lumia 900 launch? You and a handful of Microsoft employees?
        Troll Hunter J
        • No silly...

          No one lines up for MS Phones.... they have jobs and work to do.
  • The magic has fallen for two reasons

    1. The iPhone has been around for several years
    2. It's easy to order one online and get it delivered near launch day

    But, you better believe that a whole new product, like a TV, would reignite all the energy and enthusiasm from the faithful fans and they would muscle out the fake fans.
  • Premium products need extra marketing

    Apple is selling their products with high markups (e.g. the phone costs $200 to manufacture but they sell it for $850). Nonetheless, people will pay the premium much as they would buy a Porsche, because they know that an Apple product will be quite nice and a status symbol to boot. As a result, Apple has a considerable amount of money to burn for marketing. They have full time people in Hollywood to get their products onto the screen. Why not encourage companies that survive on Apple apps alone to do marketing at these events?
    • Actually a Porsche

      Is a performance car. While Macs generally perform better than the typical junk PoS PC's that make up the bulk of the sales Microsoft brags about, you can literally but a PC, running Windows, that performs nearly as well as Mac, it will just cost a little more, than a Mac.
      Troll Hunter J
      • Nope

        You can get Mac Pro performance for under $1500 but not buying from Apple!
      • Well...

        " you can literally but a PC, running Windows, that performs nearly as well as Mac, it will just cost a little more, than a Mac."

        If you're going to "but" a PC that runs faster than a Mac, and costs more... you're not trying very hard.
  • Doesn't really matter!

    If the iPhone 5 is anything as bad as people are writing about iOS 6 then this could turn out to be a huge disappointment for Apple fans!