Are the iPhone queues for the fans or the publicity?

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.
Written by Spandas Lui, Contributor

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?

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