Australian Apple fans don’t seem to care about the ongoing antenna issues apparently plaguing the iPhone 4, with thousands lining up across the country to be a part of last night’s midnight launch at many telco stores. The Melbourne CBD stores – conveniently located directly opposite each other on Bourke Street, for non-Melbournians – attracted huge crowds who were plied with lollies, apples, toffee apples, popcorn, and most importantly, coffee. We decided to give them some magazines to pass the time too.
A few fans enjoy the August issue.
At around 11:30pm, the Optus line stretched along Bourke Street, around the corner onto Russell, and around the corner again into Little Collins. I’m told the count was 722, but the Optus staff assured me that the store had enough iPhones for everyone.
There some interesting strategies on how to best pass the time.
It seems many were unaware of Telstra’s vastly improved data packs and business plans (if you have an ABN, you should really check out the business caps with 1GB bonus data), with the T-life line at around the 250 mark just before midnight, reaching only the corner of Bourke and Russell. However, it was still growing slowly, with plenty queued at 1:30am when I emerged bleary eyed with a brand-spanking-new iPhone.
The line at T-life stayed thick for hours.
Both lines were made up of the usual die-hard fans, with Simon Head fronting the Optus line, having been in pole-position since 5:30am on Thursday morning. He told me that he came straight from work, having had no sleep since waking on Wednesday morning. No stranger to Apple queues, he previously waited 11 hours for the iPhone 3G, but skipped the 3GS as he was locked in to a two-year contract.
Simon Head at the beginning of the Optus queue.
When asked what he was going to do once he got his new iPhone, Simon’s reply was what you might expect from someone who had been up for nearly 40 hours: “Put in on a charger and go to sleep.” Having got my own hands on one, though, I think he might just have taken some time to have a play before crashing.
It was a surprisingly mild night in Melbourne, and waiting in line had a much nicer atmosphere than my previous fanboy outing – the iPad launch at Chadstone – though this was perhaps due to the fact that we didn’t have to wait for daylight to re-emerge for us to get our new gear. Both Telstra and Optus had entertainment for the crowds – leading one irate neighbour to storm the T-life store to complain over the noise. Given the stores’ close proximity, the music actually proved problematic, with the two streams of techno-pop constantly colliding for those in line. Only the No.96 tram could provide some respite as it whirred past with a ding every now and again.
Simon Head emerges with one of the first iPhone 4s sold in the country.
Once midnight hit, the Telstra line was bunched up, and groups of 20 taken inside at a time. From there, it was a tightly choreographed three-step process that ultimately resulted in a lot of happy customers walking out with iPhone 4s. It was interesting to note that a few had dropped out from the queue (we were given numbers early on, so were able to wander about and still hold our spot), perhaps being wooed by the theatrics across the road at Optus. They did have a magician and people dressed as monkeys, so it was a tough decision which side to choose.
Stage two of the Telstra queue – inside the doors at last.
A helpful Telstra staffer named Michael walked me through the setup process, and the nerve-racking credit check. I was told that one or two people had already been rejected, so all their waiting was in vain. We set up a new number, whacked in a Micro-SIM, and it wouldn’t activate. Michael told me I may have to wait until morning. But I didn’t care, I had a shiny new iPhone 4 – with the most amazing display I’ve ever seen – and was happy with the thought that it would activate by the time I awoke. But it actually sparked into wonderful 3G life a only a minute or two after I arrived home.
An iPhone 4 on display – but photos don’t really do it justice.
I obviously haven’t had time to put it through its paces, but I can already tell I’m going to like it. The iPhone 4 is the most beautifully designed iPhone yet, and truly has to be seen to be enjoyed in all its brilliance. Of course, there is that whole antenna issue – and I can pretty reliably drop my Telstra signal from four or five bars to just two, but not yet any fewer. Frankly, I can put up with that slight design flaw (it is possible to hold it elsewhere), because this is the nicest phone I have ever seen.
Judging by the Melbourne lines, it seems at least a few thousand other Aussies agree, and I’m sure more are lined up at Vodafone, 3 Mobile and Apple Stores around the country this morning.
For more information on where to get an iPhone 4, and the variety of plans available, check out our comprehensive guide.
[All photos by Tom Kinsman.]