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It’s iPanic on the streets of London

Alex Yau
October 6, 2014

Thousands of Apple fans storm Regent Street as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus go on sale

iPhone fever gripped the United Kingdom last month as record crowds and record sales proved that popularity in Apple iPhone handsets shows no signs of slowing down.

Soon after the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus went on sale across the world, it was revealed more than 10 million were purchased in just 72 hours (September 19-21), up a million on the 5s and 5c sales a year ago. Four million of those were pre-orders – twice the figure of the original iPhone 5.

“Sales for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus exceeded our expectations for the launch weekend,” said Apple chief executive Tim Cook. “While our team managed the manufacturing ramp better than ever before, we could have sold many more iPhones with greater supply and we are working hard to fill orders as quickly as possible.”

Scenes outside Apple’s UK flagship store in London’s Regent Street on the opening day epitomised Apple’s seven-year success story in the smartphone market.

Around 2,000 eager customers, some of whom had camped for more than a week, gathered outside as the store’s early, 8am opening time neared. Not even a heavy downpour and  thunderstorm the night before, which momentarily sent many for cover, could deter spirits as endless queues spilled out down a side street and into a local park, where customers were penned in groups behind barriers liked caged animals.

The first person to bag the device from the Regent Street stock room was a  22- year old student from Slovakia called Zjoltan – who was  paid £1,500 by online gambling firm Leo Vegas to wait for 11 days outside the store.

Speaking to Mobile News, he said he was “happy”, adding: “Now I am off to sleep.” The phone was immediately handed over to a representative of the firm and dispatched by courier to the winner of the competition Leo Vegas had been running. Tempers did, however, threaten to boil over at times as customers grew concerned stock would run dry.

Mobile News witnessed a number of individuals placed in pens, which held between 20 to 30 people each, who were screaming at security guards they believed were allowing people to queue jump.

Individuals were heard pleading with crowd-control staff, desperately shouting: “Don’t do this to us, please don’t do this to us.”

There were also angry scenes as Zjoltan exited the store. Whilst milking the attention from the national press, he was subjected to a hail of abuse from a number of customers, with one screaming “You’re a “f***ing disgrace” as a result of him representing a casino website.

Security guards also showed little compassion to customers – displaying customer services a world away from the high-fives given by Apple staff to customers as they entered stores and and rapturous applause as they had their pin payment codes approved.

Mobile News witnessed one security guard berating iPhone fans who had left their assigned pens and were standing within the park. One iPhone hunter was sitting on a park bench when he was asked what pen he was in and promptly told to “get back inside”. When he complained that he had a sore back as he had been standing for more than 12 hours, the security guard insisted that he returned to his pen, claiming that everyone would like to be outside.

As queues died down, the area soon resembled a scene common after a music festival, with empty food and drink packaging littered across the street and in the park.

So was it worth it? With almost half of sales on pre-order, did customers really need to sleep overnight in the freezing cold when they could have just as easily entered the store, clean and showered later the same day to be presented with a device reserved for them? Mobile News got the views and opinions from those at the front.

Full article in Mobile News issue 574 (October 6, 2014).

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