Sydney’s flagship Apple Store threw its doors open at 8am local time this morning to the sound of thunderous applause. Those at the front of the queue who had been queueing for three days entered the store, weary, ready to collect their prize: the world’s first iPhone. But that’s not how it went down.
Two others, James and Tamsyn, walked out of the store as the world’s first owners instead, despite the fact that they were 30 people away from the front. Did Apple snub the front of the queue to find its own world’s first owners?
To understand this bizarre episode, we need to go back in time.
Three days ago, a team of guys from Mobile Phone Finder — a phone comparison website — pitched up camp outside the George Street Apple Store. The gimmick? They wanted to get the world’s first iPhone 5 and give it away to one of their readers. Not a bad prize and a nice competition idea.
They camped out for three days in the cold and rainy weather of Sydney as the line slowly grew behind them, until it was snaking across three city blocks.
17 hours before launch, James and Tamsyn arrived. They were no stranger to this caper. They camped out for the iPhone 4S launch, and this time they came prepared with sleeping bags, deck chairs and even a petrol generator to power their phones.
I spoke to James and Tamsyn in the queue, and they were happy to be there as part of the event. They told me that they come for the spectacle, not to be first. They both agreed that they didn’t want to be part of the media circus with cameras getting shoved in their faces, they were just happy to be apart of a celebration of the company they loved. They looked longingly at the doors of the Apple Store waiting for them to be flung open. The amount of people between them and the door? Roughly 30.
Flash forward to 30 minutes later, and James and Tamsyn are trotted out as the first iPhone 5 owners in the world. How did that happen when they weren’t even first?
Fred Schebesta is the director of Mobile Phone Finder — the company that had put 5 of their own people at the very front of the line three days earlier — and he tells us his account. Were they cheated out of the world’s first iPhone?
Fred has told me that the Finder guys were “aggressively held back” once they entered the store by who they claim to be Apple PR staff. James and Tamsyn passed them by and before they knew it, the two people who were far from first in the queue walked out with the world’s first iPhone 5.
Fred says he’s disappointed by the behaviour:
We wanted to be recognised as the first but Apple just chose what they want to do. It’s harsh when you queue and you don’t actually get to buy.
Apple won’t comment officially on the matter, but rumours surrounding the launch of the iPhone 5 point to the fact that Apple didn’t want it becoming a commercial exercise for another company to piggyback on. Makes sense, I guess, but it's a bit harsh nonetheless.
Gizmodo Australia is gobbling up the news in a different timezone, so check them out if you need another Giz fix.