Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.
It was 10 p.m. on a drizzly Thursday.
A lone accordionist stretched out a pained tune.
He probably didn’t notice the illuminated sign behind him. If he did, he didn’t seem to care.
People walked by and some put money in his basket, but, to his left, no one was, ready to get their money’s worth from Apple.
This was the night before the iPhone X launch and no one was camping outside the GMS-Store Chiado in the center of Lisbon, Portugal.
No one had set up chairs. No one had sold their place to the highest bidder.
Earlier in the day, I’d wandered into this Apple Premium Reseller — Lisbon has no Apple Stores — to see whether there was rapt anticipation.
A Premium Reseller sells only Apple products but is independently owned. It looks a little (but not too much) like an Apple Store. The staff wear black shirts, not blue.
I’d asked a saleswoman whether the store would havethe following day.
“Oh, yes,” she told me.
“How many? A few hundred?”
But would people be lining up outside anyway? She felt sure they would be.
“Tomorrow, I will have to say ‘no’ all day,” she said.
The phones were available only to those who had preordered — of whom there were many — and only around 10 of these people would walk away with a phone.
She explained that the store would have an iPhone X on display, “but maybe only for a day.” The concern was that someone might try to steal it.
“We have to depend on how many phones Apple sends us,” the saleswoman told me. “But it’s a great phone. It fits perfectly in my hand and the screen is amazing.”
She’d played with it in the back when it had arrived. But no, she said, she couldn’t afford one.
“You’ll be opening early to let the fans in, won’t you?” I asked, given how many Apple Stores around the world do this.
“Oh, no. 10 a.m., as usual.”
Friday Morning. Where is everyone?
I dragged myself out of bed early (for me) to witness the lines. I was ready to ask difficult questions of the excited cult members.
At 9:44, a few people were standing outside. They weren’t, though, your average hoodie-wearing young fans. They seemed rather well-dressed, as if they’d come for a business meeting.
A minute later, the doors were opened just for them. As they entered, cheek-kisses were exchanged with the staff and they sidled over to examine the new phone.
Where, though, were the Portuguese Apple fanpersons? Wasn’t this a pilgrimage they wanted to make? Didn’t they do what everyone else in the world did to pay homage to the Great God Apple?
Around 9:52, two men in white T-shirts arrived, looked through the window and decided they would stand in line.
They were the line.
Soon, though, a couple of families milled around alongside them.
And that was it. At 9:59, the doors opened. Perhaps 10 people wafted in. I crawled in with them.
A polite grouping formed to get a feel of the new phone. In fact, there were two on display on different round tables.
First, the two men in white T-shirts, who turned out to be tourists, played with one for a minute or two. Then, a boy, aged perhaps 10.
I watched him expertly performing the new iPhone X gestures, as if he’d been given them as homework the night before. Or perhaps to him it was just instinctive.
Then it was my turn.
My first impression was that the phone was glossy. You know, like a Samsung Galaxy S8.
Thewasn’t quite as prominent or ugly as I’d imagined. The phone did, indeed, feel very good in the hand.
Learning to flick your finger upward to get to the home screen was simple.
There was an unspoken limited time for me to handle it, though, as another man hovered. I handed it over before he started hissing with frustration. Some tourists do that, you know.
By the time I’d walked out of the store, there were perhaps 20 people in there. Only some wanted to look at the new phone.
The rest were chatting to the staff about something else, it seemed.
Friday afternoon. Still not much action
I went back again, as I’d hoped that the Apple fanpersons had simply supped a little too much moscatel the night before and were now crowding to see the phone.
I’d also hoped to see the same saleswoman to ask her how many times she’d said “no.”
Sadly, she wasn’t there. And neither were many more people than had been there in the morning.
A white-shirted security guard nervously hovered over the new iPhones, as people continued to inspect them.
I asked a salesman whether it had been a busy day. He declined to tell me how many people had come to pick up their shiny new phones.
He admitted, though, that the store had a limited supply.
“When will you get more in?” I asked.
“That’s the problem,” he replied. “I don’t know.”
Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on how it allocates its phones to individual stores.
At night, all is quiet
I went back one last time, at around 7.30 p.m. The store was very quiet. A mom played with the iPhone X, as her daughter stood by.
This might have been a big launch day for some.
Here in Lisbon, it seemed like just another day.
Perhaps the Portuguese — in my view the loveliest, most urbane people in the world — are just too wise to be sucked into at least this particular form of American marketing.
It was drizzling again. Soon, I suspected, the accordionist would return. There were still plenty of people around, so perhaps he could do a little business.
Would he have even known that this was iPhone X launch day? Somehow, I doubt it.
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