We got in line at 4 AM to wait for an iPhone X — here’s why some people love ‘the wait’

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Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

The hype around the iPhone X has been building since the gadget was first unveiled in September.

On Friday, Apple’s new phone finally landed on store shelves. But hordes of eager consumers had already begun gathering outside Apple retail stores well before the doors opened. Whether motivated by a desire to be first, or a fear of Apple running out of stock, techies love to line up outside Apple stores – sometimes camping out for days – when the device goes on sale.

Word was that the crowds for the $999 iPhone X, the tenth anniversary model of the iconic device, would be even larger than usual. And I decided that experiencing what it’s like to be part of this curious subculture of Apple fanatics and line waiters was something I couldn’t pass up.

As it turns out, a coworker in New York was desperate for the new iPhone X, so I volunteered to do the line thing and get it for her. I chose the Union Square Apple store in San Francisco. It’s a flagship location, and because of its central location I knew there’d be a big crowd.

I had no idea what was in store, but at 3:30 a.m., my alarm went off and the adventure began.


Since I’d be getting there in the dead of night and San Francisco is getting chillier, my main concern was the weather. So the night before I laid out my many layers in preparation.

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Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

I arrived at 4:00 a.m. to a drizzly morning.

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Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

I claimed a spot at what I thought was the end of the line about two blocks up from the store entrance. I quickly learned that the line actually kept stretching around the corner, and moved to my place in the back.

The people in the very front of the line had been there since the morning before, and had come prepared with chairs, umbrellas, and lots of blankets.


Lacking my own camper chair, I set a (rather sad) brown paper bag down to mark my place in line.

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Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

Others were much more prepared.

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Carolin Cakebread/Business Insider

It was a calm scene at that early hour, with most people chatting among themselves or looking at their phones.

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Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

Even at 4am, there were probably more than 100 people already waiting in line. Apple had security guards posted around the lines, which made me feel a lot better about being on the streets so early.


Andrew Chen was the fourth person in line, and he had been there since 2:00 p.m. the day before.

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Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

Chen has been to every iPhone launch event, and was planning on buying the Space Gray 64 gigabyte model.

“It’s not a phone, it’s an experience, the waiting for something,” he said. He was there with a few other people, and said that those at the very front had been taking care of each other, taking turns to get food or go to the bathroom during the long wait.


By 6:00 a.m. the line seemed to be waking up a bit.

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Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

The nearby Saks Fifth Avenue store that we were lined up against began playing cheery music, and Apple employees brought around free Starbucks coffee and donuts to bolster our spirits.


There was something invigorating about being out and about in the dawn hours, and watching the city come to life.

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Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

Many of the people I met in line enjoyed the experience of the wait, and had been to launch events before.

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Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

Victor Aldeguer is a flight attendant from Spain. He had flown in the night before and was leaving the next day, but decided to spend his one day in San Francisco standing in line in hopes of getting an iPhone X. The last launch event he attended was in Spain for the iPhone 5G. He had waited 18 hours then.


Inside the Apple store, the lined up phones made for a tantalizing display.

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Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

At around 7:00 a.m., Apple employees began arriving for their shifts and prepared to greet the masses.


When the store opened at 8:00 a.m., the sun had finally come out and spirits were high.

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Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

But the wait continued.

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Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

As a launch event newbie, I had been under the impression that once the store opened, it would be a quick in and out process. I was very wrong.

Apple employees began greeting people waiting in line around at 8:45 a.m., and signing people up for the exact make and model of the iPhone X that they wanted to ensure it would be waiting for them when they did finally make it to the front.


A few blocks up, the line kept growing, as a second wave of late-risers showed up.

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Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

A security guard I had talked to earlier in the morning said Apple had prepared for around a thousand people, and didn’t think the store would run out of stock until late in the day.


By 9:45 I had moved to the very front line, and my coworker had arrived to keep me company.

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Becky Peterson/Business Insider

Alas, although I though I’d arrived at the home stretch, I was slightly dismayed to learn that it would be another 45 minutes before I’d be at the very front.


And then, at 10:15 a.m. the moment finally arrived and I was let into the store.

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Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

In the store, the actual purchasing of the iPhone was a breeze.

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Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

The Apple associate helping me out, Yev, simply scanned the reservation code I had been sent earlier and it was a done deal.


Finally, I had my phone!

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Caroline Cakebread/Business Insider

Total time in line: 7 hours.

Verdict: I’m glad I did it once to get the experience. It was entertaining and fun to meet some of the launch “regulars,” especially on the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. But I have no plans to ever do it again!