For the brave, passionate, and possibly foolhardy, waiting in line for the new Apple iPhone 5, which goes on sale today at 8 A.M. is a testament to their dedication. But for most, it has become a PR opportunity.
As various media outlets descended upon the Apple store on Fifth Avenue, secondary companies that sell apps or cases for the iPhone, have staked out spots towards the front, either by sponsoring eager Apple fans or sending out their employees.
“It’s a great time to have free publicity,” said Grim Dominguez, 30, from Corona, Queens and co-founder of a banking app for the iPhone called Refundo. He wore a black hoodie with “got refundo?” printed in white lettering across the chest.
“We only run on the iPhone, so it’s a very important step for us to get our hands on it and update our app,” he said. “We all use Apple personally, but it helps us with the business.”
Employees for OtterBox, a company specializing in protective plastic cases for various Apple products, including the iPhone, flew in from around the country to hand out “survival kits”—bright, yellow backpacks emblazoned with the company’s name and equipped with a beanie, blanket, poncho, and portable charging kit—to the first 100 customers waiting in line.
“We’ve done this since the 3G,” said Corey Manicone, 24, an OtterBox employee from the Upper East Side. “This was the first year we got a permit.”
OtterBox set up a tent advertising their product across the street from the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue, while also commandeering five lounge chairs in line.
“We have spots in line, but we’re just here to be part of the process,” said Nicole Niss, 23, a field marketing representative for OtterBox from Boston, Mass. “We’re not buying iPhones.”
Other intrepid individuals saw an opportunity to get a free iPhone while having some fun at the same time.
Jessica Mellow, 27, from Harlem, and Keenen Thompson, 22 from Jackson Heights, Queens, who arrived last Thursday at 7 P.M., have a sponsorship with Gazelle, an electronics company that buys used electronics and resells them, which will purchase their iPhone for them.
As she sat in an orange Gazelle lounge chair, Mellow blogged about their experiences on iphonewhatever.com, a blog she started when she waited 18 days for the iPhone 4S.
“We made it a whole social experiment,” she said.
Waiting in line 24 hours a day means forming a bond with those around you, saving spots for those who needed to take a shower or use the bathroom. In order to survive the inclement weather, they teamed up, waiting in cars parked on the street to sit out the torrents.
“I look at it like an urban camping trip,” said Mellow, wearing a puffy, black jacket to keep her warm. “If you need to do something, other people have your back.”
“Americans have found a new way to gather and to celebrate to wait for things,” said an app developer, who went by the moniker, “Sage Catharsis,” 31 and homeless. “What it turns into is a camp experience.”
The mass of bodies, folding chairs, and sleeping bags have attracted curious tourists with their cameras already on their way to the flagship store.
Seizing upon the event as a chance to educate consumers, protestors from Occupy Wall Street, who doubled the line when they arrived en masse last night at 8 P.M. with cardboard signs, decried Apple’s relationship with Foxconn, whose labor practices have come under scrutiny.
“We have come here to educate other people about the working conditions,” said Emilio Baez, 18, from Chicago, IL, referring to the recent spate of suicides by Chinese factory workers at Foxconn.
In general though, the atmosphere is charged with excitement for the release of another Apple product.
“We’re here to help make it fun,” said Niss. “No one’s out here who isn’t excited.”