Survive The iPhone 4S Launch Day Lines And Walk Away With The Model You Want [How-To]



Obviously, the best way to make sure you got an iPhone 4S on launch day was to order one online, but that ship has sailed, and if you didn’t get your order in, braving launch day lines is your only option at this point. After four iPhone launches though, we’re now pros at the line-waiting game. Here are our killer tips and tricks for not just surviving the iPhone 4S line-waiting madness and walking away with the model you want.

Get There Early – The earlier the better actually. Everytime I go to an iPhone launch I think I’m going to get there before the big crowd does, but every year I’m usually disappointed with my spot in line. Even when I’ve shown up at mid-night there’s still 40 or 50 people ahead of me. If you’re wanting to be towards the front then get there early…like leave now. TV News crews don’t care about interviewing people in the middle of the line or the back, they want to talk to the crazy ones who sat outside all night waiting to get a new phone. Glory demands sacrifice, so if you want your phone before everyone else at the office has one you’ll need to arrive well before the 8am opening hour.

Check The Weather – I’ve seen more than one Apple Store launch day line flooded out and every fan in line turned into a sopping, drenched mop of a human being. Check the weather forecast and if your Apple Store is outdoors, do yourself a favor and bring an umbrella, a poncho or even a large garbage bag with holes ripped out for your arms and head.

Bring A Buddy If You Can – They say two heads are better than one, and two people in line are definitely better than one, especially if you have to leave line or go to the bathroom. A buddy can also allow you to work in shifts, and if you decide to get in line early, one of you can get a few hours extra sleep tonight.

Don’t Bother Bringing Food and Drinks – Unless you just totally need your Fiji Water and can’t stand the taste of the Smart Water that Apple hands out, I’d recommend saving some space in your bag by not bringing food and drinks with you. Apple store employees are great about making sure everyone is taken care of by providing tons of bottled water, gatorade and snacks for customers waiting in line. One year I even had an NBA Basketball Player serving me gatorades and frozen yogurt samples. A huge bottle of water is just a waste of space in your bag when you can grab one from the Apple staff along with a Pop-Tart. Plus, it’s free. You’re already shelling out at least $200 on a new phone so it’s awesome that you get to save $2 by taking Apple’s handouts.

Bring a Chair – Standing on your feet for five hours while waiting for the store to open is never fun, and your butt is probably going to hate you if sit on the ground the whole time too. Bringing a chair will alleviate 75% of your discomforts and make the experience more enjoyable. Don’t worry, people in line will be totally cool and let you take your chair back to your car before the store opens. Most drug stores and department stores sell collapsible over-the-shoulder fabric chairs for about $10, complete with their own sack to sling over your shoulder. Go get one. Your dogs will thank you.

Bring Entertainment – This doesn’t mean to take your flat-screen off the wall and buy a super-long extension cord so you can watch Friends will waiting in line (although that’d be pretty awesome). You’re an Apple fan, so you probably got a MacBook or an iPad or iPod, or all three. Bring the whole gang to the party if you want but I’d recommend an iPad as the only item you really need to bring other than a chair. The 10-hour battery life of the iPad will keep you entertained the entire time. If you don’t have a MacBook, iPad, or iPod then bring a book or a Kindle. You’ll look 30 times more intelligent sitting there reading Infinite Jest than the silly guy next to you will as he’s playing Angry Birds.

Make Friends – There’s going to be tons of Apple fans there that have the same passion for Apple’s toys as you do. Sure, some of them my still be calling the iPhone 4 the iPhone 4G, but don’t let there that deter you from striking up a conversation and meeting someone new. Oh! and if you’re feeling really daring you can try talking about something other than waiting in line for the new iPhone, how crazy the line was last year, or anything else Apple related. Try branching out. Maybe homegirl next to you recently discovered a great recipe for Baked Pumpkin Risotto, but you’re never going to know about it till you ask.

Don’t Be Picky – Apple will have a limited number of iPhone 4S units for each of the different carriers. If you aren’t on contract, don’t be picky, grab whatever iPhone 4S is still in stock if your preferred carrier is out. Even if you are on contract, though, be willing to compromise if you want a 64GB AT&T iPhone 4S in Black and they only have a 32GB iPhone 4S in white. You can always try to trade your iPhone 4S with someone on Craigslist later, or sell it later and replace it with the model you want.

Get In and Get Out – Keep in mind that you’re there to get the new iPhone, not ask the Apple staff fifty billion questions on when the iPhone 5 is coming out. As a courtesy to the other 800 people in line behind you, get the hell out of the store as soon as you got your phone, that way the line will move faster and everyone can share the joy of having a new personal assistant with a weirdly sexy voice.

If You Can’t Get An iPhone 4S At Your Apple Store, Try Other Stores – It’s possible, even probable, that Apple will sell out of iPhone 4S units. But that doesn’t mean the game’s over: there’s tons of carrier stores in your area that will also have limited amounts of iPhone 4S units. In addition, Radio Shack, Target, Sam’s Club and Best Buy are all selling iPhone 4Ses on launch day. And personally, we’ve had awesome luck just showing up at Wal-Mart and trying to get a new iPhone. Don’t give up! There will be iPhone 4Ses floating around your city… all it takes is some perseverance.

  • Blake Beavers

    Step 1. Have it shipped to your house.
    Step 2. Enjoy sleeping in and having a nice breakfast.
    Step 3. Enjoy your new iPhone!

  • Andrew

    mine is arrive tomorrow around noon and i dont work tmmrw 
    so goin to play with iphone all day

  • Chris

    step 0. Don’t try to always be the first one. Chill!

  • Alan Christensen

    Exactly. You will not die if you get your new toy a few days/weeks/months later.

  • Lol

    Or just wait a little and get it without any hassle.

  • Buster

    Oh you’ll die. Aneurysms are no laughing matter.

  • baleara

    Rule #1: Do not argue with the Apple employees.  XD

    I was in line for an iPad 2 for about 16 hours and I saw people being so rude to the employees! And the COPS too!  Quite a few of them got kicked out of line for causing a ruckus on the street.  Enhance your calm.  The employees can only tell you what they know and the more people get in line, the crazier it gets.  No fighting!

    I like this article. Lots of very good tips. I’d have been a mess without my camp chair, giant umbrella, and massive winter coat.

  • djrobsd

    Here’s the most important tip… Enjoy the iPhone you already have with the shiny new IOS5 on it.. And come back and buy the iPhone 4S when there isn’t such a feeding frenzy.

  • Derek

    I reserved mine at Radio Shack yesterday for $50 and they gave me a choice of appointment times to come pick it up on Friday. No waiting in line for me! They also have a buy back program so I’m getting $220 for my iPhone 4.

  • Katharina Maria Christina Scha

    What was the word again? OH, yes: UNNECESSARY !!! oh, and dumb! ;)))) Plus: You have to spend hours midway through sweating and smelling people… > No, I’m not picky ! ;D

  • guest

    Had it shipped to my house and Apple cancelled my order right before shipment for no reason

  • Sefu

    I saw some people had organized a crowdmap in DC to report on lines at various stores:

  • CharliK

    On the chair thing. be a little careful with that one. due to the crowds and the whole fire issue, many stores if not all will make you leave chairs etc outside. And they will not guarantee their security. 

  • CharliK

    I used to work at a Borders Book store and we had THE only Bill Clinton signing in the area (i.e. the whole West Coast) at our store. I remember working the line and we had like 2k folks in line. He had promised hell or high water he wouldn’t leave until he had signed 1k books (it was a strict one per person). 

    What killed me was the folks that were like numbers 400-500 being total douche bags to me. I literally had to say to one guy that he was guaranteed a copy because he was the 300 and somethingth person in line, compared to the folks 4 blocks down the street. He still wouldn’t let up. Finally I had to pull out my big ass radio and tell him that my big ass radio was a direct link to the Secret Service and their word was final. One call to report a belligerent and possibly dangerous person in the line and they would toss him and then he wouldn’t get his book. And if he tried to argue with them he might end up in jail. And if he didn’t stop yelling at me and my staff and cussing at us, I was going to make that call (didn’t hurt that I had two private security guys with me at all times)

  • CharliK

    Not true. There was a reason. You might not know it but there was one. 

  • RodneyMcKay

    Standing in line to buy an iPhone is the Apple kool-aid acid test.