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It's time for Apple to rethink the queuing and booking scheme for the launch of iPhones

When the original iPhone was launched in 2007, lines played a lot for Apple. Like it or not, think you spend a few hours in a row to buy a smartphone something stupid or useless (the Apple online store is just to plug this hole), the truth is that it helped build a whole hype around the iPhone. And this scenario was repeated for several years.

Queue at Apple store for iPhone launch in 2007Image: WIRED

Give it time, however, something changed. That same queue has become a headache not only for Apple, but for the customers themselves. Why? Simple: it was no longer being formed by people who love technology and are looking for novelty, but by individuals looking to acquire as many devices as possible to resell them and put good money in their pocket.

With the traditional limit of two devices per person that Apple prevents precisely to prevent a single person from running out of a store's stocks, what we saw was obviously a way of circumventing the rule: hiring people to stand in line, paying a mix.

This scenario is repeated in practically all countries where Apple has physical stores. Although this is all very noticeable, the truth is that there is not much to be done to inhibit this practice. There are already some launches that Apple opens the possibility for users to book an iPhone and pick up the device at a certain store on the day of the launch (also limiting two bookings per person), which in theory could make the queues get smaller. The problem is that this modality has also been dominated by these "resellers", who end up using several Apple IDs to reserve as many devices as possible.

This year, for example, we covered the launch of the iPhone 7 in Munich, at Germany. In the end, Apple preferred not to sell iPhones to customers without reservation. That is, it was not possible to enter the store on the day of the launch and leave with an iPhone, even if you were in the queue for 12-24 hours or more. There was simply no stock destined for this type of immediate sale.

Interestingly, while we were in line, a young man approached us and said he already had 10 or more iPhones 7 units on hand and asked if we were interested in purchasing some units. He showed us pictures and everything of the devices (as we understand it, an Apple salesman passed the photos to him in what appears to be a scheme that even includes some Ma employees) and said he would be back the next day (9/16), s 9 o'clock in the morning, to deliver the iPhones in case we were interested in buying (which we promptly deny).

As far as we understand, he didn't actually have the devices on hand. It did have reserves for those units that would be purchased right at the first sale time. To our surprise, the devices even came with the tax refund form (VAT, or value-added tax) blank, ready to be filled out and requested by any tourist who purchased the device (s).

On the day of the launch itself, what we saw there were groups (two or three) formed by several people dominating the reserves opened by Apple. We saw, for example, a couple of Russians leave the store with ease 16 iPhones under the arm. All legally purchased, since they and their "friends" had reservations for 2 devices each.

And make no mistake. As I said, this is not unique to Germany or any other country. United States, France, Australia wherever there is an Apple store, there are people wanting to make money with the launch of iPhones. But the title ?stick-face? of the year goes to Hong Kongwithout a doubt.

"Reselling

Images: P. Hamoui

For the time being, these profiteers don't just put this same technique into practice as, after getting a good number of devices and leaving Apple stores out of stock, they stay at the store door (!) Reselling with a beautiful gift, obviously iPhones without shame in the face.

I honestly don't know exactly the answer, but it's past time for Apple to worry about it and at least try to create ways to prevent this scenario from recurring in the next releases.