404 A frame from Casey Neistat's video, The Dark Side of the iPhone 5S Lines

Published on September 25th, 2013 | by Ido Kenan


iPhone 5s: Why are you standing on line?

A businessman hired dozens of homeless to stand on line to purchase iPhone 5s’s at an Apple store in Pasasadena, CA, but refused to pay them when they couldn’t purchase them. Fist fights ensued, according to the LA Times. One of the people waiting in the long line in front of the New York City Applestore was asked simply “Why?”, and explained: “Because this is my business. I professionally line-sit, for people who don’t have the time but have the money”. Another was sleeping on the floor, wrapped in a clear plastic bag from his waist up over his head. Those two and others are portrayed in a Youtube video, The Dark Side of the iPhone 5S Lines.

The lines in front of Apple stores, where the line people are waiting for a new iPhone, are the capitalist version of food lines in Soviet Russia. This rather new mythology, born with the first iPhone in 2007, is something the media is happy to create and Apple happily fans. The Cult of Mac site, dedicated to all things Apple, reported that this year, the line in New York City had formed two weeks prior to the official September 20th launch. “”i waited in line for 10 hours for the first iPhone, also waited in line, outside the mall, in 1999 for the Sega Dreamcast [all sic]”, web-videos creator Casey Neistat, who, along with his friend Gabriel Nussbaum, created The Dark Side of thr iPhone 5S Lines, confessed in the movie’s description. “when i went out for the 5S launch i found a lot of that excitement and enthusiasm but i also found a lot of tired anxious people who were waiting in line for reasons other than their own desire for a product. […] at the peak of that hysteria i stopped and reminded myself what the impetus was for all of this; a new phone”.

Neistat’s video career is intertwined with Apple. “In 2000, Apple launched a new series of its iMac computers, which were so pretty, round and colorful, which let anyone edit video on his own personal computer”‘, he recently told Haaretz. “When I saw this computer I got so excited I maxed out my credit card to buy it. This is how I started making short films”. His breakthrough also has Apple to thank for. When his iPod’s battery was exhausted he found out he can’t replace it, and that Apple recommends he buy a new iPod. He made a video called iPod’s Dirty Secret, which documents a conversation he had with the company’s customer service, and his adbusting of iPod posters, on which he added the warning “iPod’s unreplaceable battery lasts only 18 months”. Apple quickly changed its police, denying it was because of the viral video.

Another video crew, from South Korea, documented the line in New York City and interviewed journalists, trying to understand Apple’s following, and find out if it continues to flourish or is rather declining (Gene Munster, a Piper Jaffray analyst who surveys the lines at every iPhone launch, said that this year marks the longest new iPhone line). As CNET exposed, the Korean crew was not a journalistic one – they were employees of Samsung Broadcasting Center/Cheil Worldwide, which occasionally works on camapigns with sister company Samsung Electronics, maker of Samsung Galaxy, iPhone’s prominent competitor.

Samsung declined to comment on CNET’s report. No wonder: a Samsung crew coming to learn from the Apple lines is like admitting defeat, at least hype-wise. Just two years ago, Samsung made fun of the line people in an ad with the slogan “The Next Big Thing is Already Here”. The ad depicts people allegedly waiting on the iPhone line, some of them for three weeks. But when people holding Samsung Galaxy S II smartphones walk by, the line people express interest and are vocally impressed with the advanced gadget. Not all of them, of course: “I could never get a Samsung. I’m creative,” says one of the line people sarcastically. The man waiting next to him snarked, “Dude, you’re a barista.”

Neistat, who also shoots and directs ads, denies Samsung was involved in his video. In an email interview he tells me [all spelling sic]: “i made that movie on my own. I do like samsung and may work with them in the future ( i also like the iphone) but this movie was something I wanted to do a year ago when the iphone 5 launched, there were similar lines then. I never got it together last year but planned ahead this year. it’s just such an interesting phenomenon and something that not a lot of people are aware of”.

Originally published in Haaretz in Hebrew

About the Author

Ido Kenan is founder of Room 404, a longtime Digital Culture journalist and a raiser of two cats

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