Last night, as geeks all over the country congregated in major cities, queuing up outside mobile phone stores in the hopes of buying the new iPhone 4, there was a hidden undercurrent of people acting like douchebags. And none of them were actually in a line.
The vibe last night as I walked up and down George Street in Sydney from Telstra to Optus via Vodafone was almost like a well-organised, alcohol-free New Years celebration for geeks. There was music, there was entertainment, there was food and drinks, and there were people standing in a queue, talking with the people around them, laughing and generally having a good time. Some people were more isolated, taking the time to read a book or play with their iPad, but overall, there was a real fun atmosphere outside each phone store (well, at least until midnight came around and people started missing out on getting their phone of choice).
The Telcos were great. All three would have spent a large chunk of cash to provide the best experience for their potential customers. Those that lined up received free food, drinks, hats, beanies, scarves, entertainment, celebrity appearances and - if they were lucky - an iPhone 4. Although there have been a few comments that Vodafone's system didn't work and people ended up queuing for hours without getting either access to The Ivy or an iPhone 4, overall, the Sydney launch was a huge success.
Except for the douchebags.
On a number of occasions, random people would shout at those in queue things like: "It's just a fucking phone", "Get a fucking life losers" or the much more succinct "Wankers!" People driving past would shout out similar sentiments from their cars, and Twitter was filled with statements from people criticising those who decided to line up for their new phone.
The thing is, while these people are right that it IS just a mobile phone, they're completely discounting the fact that there's something engaging about lining up to get something popular. The iPhone is the new rock star – rather than lining up in the cold to buy tickets to your favourite musician's concert, those passionate about consumer electronics are showing their dedication to their favourite products.
As a geek, the very fact that this happens is amazing to me. I only wish it happened with more products.
We live in a world where we can talk to people on the opposite side of the world with nothing more than a handheld device. Where we can record something happen here in Sydney and somebody in Europe can watch that same footage moments later. We take it for granted in today's consumer-tech filled world, but if you sit back and think for a second exactly what has gone on to make that happen, from the development of the hardware and software to the science behind what goes into sending the bits and bytes through the ether, it's a breathtakingly complex system that almost anyone can use.
What really bugs me about the hecklers last night isn't that they disagreed with the idea of lining up to buy a phone at midnight on a Thursday night. It's that they were so vocal and offensive in their derision of those who decided to buy the iPhone 4 at midnight. They haven't considered the technological development that's gone into not just the iPhone, but all mobile phones and mobile telephony itself. They haven't considered that the iPhone 4 is actually a beautifully designed piece of hardware that's desirable on an artistic level. And they certainly didn't consider the fact that they could just have shut their mouth and walked on by.
You may not like the idea of queuing for hours in the cold to buy a phone yourself - I know I'd never do it - but those that do shouldn't be criticised. But if you don't agree with the concept of lining up for your favourite gadget, at least have the courtesy to respect the choice of those who do.