On Oct. 14, I set out to buy Apple's new iPhone 4S at the AT&T store on Wall Street, located in New York City's financial district. Here is a chronicle of the events:
4:00 a.m.: My alarm wakes me up after three hours of sleep. If I go back to sleep now, given the fact that all pre-orders are sold out, I may not get another chance at owning a new iPhone for weeks. I need to get up and get in line. Now.
4:46 a.m.: I'm standing on the subway platform in silent anticipation, waiting to be whisked away to lower Manhattan where my new iPhone (hopefully) awaits. I just hope that a) the store has available phones for those who didn't pre-order them, b) there's not a big line already at the store, c) the Occupy Wall Street protests don't prevent me from getting to the store, and d) I didn't leave the oven on.
5:14 a.m.: I finally reach the AT&T store on Wall Street. It's so brightly lit, even at this hour, probably because it's filled with new gifts from God -- I mean, Apple. I see two men chatting with each other outside the store's entrance, so I ask, Is this the iPhone line? It is indeed, so I get in line. Great. Just two hours and 45 minutes until the big moment arrives.
5:41 a.m.: The first guy in line, who works for HBO's IT department, says that AT&T had planned to start selling the iPhone 4S 30 minutes before the Apple Store at 7:30 a.m. I hope he's right, but I have trouble believing Apple would let any of its retail partners release the new iPhone even a minute before it did. If AT&T disobeys orders, however, I promise I won't snitch.
6:07 a.m.: A young adult couple joins our fledgling queue, as well as a slick executive-looking gentleman who cannot contain his excitement for the new phone. He leaves the line for about 10 minutes, but when he returns, he's carrying a big case of Starbucks coffee to-go and a stack of cups. For all the dedicated iPhone people, he grins. Already, the iPhone is bringing people together.
6:38 a.m.: I'm sitting on the ground reading a book when out of the corner of my eye I see a woman enter the AT&T store. Looks like the employees have begun to arrive. The first guy in line asks an employee how long the phone's setup takes. The employee says he really doesn't know how long it could take, but the store will start letting people in at 8 a.m. See, I knew Apple wouldn't let anyone jump the gun.
6:52 a.m.: A woman rushes up to the front of the line and kisses the first customer, a man, on the mouth. If only I'd gotten to the line a little earlier! It turns out that the two are married, and the woman just wanted to join her hubby in line. Again, iPhones bringing people together. Still another hour to go.
7:14 a.m.: Excitement is clearly building. The city has finally begun to wake up with more cars, buses and people. Our line has also gotten considerably longer since the last time I checked, and it now reaches to the end of the block. Across the street, the line at the Verizon Wireless store has also reached the end of its block, too. Two female AT&T employees approach the front door with big bags filled with Dunkin' Donuts and orange juice. They say the food's for us. Could this morning get any better? It ought to in about 45 minutes.
7:55 a.m.: Five minutes until we can finally go in, everyone's focus suddenly shifts from AT&T's entrance to the booming sound coming down Wall Street. Out of nowhere, hundreds of young people are marching with signs and banners shouting, We! Are! The 99 percent! Unfortunately for the Verizon customers, the mob swarms the block across the street where they wait in line. Before I can find out what the mob's up to, an AT&T manager opens the door and ushers in the first three customers. Here we go!
8:04 a.m.: The woman helping me purchase my iPhone 4S looks none too happy to be awake so early. I tell her my phone number, and she tells me that unfortunately, my phone isn't available for the upgrade. My stomach drops. Did I wake up at 4 a.m. for nothing? That's impossible, I say, Let me get my dad on the phone. I do, and once I hand the woman my phone, the issue is magically solved. Good ol' Dad. The AT&T employee leaves to go get a 32 GB black iPhone 4S from the back room.
8:18 a.m.: I finish paying for the phone, but I stay in the store to make sure everything's working properly. Safari and Google are lightning fast on the 4S compared to the iPhone 4, but for some reason, Siri doesn't appear when I hold down the home button. I approach two idle AT&T employees, who inform me that Siri's settings were set to off. Let that be a lesson to all of you new 4S owners: If Siri doesn't work, turn it on.
8:23 a.m.: I walk out of the AT&T store a proud new owner of the iPhone 4S. I smirk when I see the long line still waiting to get into the store, knowing my plan to get there early was well worth it. As I head towards the IBTimes headquarters, I ask Siri, When does the iPhone 5 come out? Her response?