Lining up for an iPad does not make you crazy


opinion Embedded in much of the coverage of the Australian queues for the iPad 2 several weeks ago was a not-so-subtle implication that those who lined up for hours and sometimes days to buy the hyped Apple tablet must be somewhat crazy.

In a headline which nakedly posed a pun about the Apple fans’ intelligence, the Sydney Morning Herald titled a story on the subject ‘iQueue test for Apple fans who line up overnight for iPad 2’.
A string of stories published by News Ltd newspapers also reinforced the impression that fans were somehow stupid to be lining up – or at least that doing so didn’t make any common sense.

“SALLY Johnson, 73, may be hot and tired, but that hasn’t deterred her from queuing outside the Apple Store in Sydney for an iPad 2 tablet,” wrote The Australian. PerthNow quoted an un-named source as describing the creation of the queue by Apple fans as “a cynical marketing exercise by Apple to create some hype”.

Another article in the Australian implied that it was more normal to be enjoying drinks with their friends at the time of the iPad launch – Friday at 5pm – while devoted an entire article to an interview with Alex Lee, first in line outside the Sydney CBD Apple store, explaining why the Apple fan wanted to queue for the iPad 2.

And yet there is much to suggest that those who lined up for hours and sometimes days to buy the iPad 2 are nothing less than very sane.

As many in the queues pointed out, given past experience with Apple product launches, it was widely expected that Australian retailers would run out of iPad stocks within hours of the product’s launch. And they were right – news stories in the weeks since the launch have made clear that iPad 2 stocks are still extremely scarce in Australia. Lining up early was the only way to guarantee getting one.

So why it is imperative to get an iPad 2 as soon as they come out?

The answer is simple – in 2011, many Australians depend on technology to get the most from their live in a wide variety of ways. Any technological improvement or upgrade which will allow them to do things faster or more efficiently has the potential to impinge on the quality of their life in a major way.

A good example would be the addition of a second monitor to each staff member at a workplace, or regular upgrades to the latest software. Anyone who is still stuck using Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6 at work will tell you that they could be a hundred times more productive with a new PC and a couple of 24” screens.

The iPad 2’s actual innards and functionality aren’t that different than those of the original iPad. But the device is radically thinner and lighter – a factor that will make a big difference in your life if you’re carrying it around every day, as many people we know are. Is this enough of a difference to make you line up for 48 hours on the street to buy one, instead of waiting for months for stock to arrive?

For many people, yes.

Then, as Sydney queue leader Alex Lee pointed out, there is the attention and camaraderie associated with being in the queue.

When I visited the Sydney CBD queue on the night before the launch, the mood in the queue was through the roof. Technology company LogMeIn, whose offices are just around the corner, had delivered free pizzas to the several dozen people lining up, friendships were forming, and the general atmosphere was something like being in a buzzing cafe.

Those lining up had been interviewed by the press more or less continuously throughout the day, and on the Internet they had become celebrities, with a dedicated Twitter hash tag, photos being posted everywhere and many following their every move. Video interviews were also starting to make their way online.

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea – but there are many hundreds of thousands of people who would kill to be in this kind of media limelight – even if only for a day or so.

One last fact also weighs in the favour of those lining up to buy the iPad 2: Their passion.

We live in an age where many are disaffected with the traditional gods of human civilisation. Much of humanity’s belief in the strength of religions, economic modes such as capitalism or communism, political parties or even idealistic movements has faded away as we are gradually becoming more educated, our political systems are becoming more open and poverty is gradually being eradicated.

In this context, new passions have arisen. Passion for new technology is a logical one – as technology demonstratably adds value to human existence and allows us to achieve much more than we could without it. We also live in an age where technological advances are achieved and made available to the mass market constantly.

Lining up in an iPad queue is a simple celebration of the fact that we are advancing forward as a species rapidly, and that there are new things to be excited about.

In summary, next time you see an article questioning the intelligence of those who spend several nights on the streets lining up for an Apple product – or, indeed, a product from any other technology company – don’t believe the implication of stupidity.

Those who queue are more brave, more popular, and more ahead of the curve than those who watch, jeering and laughing from the sidelines. They might be Apple fanboys, but they also passionate, courageous, connected individuals. And that is truly something to celebrate.

The author’s sole queuing experience was a three hour wait on a chilly Sunday morning from 6AM for an iPhone 3G. He took his Nintendo DS and a bottle of water.

Image credit: rq, Creative Commons


  1. I’m assuming you can’t pre-order these things and so have to queue if you wanna get it?

  2. You had lost me until you got to celebrating our technological advancement. That’s actually a valid point, although I’m not sure how much that plays in the minds of those lining up.

    I still think it’s pretty stupid, but I’m happy to live in a place where people are allowed to make their own stupid decisions.

    • Heh in my mind this is the most important reason to line up — however, I put it last as I think many would see it as an irrational reason ;)

      • So are you going to hold an iParty so everyone* can come over and celebrate the advancements in technology?

        *must own iDevice to attend

  3. I agree, It is about the celebration of technologies advancement but also the need for instant gratification. I think the internet has played apart in this, where we get all our news now and the need to get things quicker and without having to wait.
    The urge to get that limited product now is just like our need to get status updates on Facebook/Twitter every couple of minutes and new music/movies/tv shows as they come out and our constant need for faster internet to obtain those things the internet provides. Which I think in some way has made us a lot more impatient in general.

  4. Couldn’t agree more with this article. It’s about time someone addressed this issue. The same goes with mindless Android fans calling Apple consumers iSheep, as though we are all dumb and just follow whatever Steve Jobs tells us. The reality is most people I know with iDevices are right into the tech scene and have done their research before buying. They bought their iPhone or iPad because they are the best products available.

    Anyway getting back to the story, whenever I see people lining up for products I admire their passion and for the most part it looks like they are having fun. To poke fun at them goes against the very spirit of being a genuine nerd :)

      • Not quite sure what you mean. I was simply giving an example. I own an HTC desire and and iPhone 4, but I don’t feel the need to justify either. I was simply pointing out that there is a mentality from some people that all Apple owners mindlessly follow Steve Jobs. I was pointing out that for the most part this is a myth. In my case it’s a major myth, because I’ve jailbroken my phone to the point of being almost unrecognisable to the default iOS. I love my phone but I certainly don’t feel the need to justify my purchase to anyone. In reality It’s not a perfect device, and I’m looking forward to my next upgrade.

        And are you saying Android or WP7 owners don’t feel the need to justify their purchases? If so that’s pretty funny. Go read some of the comments on Gizmodo.

      • “Those who queue are more brave, more popular, and more ahead of the curve than those who watch, jeering and laughing from the sidelines. They might be Apple fanboys, but they also passionate, courageous, connected individuals. And that is truly something to celebrate.”

        …. and this is not crazy?

  5. Would we even be talking about this if it was people lining up to buy tickets for Metallica or for a football game?

    • The difference is, tickets for Metallica or a football game are very limited. There’s only so many people you can fit in a football stadium. For technology items, you just have to wait a few weeks and you end up with the exact same product as all the people who lined up.

      For myself, I don’t think people who line up for technology are crazy. It’s not something I personally would do, but I don’t have a problem if others want to do it.

  6. I interviewed Alex Lee and the thing I couldn’t understand was that he already had an iPad 2. He got his in his native Singapore but decided to line up for three days to get two more iPad 2s – one for his sister and one to donate to charity.
    Sure, I respect the idea of getting your hands on the latest technology.
    And yeah, perhaps there is some kind of group connection about the process of lining up and chatting with one and other while waiting.
    However, it does seem to smack of mass consumerism, yes?

  7. Donating an iPad to charity? Fraking seriously? Perhaps I haven’t really thought this one through, but surely charities could do with a few more important things than a bloody iPad2?

  8. “Anyone who is still stuck using Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6 at work will tell you that they could be a hundred times more productive with a new PC and a couple of 24” screens.”




    • I dunno, XP is working fine here in the workplace for me……and IE6 well as long as all my web based apps run in it, I wouldn’t get more productive with win7 and IE9.

      2 monitors though have helped

  9. I want my iFad2 then later next year I can line up for my iFad3 that will have more of the same.

    I got to say its a great toy but its way too locked down. I’m holding out for a decent Android tablet.

      • Or at least it would be nice if it there more native apps for it. That’s the biggest advantage the iPad has by far; thousands of apps specifically designed for it’s resolution and form factor. The few that are out for the Xoom apparently do look awesome (especially when rendered natively at 1280×800) but there’s bugger all of them. Android badly needs more devs making specific tablet apps, and Google also needs to upgrade the market with filters or a specific Honeycomb app section (unless they have already and I just don’t see it from my Desire?)

        When it comes to UI the Xoom is way ahead of the iPad’s boring icon grid and ancient notification system. It’s hard to believe there’s still no widgets! However I expect we’ll see the introduction of some cooll stuff like this with iOS5 in June.

        At this stage I’d still rather an iPad 2 given it’s superior graphics performance (I like casual gaming on tablets) and ton of software availability. I’m just waiting for the thing to be successfully jailbroken (so I can do what I want with it) and I’ll probably take the plunge.

        Also where do pick up a Xoom in Australia? I’m guessing you must be talking about importing one? Have Mitsubishi announced a release date and/or price for Australia yet?

        • Yeah its not released in Australia yet (and its a Motorola device) You can buy from mobicity though if you really want it.

          The android app market does hide apps that don’t work on your device if you are browsing from your phone. If you goto the website instead though you’ll be able to see apps that will not work on your phone and it’ll stop you downloading it to your phone.

          I expect there to be more tablet orientated apps coming to the Android market place as more tablets come out as 3.0 is the tablet version of the OS.

          • Thanks for the info. Suspected that might be the case with browsing for tablet apps.

            I realise that Honeycomb is Google’s tablet only OS, and I like the fact they have locked it down more (so manufacturers don’t go crazy adding their own stupid skins). Hopefully this will mean a more consistent experience and faster OS updates directly from Google.

            Give it a year with all the Tegra2 devices hitting the market (and Blackberry’s recent announcement that the Playbook will run Android apps) and I’m sure an Android tablet will be a much more appealing option. However at this stage I’ve pretty much made my mind up I’m sticking with Apple.

            Apple better start introducing some over the air syncing/cloud options with iOS 5.0 though as I’m sick of being so tethered to iTunes for getting content onto my iDevices.

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