After 10 days, the great iPad adventure, unfortunately, has come to an end. I'm sitting in JFK airport right now, waiting for my flight back to Australia. I think our mission to get iPads was successful. We aimed for 24 iPads, but was only able to get 19 - which is still impressive considering Apple were limiting sales to 2 per person. It was relatively smooth sailing all day, with a camera crew companions and little to no lines at all the four Manhattan stores. However, the day came to a sour end with the loss of my wallet, which put a halt on the iPad purchasing.
The launch day (Saturday 3rd of April) started with Pete deciding to camp outside the 5th Avenue Store at midnight. I wimped out and decided to stay in my hotel until 5AM. We ended up being 18th and 19th in the line. The sleep in probably paid off, with Pete a total zombie by around noon - while I was relatively fresh.
The producer of a documentary about happiness (which is still in production) found out via Twitter that Pete and I were hunting for iPads and got in touch with us to ask if we would allow a camera crew to follow us around Manhattan, buying iPads, and asking questions and trying to understand why we're doing this. The crew met me at the hotel at 5AM and we went to the 5th Ave store to meet Peter, who was also joined by Graham from Glasshouse Apps, who also flew from Sydney to score an iPad!
[caption id="attachment_6122" align="aligncenter" width="467" caption="decryption outside the 5th Ave Apple Store"][/caption]
After being berated for not bringing any coffee, it was quite a boring wait until 9AM. Gizmodo came along and gave out goodie bags, but unfortunately, some total jerks ran up from the back of the line and stole the bags from us - so Pete and I missed out. Graham got one and shared some of the loot. I got into an argument with a stocky New Yorker who got greedy and took a bag, but he didn't seem to care and had no shame for his actions.
As it got closer to 9AM, the Apple hype machine came into full swing, with staff lining the outside of the glass cube, cheering. Chants of "Who wants an iPad?", "Are you excited for the iPad!?" got some screams from the crowd, but really, we just wanted in to get the iPads (and to use the bathroom, I was busting).
By this stage, there was probably 200 or so people in the line. At the other Manhattan stores, maybe 10-20. The 5th Ave store was obviously, where all the action was. Media all over the place and Greg Packer being the publicity whore he is. Funny thing is, Greg didn't even have a reservation. Unfortunately, Apple let Greg in first, despite not having a reservation. Totally unfair I reckon. That shit wouldn't fly back in Australia. The guy actually suppose to be first in line was a German dude who runs an App Store website.
It seems a lot of people came from overseas to get the iPad - the people in front of us were from Russia and those behind us from Spain. People really want that iPad!
9AM comes around and finally, we get to enter the store. We were in the first batch of people let in and immediately we were assaulted by the Apple cheerleaders. The entire 5th Ave store was empty (the store is *never* empty), except for blue shirted staff, cheering and clapping. I've had this done before at Australian store openings, but damn, these guys were into it. Like Pete said, it happens in Australia, but the Aussies are kind of embarrassed by it - the New Yorkers looked like they were actually enjoying congratulating us and making us feel special.
The iPads were all neatly stacked at the genius bar and within 5 minutes, we were done. (the receipt actually says 9:05AM, hah). The plan was to go straight to the Upper West Side store, but we didn't expect this massive media scrum as we left, as we were one of the first people out, with iPads. Immediately we had microphones and cameras shoved in our faces, journalists actually arguing with each other as to who was first to talk to us. It was exactly like the media that assault a politician as they exit Parliament. It was embarrassing. All we did was buy a goddamn piece of glass, plastic and metal.
After a quick chat to God knows who, some morning show guy from NBC wanted to do a live cross with us once he realised we're from Australia. At this point, I ran in to Alexandra Peters, PR person for Firemint, who also came from Australia to get an iPad. We did a quick interview with the NBC guy, with Alex being the focus as she has all the PR skills to get the message across, where I am just a slob from Australia who wants to go and get more iPads. Unable to get away, a lady from Fox wanted a chat as well - this is the footage you would have seen no channel 9 or Sky News (9, Sky, Fox are all News Limited/Murdoch outlets).
Finally escaping the 5th Ave store, we went to the hotel, dumped the 4 iPads we scored off, and continued to the Upper West Side store. At this store there was no line and they were selling to everyone, even if you didn't have a reservation. We managed to get 5 from this store. Back to the hotel, then a cab to West 14th - again, right in, but only because we had a reservation. 4 iPads snagged from here. Another cab from the SoHo store, where there was a small line. 10 min and we were in. 4 more iPads from here and a bunch of accessories (6 docks, 3 cases and 2 VGA adaptors - unfortunately, the keyboard dock wasn't in stock). Each time Apple were quite keen to pimp AppleCare. Good news is that the warranty is global, like a laptop or iPod, not local like the iPhone.
So we've been to all the stores, managed to get 17 iPads. Back to the hotel so we can actually use one! Go in, fire up the MacBook, plug in the iPad and uh-oh, we need iTunes 9.1 - head down to Starbucks, update iTunes, get a coffee (or a hot chocolate, I don't drink coffee), then back to the hotel to activate the iPad.
It works and is magical, just like Apple said. Our day wasn't over though, we wanted more iPads! We said goodbye to the camera crew and Pete took a nap (who really needed some sleep), while I went back to the Upper West Side store. They didn't remember me and I purchased 2 more (and was complimented on my sneakers by the sales person who greeted me with a "yo!" and saluted me off with a fist punch - only in New York). I went back to the hotel and Pete was still asleep, so I went to try my luck at the 5th Avenue store. I took a cab there as I couldn't be arsed walking - my feet are already broken from all the sightseeing over the past 8 days. I got out of the cab, went in the store after a small line (there's always a line at the 5th Ave store, it's crazy) and got 2 more iPads - but then disaster struck. I lost my wallet.
With no wallet, there's no credit cards. With no credit cards, there's no more iPads. I thought I just left it at the hotel, but unfortunately, it wasn't there. I'm pretty sure I left it in the cab, or dropped it on my way out of the cab, as I definitely had it on my way out, as I was in the hotel lobby just 10 minutes earlier, calling ANZ to remove the block on my card as they detected "suspicious activity".
All that was in my wallet was a Victorian learners permit and an expired Metrocard. It was the loss of access to money that scared me the most. My ATM card and 5 credit cards were in there! My main concern was being able to pay customs when I enter Australia. It also meant a halt to buying iPads, as I had no way to pay for them. It really sucked as Apple were letting me buy as many as I wanted. I could have even brought back extra iPads for those who missed out asking for them initially! Luckily, I did leave a NAB and an ING Visa Debit card behind in the hotel (as I had no money in those accounts). If it was any other day, I could have sent my family to a bank to deposit cash into my NAB account, but it was Easter and all the banks were closed and no-one else in my family has a NAB account. But thanks to some awesome people on Twitter, who have NAB accounts, they were able to instantly loan me some money from their NAB accounts, to my NAB accounts, to give me some cash to pay customs and use for the remaining time I have in New York. Without these people who helped me, I would have been totally stuffed. I can't thank them enough!
So at the end of the day we had 19 iPads and a lost wallet. We only expected to get 16 iPads, so we came out ahead, despite the lost wallet.
I've had a bit of hands on time with the iPad, but not enough to write a prop review. I plan on doing that during my flight, on the iPad itself! In the mean time, I'm fending off questions from strangers at the airport, asking me what I think of the iPad.
Unfortunately, the documentary footage isn't allowed to be released until the movie is released (exclusive sale rights and legal junk etc.), but we might have a 2 min "highlights" reel - if we do, I'll make sure to post it here.
When I get back, we will be recording a podcast about the iPad and the trip, which will be released on Thursday. My flight is gonna board soon, so I have to make a quick exit! Thanks for all the support guys - I couldn't have done it without you. A big props to Pete as well, who managed not to laugh when I lost my wallet and comforted me, hah -