It's been an unusual week for me, I've got a week leave from work. It's not a holiday as such, I'm not doing anything special. It's not even convenient timing, there's lots to do at work and a week out of the schedule is problematic. But it is the end of the holiday year and I had 10 days to go and can only carry over 5, so here I am.
The upside to this is that it is the week after the iPad 2 launch in the UK. I couldn't take the time to queue on Friday, although I went after work to join the back of about 300 people outside the Covent Garden Apple Store to be told straight away that there were no 3G models left after only 20 minutes of selling. I figured with my week off and nothing in particular to do that I would try queuing for the first time.
I've never queued at an Apple store before, mostly I've been either too lucky or too lazy. Pre-ordered my first gen iPod Touch, iPhone 3G and iPad 1, waited a few weeks till stock improved for iPhone 3GS and 4.
Online ordering was something I wanted to avoid. Firstly it's currently a 3-4 week wait, but mostly because Apple's delivery arrangements in the UK are terrible. They will only deliver to the card holder's address and only during working hours. This isn't really the most suitable arrangement for Apple's target audience, myself included. You can't redirect delivery until a first attempt has been made and then you have to contact Apple who tell the delivery company, if you are lucky they'll do it the first time you ask. The one time that tried this was my iPod Touch pre-order, it took 3 weeks from original delivery date to get it, I could have walked to an Apple store and back in my lunch break. I would have cancelled the order but once it's at the delivery depot you have to accept it and then ship it back to them, that just sounded like prolonging the hell.
So this time for the iPad 2 I decided to queue. Not having done this before and the store staff saying you had to arrive early to get one I did just that. I might have overshot the mark a little though, arriving at 3:45am Monday where I waited till gone 5:30am till anyone else joined the queue. At 8am there were still only 11 of us when store staff came out and said that there would be no iPad 2's today.
Tuesday I gave myself an extra hour or so and arrived at 5am, to wait with about the same amount of people till 7:30am when a member of staff told us that there were no iPad 2's and that we shouldn't queue anymore as they were shifting to online reservations only. This is where at 9pm they post available inventory for reservation for in-store pickup.
At 9pm I was sat in front of the iPad 2 reservation pages for Regent Street, Covent Garden, White City and Brent Cross (all easily reachable for me) as well as Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Brighton. Regent Street showed some inventory, but no 32Gb 3G models which was what I was planning to get. So I selected a black 64Gb 3G instead, and also a 16Gb black 3G that a friend wanted. I signed in and proceeded to the screen to select a reservation slot, by which time the 16Gb models had sold out and so that one dropped off the reservation. I quickly clicked next, which resulted in an error because the 10am time which was the default first selected slot was taken. I changed to 10:15am and clicked next ... Success! :)
The time was now 9:03pm and Regent Street had no more 3G models at all for reservation. 15 worried minutes later I got a confirmation email.
This morning I arrived at the store well before my reservation time. Glad that I did, because as I waited in line I heard the staff discussing that they had no more 32Gb Wi-Fi left but still had reservations for them to fulfil. Happily mine was waiting for me, I also got an orange smart cover and the digital AV cable.
All in all, a desperate, but interesting experience. Not sure if I'll do it again though, guess we will see when the iPhone 5 comes out ...