I don’t want any normal people to read or listen to this article. If you hear about a new device from Apple and you think, “hey, maybe I’ll check that out some time after all the nut cases buy it”, then I’m not talking to you. If you find yourself wondering six months after a new device is released whether the bugs have been wrung out, not you either. But if you hyperventilate while watching Apple Keynotes, or if you stand in line on day one of a release, or if you sit home pacing in your front room looking for the UPS/FedX person to bring your precious home, I’m talking to you. If you HAVE to have the new Apple device on day one or you’ll DIE, then this is for you.
I read and listen to people scoff at us and wonder why we get so nuts about this stuff. I was talking to Switcher Mark on Twitter the morning after the release of pre-orders for the iPhone 6 and he made what I thought was a very insightful observation. He said, “I’m doubting we needed to endure the torture this morning. We do it because we want to.” He’s right. I’m no clinician of psychology but the concept of a sadomasochistic relationship with Apple sort of rings true to me.
Why did I stand in line for 13 hours to buy an iPhone 4 in 2010? Surely I didn’t want to stand in line that long and as rational people later said, “I NEVER would have done that” all I could reply was, “Me neither!” I didn’t KNOW it was going to be 13 hours when I lined up at 6am for an 8am door opening. I thought it would be a few hours, maybe 3 tops to get the new hotness. Once you’ve invested 4 hours though, you know it can’t possibly be much longer, right? Right? Little did we know that we would start by huddling under blankets in the early morning cold and end up sunburned and cold again as the night fell and we still didn’t have our phones. We didn’t know.
So you’d think we would learn, right? When the next new device came out, I was WAY too smart to stand in line. Not me, I’m not in that sadomasochistic relationship with Apple. I preordered for home delivery and took a day off of work. And guess what? Everyone got their devices at 10 am and I paced a track in my living room carpet waiting for that delivery. My buddy Ron got his at 10 am and he lives a mile and a half from me. I didn’t stand in line with a bunch of fun, excited people, instead I sat at home for an entire day, a vacation day no less and didn’t get my device again till the sun set.
There was the time I finally gave up waiting for my iPad delivery and found out that they were simply sitting on the shelf un-purchased over at AT&T – only to come back home and find that the delivery guy had dropped off my precious $1000 iPads at a neighbor’s house!
Then there was the year when I didn’t get up at midnight to get the new device (the iPad 3 I think it was) and woke up to read a tweet from Katie Floyd to Steve telling him to run from the house because when Allison woke up she would be a VERY sad camper because they were all sold out.
So this year, I stayed up till midnight. I woke up my daughter Lindsay so she and I could have the fun together. In a weak moment I promised her and her brother that they could have iPhone 6’s for their birthdays, so she was invested in the game as well. I’d done a lot of research before this great day to figure out how I was going to buy our phones. Earlier this year, AT&T responded to the challenges that John Legere of T-Mobile had been making and created a family share data plan that actually dropped my bill $60 a month with no loss in what I was actually using. I gave up my two unlimited lines but it had no impact because the four of us on our plan had never used more than 8GB in six months, and the new plan was 10GB/month. We gained the ability to tether which could prove problematic but in the last six months we’ve never gone over so it’s a real $60/month win.
Part of the savings was that AT&T gave us a monthly cost on each phone as though we had bought them at full price, instead of unsubsidized. The price you pay for a subsidized phone is $40/phone (on top of the data plan for the group) where if you buy them outright it’s only $15/month, or a savings of $25/month per phone. They did this even though we had subsidized phones. That got me thinking I really liked that low monthly payment and so like anyone would do, I created a spreadsheet to calculate how much it would cost me over a two year period to have a subsidized phone at $40/month vs. paying out of pocket and getting that $15/month price. I made sure to take into account the fact that you have to pay taxes on the full priced phone even if you do buy subsidized. Turns out that at 18 months you break even on the two plans, and at the end of 2 years, you’ve saved $150 if you paid full price. If you’re smart like Dorothy and keep your phones even longer, you save even more money, but then again we aren’t talking to people like her, now are we?
So I knew I wanted to buy full price. But I’d heard from “people online” that AT&T wouldn’t let me do that. I was given a lot of advice from well-meaning friends, including my friend Pramit who assured me that if AT&T didn’t let me do it, I could just buy from T-Mobile for full price and pop in my AT&T SIM card and go on my merry way. This works because the two services both work off of GSM radios, unlike Verizon which uses CDMA. Whatever that means, I just know they’re different.
One of the joys of retirement is that you have time to call people on the phone. I figured I might as well call up AT&T and ask them. I talked to my new little friend Gina first and she assured me that of COURSE AT&T would let me pay full price. She even offered up the fact that she’d done this very thing herself. Yay! But I got cold feet again, and the next day I called back to see if I could confirm what Gina had said. I got a lovely person named Jamar on the phone and he and I had a nice little chat. We walked through exactly how I would go about it. He noted that while none of my phones was actually eligible for an upgrade (mine was 4 days short), there was no need for any early termination nonsense because I’d be using these new phones on AT&T so I could just ride out the rest of my contracts with no penalty. He said he couldn’t vouch for Apple’s website but he GUARANTEED I’d be able to do the phone for full price on the AT&T site. Because we’d become so close, I wished him well during the next week or so of nightmare level of orders of the iPhone.
Now that we have the background and promises by AT&T, let’s just chat briefly about how much fun the actual iPhone 6 purchase turned out to be. Lindsay and I opened up store.apple.com at 11:58 and it said it was coming back soon. Then it told us the same thing in many different languages. We waited till midnight, same thing. We flipped over to AT&T, same thing. Eventually AT&T came up and let us start to play. You could tell the site was struggling but at least it was up. I chose the iPhone 6, chose Space Grey, chose 64 GB, and changed the quantity to 3. I then clicked the radio button to buy off contract for full price. And it changed the quantity to 1. I changed it back to 3, it changed me to a contract price. I argued with the site for a few minutes this way, until Lindsay suggested I just buy 1, and then come back and repeat the process. I chose off-contract and it asked me if I wanted to upgrade an existing line or add a line. Well I don’t want to do either of those things, now do I? If I went to upgrade, it told me I wasn’t eligible, but it did helpfully tell me I could buy for full price. Yay. But there was no button to go forward from that point.
Lindsay suggested we try the add a line option but that would have added a $40 activation fee, so we abandoned THAT whole path. Somewhere around here, one of the many people who were commiserating with us on Twitter suggested trying the Apple Store app for iOS. We launched that on two iPads, while frantically refreshing both Apple.com and AT&T trying to find a path through. The Apple Store app appeared to work but it still wouldn’t let me pay full price. Terrance Gaines on brothatech.com posted screenshots of how he succeeded via the app to buy full price, but by that time it would no longer connect for me. I let Lindsay go to bed at 1am, and I was ready to call it, but for the next 45 minutes I couldn’t stop trying to refresh the Apple Store app on my iPad and iPhone to test Terrance’s path.
I finally went up to bed and while brushing my teeth kept frantically refreshing, and suddenly on my iPhone it went through. Huzzah! And guess what? No pay full price option!!! But then I saw the AT&T Next Plan. If you haven’t checked it out, it’s actually a great deal. They finance the phone for you over 20 months … at no interest. So it’s exactly the same cost as paying full price, AND you can pay it off if you like! I was bleary eyed at almost 2am but I read it over and over again, and verified that it WOULD allow me to stay on the $15/month plan … and pushed buy. Whew! Now to try Lindsay and Kyle. By then the connection from the apple store app to AT&T had apparently crumbled, so it came back with a message telling me that Apple had set aside two phones for me with reservation numbers. Ok, time to go to sleep.
Around 10 the next morning, I had received emails from Apple that I could now go ahead and complete the orders for the kiddies … for two gold 16GB iPhones. Noooooooo! On a lark, I went to store.apple.com … and it was working. And in about 20 seconds each I was able to buy 2 Space Grey 64GB iPhone 6’s for my children. Yup. I’d stayed up till 2am and had a horrendous time fighting with the systems when I could have waited. Again, I found the worst possible path imaginable to buy my Apple device.
The good news is that I made new friends online that night, like Tony_iPhone, Mohalen, Technana_net, ArrenHendley, 1WaySwim, Buellj, SimakMasnavi, Qwalsius, Avro LandonJH and got help from a lot of old friends. I want to give a special shoutout to both SimakMasnavi and WayneDixon who both gave me virtual sympathy that made me feel better at times when I was sad.
Would I do this again? Yup, sure will. Because I am a zealot. Because I’m an enthusiast. Because I’m nuts. And no, I don’t want to hear from you “normal” people (I’m talking to you Dorothy) about how dumb it is to do this. Now leave me alone, I have to start pacing my front room waiting for my iPhone to be dropped off by FedX or UPS.