Last week I told you about how Steve and I managed to bork the order of a second iPhone X and how I’d promised him he could have the one coming on day one, November 3rd. I also told you that Pat Dengler’s order got messed up too so we were going to brave the lines on the 3rd.
The planning and strategy we went through were about as elaborate as that in the movie Ocean’s Eleven. At least that’s what my friend Ron said when I told him what we were doing.
When the iPhone 4 came out, I stood in line at the store in Manhattan Beach. It was a disaster. I had a phone pre-ordered and only went there to pick it up. That line took 10.5 hours! The worst part of this was my friend Niraj texting me about how quick everything went out at the Cerritos store near his house. It was around 2 hours of line time even for people who didn’t preorder!
When Pat and I started planning, I suggested this magical store in Cerritos, based on Niraj’s story from so long ago. While the story was old, there was a bit of logic to choosing Cerritos. This store is quite large but is in a less affluent area than the other Apple Stores within a half hour of my house. I know, I’m spoiled to have so many choices!Pat had another idea. She suggested the Apple Store at the Beverly Center, right near Beverly Hills. While this is obviously a very affluent area, there was logic in her suggestion. Turns out the Beverly Center has been under construction for ages, and no one goes there as a result. They seem to think the stores aren’t open during construction.
I checked in with Niraj and he told me to avoid the Cerritos Store. He told me that it’s CRAZY busy now and would probably have a very long, but very fun line. Ok, off to the Beverly Center it is.
Now, what time should you go to stand in line? What’s early enough, but not too early to guarantee you get the phone you want? That’s a crystal ball process. I called the store to find out where we go to line up, and the gentleman I talked to had me bring up Google Maps (yes, Google) so he could show me in street view where to start lining up. While he was on the line with me, he said they expected people to start lining up at 6 am for an 8 am opening of the store. Wasn’t he precious with his 6 am recommendation? You can’t line up at 6 if you expect to catch a unicorn like the iPhone X!
I was thinking of 4 am, but Pat said she’d heard people talking about midnight being a good time. We compromised and chose 2 am. That meant I had to get up at 1 am, roll out of bed, run a toothbrush across my teeth and maybe a hairbrush through my hair and jet out of there.
I went to bed at 9pm, and Steve didn’t go to bed till 11pm. He was very grateful that I was making this sacrifice so that he could be sure to get the first phone. He wanted to leave me a note of thanks on the bathroom counter, but he didn’t want to turn on a light to find a pencil and paper in my desk because it would have awakened me. He looked around at the tools he had and made me a note. He pulled off a length of toilet paper and used one of my makeup brushes to glob on the word Thanks! I had to laugh when I found it when I woke up!
Before I tell you the rest of Pat and my story, I have to add in the strategy for Steve’s phone. After the débâcle of the iPhone 4 purchase, when I bought the iPhone 6 I had it delivered to my home. And that’s when I found out that my UPS delivery is the VERY last one on their route. My buddy Ron lives so nearby, Tesla and I go to his house for our walks, and yet while he got his phone first thing in the morning, mine came at 6 or 7 at night.
I think it was Mark Pauley who tipped me off on a great trick. Once your order has shipped, but before the day of delivery, you can tell UPS a new delivery address, and one of the choices is to have it sent to your local UPS store. Two benefits here: first you don’t have to wait at home all day, and second is that they get much earlier deliveries. I tried it on my 7 Plus order, and sure enough, it was delivered at 10 am.
We also wanted to go to San Diego on Friday afternoon so that early delivery wasn’t just to be one of the first to get the phone. This meant Steve needed to track his order very carefully or we wouldn’t get to go to San Diego.
Mark Pouley to the rescue again, where he explained that you can start obsessively watching your delivery long before Apple ever tells you that it has shipped. First, set up an account on myups.com. While logged into your myups account, go to the Tracking page and in the left column expand the Track by Reference link. In the Track by Reference info fields, enter the reference number of your package. The reference number is actually your Apple order number. Follow that by the phone number associated with your myups account. Also select the shipment date range, destination country, and destination zip code. Finally, select the Track button and that should bring up your package (if the shipment is underway) along with its UPS tracking number. Easy Peasy! At least Mark gave Steve something to refresh obsessively all week. He’d come running in and say, “It’s in Hong Kong now!”
Back to Allison and Pat and their line-standing adventure. Pat beat me to the Beverly Center Apple store, and when she got there right around 2 … there was no one there. The good news is that we were the first and second in line, but the bad news was it was very lonely for the first hour and a half! At 3:30am we were joined by two very lovely Israeli guys.
Would you believe they flew over from Israel just to buy the phones? Turns out that they could finance their trip and make a lot of money by selling them when they got home. We explained the carrier situation and they smiled and said they’d done this before and not to worry our pretty little heads about it. While I would have preferred to be in line with true Apple enthusiasts, they were quite lovely people and we really enjoyed their company.
The time flew by as more people joined us. I have to say that the store choice was brilliant. By 8 am there weren’t more than 100 people in line. While waiting we were watching on Twitter as people posted photos of other stores. The Fashion Island store, about an hour away, had 150 people in line by 11 pm the night before!
About 7am the Apple Store employees came out and started taking our orders so the process would go quickly when the store opened. I had decided up front that if they didn’t have the exact model I wanted (space grey 256GB), I was actually going to walk away. Luckily my resolve was not tested since we were number one and two in line. I texted Steve with delight when I got my confirmed order!
Another interesting part of this was that they gave us times to come back to get our phones. Since we were in the group getting them at 8 am, we weren’t to leave, but others behind us were given times later in the morning so they could go off and have breakfast and come back which was nice for them.
We were ushered up the escalators, and some people tried to get in front of us. They had 8 am slots too (some of whom had preordered) but I explained to the Apple Store employee that we’d been in line since 2 am and we were darn tootin’ getting to be the first ones in! He understood and assured me we’d get the privilege we had earned.
After they lined us up again outside the store to wait the last 20 minutes before official opening time, all of the employees came running by our line whooping and hollering and doing high fives with all of us. I had seen that happen on videos before and it was a really exhilarating experience, especially in our sleep-deprived state!
As luck would have it, while Pat got the honor of being the first one into the store, I received my phone in my hot little hand first, and they made a bit of a deal about that. They had a photographer taking video (with an iPhone in a gimbal mount of course) and they asked to take my picture as the first one to get the iPhone X. Of course, I said yes, and asked what they would do with it. The guy explained that it was only for internal communications and not to be given to the press, which was disappointing; I told him to give it to the press!
Now technically I didn’t let Steve get the first iPhone X since I activated it in-store at 8 am, and his arrived as planned at 10 am at the UPS store. I also got to play with mine sooner, because of course AT&T got in our way yet again. Since I bought the phone Steve picked up using my own phone number, when Steve tried to activate it with his phone number, it was hell on earth. Remember that two hours earlier I had activated a completely different phone to my phone number but AT&T didn’t catch on to that. I had even asked the Apple rep if Steve would have any problem and he said probably not but AT&T could sort him after that. Well, technically they did sort him, after three phone calls and over 2 hours of trying to authenticate to their overloaded servers.
I felt badly because I’ve been there before and it’s no fun at all.
One other thing was interesting about the transition from our old to new phones. Pat and I both lost a LOT of our activity data when we had to pair our Apple Watches to our new phones. But oddly a few days later the data actually came back! Not sure why that was. I lost several hours in the middle of phone pickup day because I waited a while to move my watch over. Just a little caution if you’re on a big move streak when you switch phones.
The good news is that I captured a screenshot of my watch before I collapsed for a nap at 10:25 am – it showed 10 stand hours in 10.5 hours!
So here’s the funny part about all of the shenanigans that Steve, Pat and I went through to get our iPhones X. In the afternoon, I received an email from someone from a local user group that said Costco had the iPhone X in stock for walk-ins and that they got one in about 5 minutes. Oh well, Pat and I had an adventure and don’t regret a minute of it.
Now that I’ve had the iPhone X for a couple of days I have some thoughts on the device.
I have to say that Face ID is positively magical. I love it. Imagine going to a site where you need to log in, and you hit the button to launch your password manager and in about a half second it opens and shows you your username and password. Makes it absolutely dreamy!
iPhone X has a gesture area at the bottom of the screen, indicated by a horizontal line that adapts to the background color. Opening the phone has become pretty much second nature already by swiping up from that gesture area. As you look at the phone you swipe up and you’re in. There is no waiting for Face ID at all.
I have an aversion to clicking buttons, so the swipe up gesture to get to the home screen from anywhere is an absolute delight to me.
I haven’t yet gotten used to swiping up and pausing, which is one way to get to the app switcher. It’s better than double-clicking, but I usually forget and swipe up too far. To get back to the app switcher you have to tap something on your home screen, which you may or may not want to open. The other way to get to the app switcher is to swipe across on the gesture bar. I haven’t once remembered to do that yet.
The hardest gesture for me (and for Steve) so far is how to kill an app. You swipe up and pause to get to the app switcher, but you don’t then just swipe up on an app to kill it. First, you have to tap and hold on any one of the visible apps and you’ll get a red circle with a line on each app. Only then can you swipe up to kill an app (or you can tap the red circle). It’s a whole extra step from before and it has nothing to do with not having the home button. Not sure why they did that but it’s annoying.
Another annoying thing is that you’re not allowed to see the battery percentage anymore. Since the battery status lives in the upper right “ear” along with your cellular and WiFi strength indicators, they decided there wasn’t enough room for the number. Control Center is available from that upper right ear by swiping down, and there you’re shown the battery percentage. That’s aggravating.
I was really looking forward to the OLED screen, but to be honest it sure doesn’t jump out at me. Sure it’s pretty and sure it’s big in a much smaller phone size, but I don’t swoon over it as René Ritchie led me to believe I would. I brought up a couple of images on both my iPhone 7 Plus and the iPhone X and I can definitely see a difference. The screen’s vibrance is much higher on the X, but again not so much as I would have noticed it if I wasn’t looking for it.
Speaking of a smaller device, it felt tiny to me at first and within a day I stopped noticing. Then while writing up the review I got out my iPhone 7 Plus to do the photo comparison and it felt positively gigantic in my hand! It’s interesting how quickly you get used to something.
Speaking of getting used to something, let’s talk about the notch at the top and the gesture area down at the bottom. Pat and I have been chatting quite a bit about how distracting it is, at least for now until the apps get updated to the iPhone X APIs. We chat on Telegram and there are all kinds of weirdnesses. We can see text up in the left ear displayed underneath the time, and messages will flow under the gesture bar as well. The spec for developers talks a lot about the “safe areas”, as I mentioned in my exhaustive geometry lesson on the screen sizes. You really do lose a lot of screen real estate to these safe areas, if the developers follow the rules.
But let’s talk about the most important development in iPhone X: Animoji. They’re positively delightful. Especially if you go out of your way to send them to friends who detest them, like Mr. Cranky Pants, David Roth. The rainbow unicorn is my favorite.
I hope you enjoyed hearing our tales of adventure acquiring the iPhone X, and some first impressions of the new hotness.