iPhone 3G: The waiting is getting old

Waiting in line for gadgets has gotten tiresome and cliche, but a group of activists called Waiting for Apples has squeezed one last little bit of novelty out of it.

Waiting for Apples' iPhone 3G encampment. Large tupperware container is full of worms. Caroline McCarthy/CNET News.com

NEW YORK--A message to those of you thinking of hopping in line for the iPhone 3G at the Fifth Avenue flagship store here: there are thunderstorms predicted. Please stay home and spend some time with your friends, families, and pets. You're just going to get a sunburn and look silly.

Plus, a scrappy half-dozen activists who call themselves Waiting for Apples are going to get all the positive press. They're hoping to set a Guinness World Record as well as spread the buzz about sustainable agriculture, and are waiting in line with a solar-power generator, a bunch of yoga mats, a compost bin full of hungry worms, a soundtrack of the Talking Heads' More Songs About Buildings And Food, and an adorable six-month-old--don't worry, she's only there for a few hours a day, has plenty of shade, and will stay home if it's rainy or sweltering.

They might have also soaked up the last bit of novelty associated with waiting in line for a shiny new gadget for days, if only because nobody thought to bring live worms to a product launch before. Anybody else, well, let's just say I can't guarantee I'll be so nice to you. Waiting in line for the iPhone is officially as passé as, "Dude! You're getting a Dell!"

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Remember last year's snaking line? The funny thing is that no one left the Apple Store that night without a phone. Apple's retail process was impressively streamlined, so that if you showed up right after the phone debuted, you'd still have gotten one an hour or so later. Multiday line-waiters were matched within hours by people who smelled much fresher than they did.

Then the folly of it all was added to even more when Apple slashed $200 off the price of the iPhone just more than two months after it hit stores, meaning that everyone who'd waited in line to buy one looked a tad overeager. And dare I say that after the tech press jumped all over the pre-launch hullaballoo of Sony's PlayStation 3, Nintendo's Wii, the video game Halo 3, and Apple's own Leopard software, the whole "wait in line for a gadget for days on end" thing has just gotten tacky.

Some people say they're doing it for the "experience." Well, if your idea of "experience" is sitting on your butt for five days, subsisting on hot dogs and salted pretzels, more power to you. There are plenty of other "experiences" to be had in New York that could be uncovered in about ten seconds of Web searching, all of which are much less sedentary and much less sunburn-y.

Others are doing it for the publicity, either for personal gain, to collect donations for charity, or to promote some kind of cause celebre. But answer this for me, without any Googling: which charities were represented by people waiting in line for the iPhone last year?

Can't name many, right? That's the thing. Last year, it was quirky ad agency Anomaly that walked away from the iPhone launch with good press by waiting there to support Keep A Child Alive; this year, it's more or less already established that Waiting for Apples will be the one people remember, if any. Last year, marketers flooded the iPhone line to hand out T-shirts, stickers, snacks, and anything that might get some visibility; the atmosphere got so clogged that single brands and causes quickly got jumbled in the chaos. That kind of PR-soaked atmosphere just isn't that efficient for promotion.

And, gadget freaks, if you're just waiting there to get the iPhone and play with it for months on end, just keep in mind that the original iPhone had no shortage issues until the new version was in the works and Apple stopped making Version 1.0. Also keep in mind that you're waiting in line for five days for a pricey consumer device that will likely be outdated within a year.

Come on. Wall-E would so disapprove.

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