New iPad launch: Why do people queue?

What motivates people to queue for new Apple products? We visit London's Apple Stores to find out.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
3 min read

It's an exciting time when a long-awaited tech product like the new iPad hits the market, but even if you're planning to buy one for yourself, could you ever be dedicated enough to queue overnight -- perhaps several nights -- just to be the first to lay your hands on one?

CNET staff have visited several tech queues over the past few years, and sometimes even joined in the fun ourselves. It's not much of a secret though that if you turn up at opening time on launch day, you can usually just stroll into the store and buy your desired item there and then, with little hassle -- so why bother queuing?

I took a turn around London to chat to the troops of Apple fans and discover what motivates them to camp out on noisy city streets for the latest iGadget.

At Regent Street's Apple Store, the mood was jovial, and the 15 or so people camped out there welcomed me into the fold with good cheer and sleepy faces. At the front of the queue were Zohaib and his friend Ali, who Luke met a few days ago when they first started camping out.

They're determined to be the first people at Apple's flagship UK store to get their mitts on the newest iPad. Ali and Zohaib are both dedicated to queuing and can reel off their various queue position numbers for previous launches they've been to, including the one where they first met.

Michael Roberts and Craig Fox, who are joint second in the queue, agree that at times it has been a bit of a competition to get the number one spot, and even now that all the regulars are old friends, they still don't tell each other exactly when they're planning to start queuing.

Michael told me that he's always one of the first to get hold of the new iPad as he likes to get his unboxing video up on YouTube as soon as possible after the launch, whereas Craig initially took part to promote his hacking event, but now he just comes along for fun.

This seems to be a common theme, with people's first visit being for a very specific purpose, but with them returning purely to join in with the camaraderie and meet up with like-minded friends they've met in previous queues.

Fenella Barnes and Harry Barrington-Mountford are both second-timers. Fenella braved it last year to keep Harry, a keen Apple fan, company, but this year is planning to buy iPads to sell on to friends and family who don't fancy facing the crowds on launch day.

Outside the Apple Store in Covent Garden yesterday, the queue was less busy with only 21-year-old student Dipak Varsani in situ. This was Dipak's third time queuing for an Apple product at Covent Garden and he was looking forward to his friends joining him later. He enjoys meeting people in the queue and thinks of it as a "miniature holiday" from everyday life.

Some people have quite frankly been a little harsh about people who queue up for products, which, having met the intrepid campers seems a tad unfair. It's clear that everyone has their own reasons for coming to queue, but it's the friendly atmosphere that keeps them coming back. That and the free food they get from nearby restaurants.

What dream products would you queue up for if you thought you might miss out? Let me know in the comments below or over on our Facbeook page.