iPhone 4 photo diary: A crazed all-nighter outside the Apple Store

CNET UK queued all night for an iPhone 4 outside Apple's flagship store on Regent Street. Click through to see our photos, and read about our deteriorating mental state

Luke Westaway Senior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
6 min read

There was only one place to be for truly hardcore Apple fans last night -- Apple's UK flagship store on Regent Street, at the official launch of the iPhone 4. Well, technically, the official launch happened only a few hours ago, but those aforementioned hardcore fans were there about 14 hours early, queueing through the night to get their mitts on an iPhone 4 before anyone else. CNET UK went along, documenting the whole insane overnight process. 

Read on to see our mental state gradually deteriorate throughout the night.

It begins

6:00pm -- We arrive at the Apple Store on Regent Street. As you can see, a small queue has already formed near the entrance. The shop itself is still open at this time, so the first people in line have to hang back near the side of the shop itself.

In this shot, we're behind the camera, finding the spot of bare concrete that will be our home for the next 13 hours. Not too shabby if we do say so ourselves.

Here it is -- CNET UK's camping headquarters. Opinion in the office is divided as to whether this Ergolife seat really counts as a chair, since really we were just sat on the ground. Note the massive OverBoard bag, however, filled with gadgety bits and pieces.

As you can see, our seating arrangements could not compare with those of our neighbours. That's Brian, officially the most comfortable man on Regent Street last night. 

6:30pm -- The queue officially rounds its first corner.

As you'd expect, we saw a lot of iPads. Many people were playing games or watching movies to pass the time. Anti-social oiks.

7:00pm -- All settled in, it's time to unpack some more. Note the beer bandolier in red, which we ultimately filled with Fanta and Red Bull. Note also the Thermos flask of CNET UK coffee, and the Lego-man torch. He really helped us through the rough times.


This bright spark thought to order pizza directly to the queue. Hats off for innovation. We ate our boring old crisps and sulked.

This chipper chappy is Joey. We sat next to him for much of the night, and he took good care of us. If you need more Joey -- and you do -- you'll be glad to learn that we've only bally well gone and recorded an interview with him, which you can hear on this week's CNET UK Podcast.

From dusk till dawn

10:00pm -- As night sets in, more and more Macs pop up along the street. From this point on, the atmosphere really changed, and a strong party vibe became prevalent. We were really surprised at the lack of queue management from Apple. We expected some security presence (there were a lot of drunks about, and not all of them appreciated the hundreds of nerds dotted around the pavement), or at least some barriers, but the Apple fans were sadly left to fend for themselves in the wilds of late-night London.

This thoroughly charming pair were lost in the world of app-based gaming, and didn't even seem to notice the churning mass of fanboys revelling around them. D'awww.

The incredible Karen Friar of ZDNet UK happened to be strolling past with her husband, who is here indicating that we are losers. The joke, however, is on him because he has used the wrong hand! Mwaha!

12:00am -- With typical Apple secrecy, these menacing black curtains are lifted across the windows, preventing any inquisitive souls from getting a look at the black magic within. In fact, Apple employees were decking out the whole store in an iPhone 4 theme.

Meet Alex Glee. Why is he special you ask? Because he is first in the queue. Oh yes. He'd been camped out for 24 hours already at this point, and queued for four days when the very first iPhone was released.

12:30am -- As midnight passed, people were milling around the street with gay abandon, chatting and mingling. We had expected a silent queue of grumpy geeks, but instead we found a nerdy street party. Hooray!

Wheeling and dealing

This chap wasn't actually out to make any extra cash, and we believe his sign was an ironic criticism of the frankly rampant mercenary dealing we encountered in the queue.

Several people approached us to ask if we could buy a few extra iPhones on their behalf once we were inside the store itself, offering a £50 incentive. We also talked to several people in the queue who'd been offered cash for their places in the line, with some offers numbering in the hundreds of pounds for positions near the front.

We saw plenty of people laying down free London papers to use as a makeshift blanket. Flattened cardboard boxes also proved popular as more and more people felt the urge to grab some shuteye.


Meet Ally, a very pleasant lady whom we met hanging out slap-bang in the centre of the queue, and subjected to an interrogation.

CNET UK: How long have you been in the queue?
Ally: Close to an hour and a half maybe.

How did you come to be queuing in the first place?
Well, it was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing -- my boyfriend and I drove by on our motorbikes, and he really wanted to stay in the queue.

Are you much of an Apple nut? Or is it mainly your boyfriend?
Oh, I was definitely an Apple nut before he was -- I kind of converted him! That said, I've never done anything like this before.

What are you looking forward to in the iPhone 4?
I hear it's really quick -- the processor speed. And having a phone with Internet access again.

Check this out -- a handprint on the front door of the Apple Store, presumably left by some rabid fanboy scrabbling to get in.


CNET UK: Do you know what your place in the queue is?
Oscar: I think there are maybe 200 people in front of me.

What is it about the iPhone 4 that you're looking forward to?
The front-facing camera and video chat [FaceTime]. Also, it's a great piece of technology.

We found the general public's reaction to our geeky mob of happy campers was bemusement, although sometimes amusement, and -- as we suspect was the case with this lady -- a deep sense of pity.

Dawn of a new era

4:00am -- It's hard to put into words just how distressing it is to see the sun come up at 4am, effectively starting everyone's day several hours earlier than they'd have liked. With the morning sun came even more eager line lovers -- the queue now stretched around another corner.

The free-roaming times were about to come to an end -- Apple wheeled in a truckload of barriers that were quickly set up around us. We shuffled, cow-like, as directed by the officious-looking security bods that suddenly sprang up.

6:30am -- The happy times came swiftly to an end. Things suddenly became very 'elbows in', with the queue narrowing to prepare for the big moment of entry, and Pret A Manger staff breaking out the breakfast croissants.

24 hours without sleep can take its toll on even the most intrepid reporter's mental state.

The big reveal

7:00am -- The black curtains are lifted to reveal a row of iPhone 4s. Once they'd been revealed, the doors were opened.

Walking into the store itself, our patience was rewarded, with a room chock-full of Apple employees applauding us for being so stupid brave. We apologise for the blurry quality of this photo, but, in our defence, it does very accurately sum up what we were seeing and feeling at the time. Rapturous applause put a serious strain on a fragile and exhausted mental state.

We were astonished at the number of Apple employees wandering around -- we're pretty sure they outnumbered actual customers. Still, it did mean there were plenty of people around to point us in the right direction.

 There they are -- row upon row of iPhone 4s. The mind boggles.

And here's ours! Thus concludes our queuing adventure. We can't say it was all pleasant, but, at times, the atmosphere was incredible, and we really did have much more fun than we thought we would. We even made some new friends. All in all, it was a pretty successful 13 hours. Remember to check out our iPhone 4 review later today, at that link. Right -- time to fall asleep under the desk. Again.