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Here's how Apple tried to sell me on the iPhone 8

Commentary: A trip to my local Apple store on iPhone 8 launch day offers a relatively quiet atmosphere and the opportunity to be sold on the new phone.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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Could the wily Apple store employees sell me? No, they could not.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Outside, there was a trolley filled with croissants, pastries, fruit and coffee.

It was 9:45 a.m. at my local Marin County, California, Apple store.

Why was there still so much food, when the store had opened at 8 a.m. for the launch of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus

"We had around 30 people when the doors opened," a store employee told me, as he lingered at the door like a bouncer with no one to bounce.

By 9:45, it looked like any other Friday. A quiet one, even.

Still, I wasn't there for idle chitchat. I wanted to hold the new phone, and see if I could be sold on it. Many assume that image, ads and Apple's famed events do all the selling. Sometimes, though, retail staff can make all the difference. The ability to reassure and nudge at the human level should never be underestimated.

I've stuck with the iPhone 6 since it came out. The 7 was dull. Could one of those wily Apple store employees sell me on the 8? 

I picked up the phones and, to my hand-brain continuum, they felt heavier. I'm assuming it's because of the new glass back. The overall impression was of a shinier version of my 6.

"Do you have any questions?" a pleasant voice suddenly said in my ear.

It was, indeed, a wily Apple store employee. 

"Should I get one of these 8s or wait for the X?" I asked, deliberately pronouncing it "eks." 

"It depends on what you want," said the employee. 

"My therapist says that's one of my 99 problems," I wanted to reply. "I never know what I want."

Instead, I showed her my 6 and said, "Look, I've been holding out. Why should I get this 8?"

"If the camera is the most important thing to you, buy the 8. The X doesn't have a better camera," she replied, deliberately pronouncing it "ten." 

I put my 6 next to the 8. "Yes, but doesn't this look just like my 6?" I asked.

"Well, the 8 is going to be much faster."

"But they say that every time. And then they slow down within weeks."

"That's because you keep loading more things on them."

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There wasn't a lot of action.

Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

She knew me well. 

"So which one are you getting?"

Here, I expected a commercially motivated fib. I didn't get one.

"I'm waiting for the X," she admitted, deliberately pronouncing it "ten." (The X's launch date is set for Nov. 3.)

"Have you seen it?"

"No, we don't get them until the night before."

She told me, however, that the augmented reality and the Face ID were the aspects that excited her. And, I suspect, a phone that doesn't look like the last three iPhones.

However, she had a job to do on this Friday. So she pulled out a Belkin wireless charger to show me that the 8 could be charged wirelessly. It felt almost half-hearted. After all, I was one of very few people at the large table, looking at the phones.

By then, I just wasn't convinced. I'm still moved by looks. I'll never buy a case. I want my phone to be, well, at least a little different.

I have a feeling she could tell. Especially as she then proudly started showing off her new Apple Watch Series 3. I learned how many steps she'd already done today.

I wondered whether, if I came back tomorrow, they would still have some iPhone 8s. Just in case, you know, I changed my mind.

"Oh, yes. We'll have plenty," she said. "Apple sent us a lot this time." 

I wonder how long it will take to sell them.

Not once, though, did she try to sell me on price. She didn't try to compare the relative cost of the 8 and the X at all ($699 vs. $999). 

"So you call the new phone the 'ten'?" I asked, deliberately giving her the impression that the 8 isn't really a new phone. 

"We called it the 'eks' when we first saw it," she said. "But it's 'ten.' There will be bigger lines for that one, all the way down to Nordstrom."

"Is that a good thing?"

"Apple's been trying to get people to preorder and pick up at specific times," she said. "But I miss the lines."

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