It’s 3 a.m. and my eyes feel sandy, and the tips of my fingers are slightly numb as I hit refresh on Safari again. I’m up past my bedtime waiting to try to buy the iPhone X. (Will the world follow Apple’s lead and say “iPhone 10” out loud, or go with what seems natural and call it the “iPhone Ex”? These are the questions you think about when it’s very late and the only sound is the hum of your fridge and the tinnitus of mild sleep deprivation.)
I’ve never stood in line for a product launch, been a part of a crowd for a midnight showing, gone to a restaurant during its “soft opening.” I’m compulsive about plenty of things, but needing to be first to get at something — to experience something — isn’t one of them.
But this is the best chance I have of buying and owning an iPhone X in the near future. I’m not even sure why I want one, exactly. I left Apple for Android years ago. I like 3.5 mm headphone jacks. I have seen a phone with an OLED screen and not many bezels before. I’m okay with texting in green bubbles, not blue.
But I started to get curious about the iPhone X at the beginning of this year, as rumors started to come out of suppliers in Asia. Maybe this would be the phone that would bring me back to iOS. As is the case with many things, the anticipation was better than the actual thing. What Apple ended up unveiling in September wasn’t some artifact from the future. It’s just a really nice, really expensive phone. But it still exerts a pull on me. Endlessly reading and writing about the overpriced, overhyped phone has instilled some weird gravity in it. It’s become DeLillo’s most photographed barn in America — you can roll your eyes, but also: You’d feel silly if you went by and didn’t take a picture.
Reports and rumors all point toward a capacity crunch on Apple’s end with the iPhone X. That introducing a whole new form factor, debuting facial recognition, and introducing a new screen have tangled Apply’s supply chain. With the iPhone X, the thinking goes, you either preorder now or you may not see a phone until 2018.
3:01 a.m. happens quietly, and I continue to hit refresh on the store page. I’m not alone. I close TweetDeck, as search for mentions of “iPhone X” starts to melt down my browser. Sunk-cost fallacy sinks in, and I start to worry that I’ve stayed up late and wrecked my sleep cycle for nothing. Some weird part of my brain starts firing off chemicals, and I suddenly really, really want to be able to buy this thing.
It’s 3:05 a.m. and I’m anxious. Other people are reporting success, while I’m still getting variations of a page saying, “We’re busy updating the Apple Store for you,” in various languages. I try to figure out what “Apple Store” is in Turkish, in Italian, in Japanese. The clock on my kitchen stove is two minutes ahead of the clock on my laptop, and it’s driving me mildly nuts.
It’s 3:07 a.m., and I back out altogether, go to apple.com, and try the whole thing over again. This time it loads. I select my carrier, color, and storage size quickly; it’s like I’m trying to do some sort of consumerist speed run. I’ve already missed the window to get a phone delivered by next Friday — however many phones Apple had on hand to ship out to customers by next week, those are gone. It’ll take two to three weeks for a phone to be delivered, and I didn’t stay up this late to get a phone two to three weeks from now. I choose to pick one up at Apple’s store in Soho next Friday. I look at the list of times available. The first one is at 8 a.m., which is stupidly early — with my commute, it means probably getting up in darkness. But it’s already very dark outside. I select 8 a.m., press a few more buttons, and it’s done.
It’s 3:08 a.m., and my phone vibrates in my pocket as I get an email from Apple confirming my purchase. I check the store page again, out of curiosity. There are no phones available for pickup anywhere in NYC that I can see. As $1,087.66 leaves my bank account and starts flowing toward Apple, I don’t feel much except for a dull ache behind my left eye. I get up, fix the clock on my stove that’s running fast, and try to see if I can get a few hours of sleep before the sun comes up.