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An Early Morning With the iPhone X

Outside the Apple Soho store around 6:45 a.m. on November 3.

I’ve only spent a few hours with it, and we’re still getting to know each other, but so far, I really, really like the iPhone X. For the first time in a while, there’s a smartphone I’m excited about using.

I got up in darkness to get it. It was muggy and unseasonably warm outside as I walked through the deserted streets of Soho. I passed Fendi and Dior stores and wondered what life is like for people who actually go to Soho to shop.

When I turned the corner from Greene onto Prince Street, I saw the crowd. Probably 300 people, curved around the side of the building and then snaking back and forth between barriers. My new friend Lawrence and I were first and second in the preorder line, respectively. Nobody else joined us for a while. Eventually, Lawrence and I started chatting. He said he does something in innovation and data, and I nodded and pretended to understand. We both agreed that we weren’t sure why we were getting an iPhone X — like me, he’d bounced back and forth between Android, and wasn’t sure whether he’d keep the phone or sell it. “I really didn’t think I would be first in line,” he said, looking around with some discomfort. It was about 6:50 a.m., and the sky was just starting to pinken in the east.

We talked to a guy who’d been camped out and had the second spot in the standby line. Joe, from Staten Island, arrived at the Apple Store at 9 a.m. on Thursday and seemed relaxed in his camping chair. “If I came here and saw the line was big, I woulda left,” he said. “But there was one other guy, so I stayed.” I asked him what phone he planned on buying. “I’m gonna get two. Maybe flip one, keep one.” I checked eBay and saw that people were already selling the iPhone X for $1,700. Making $700 for standing around for a day started to make sense. The first guy in line had been there since 7 a.m. yesterday — essentially 24 hours.

More people with preorders started to show up, and the line filled in behind us. “Most of these phones are going back to China,” said Joe, and he may have been right — there’s still decent money to be made in getting imported iPhones into China. There was money to be made here, too: Around 7:30, the first guy in line suddenly stood up, and a guy in an overcoat with the collar turned up, who looked a bit like Steve from Stranger Things if he ended up going to NYU, took his place. Another young guy with the healthy tennis glow of wealth went down the standby line, asking for Terrance, the guy holding his spot. I wondered how many of these people who’ve been lined up for hours and hours have been doing it for other people.

Apple Store employees took my reservation number and kept on congratulating me, like I’d won something instead of bought something. Finally, at 8 a.m., they opened the doors, and the Apple Store employees were lined up in a semicircle as Lawrence and I walked in. They all broke into loud applause and cheering, and I suddenly understood why people hate surprise parties. I wish I had just gotten my phone delivered to my house. This was a certain level of hell, and I paid a lot of money to get there.

Upstairs, I sat with some genuinely friendly and excited Apple Store employees. The iPhone X needed to be upgraded to the latest version of iOS 11, and then restored from a cloud backup, and it all took some time. The employee helping me hadn’t actually seen an iPhone X yet, either, so I handed over mine and let him examine it for a while. He turned it over in his hands a few times, looked at the screen, and seemed duly impressed. After a few more minutes of watching progress bars fill up, I was done. Some Apple Store employees congratulated me again — “I think you’re the first one to get done with setup.” I tried to spot Lawrence to get his thoughts, but the crowd was bustling inside the store. I walked outside, and the line seemed to have grown even longer.

On a corner of Wooster and Spring, I stopped walking and started messing around with it. The phone itself is ever so slightly thicker than the iPhone 8. It felt, I don’t know, friendly? The full-on screen is immediately beautiful. The new Face ID facial-recognition system took about five seconds to set up, and works incredibly well — after a few times using it, I kinda forgot it was there. Once I was in the office, I spent a few more minutes playing with the new gesture controls. Maybe it’s the placebo effect, but the 120-Hz touch panel (meaning the iPhone X is sensing where you’re touching the screen 120 times per second) seemed to make it quicker to respond. The OLED screen really made its presence known when I started flipping through photos — when I compared it to the LCD iPhone 8 screen open next to it, the iPhone 8 suddenly seemed washed out.

I’ve currently got an eBay tab open, and there are people selling phones just like the one I’m holding for $3,000. My plan, frankly, had been to buy the iPhone X, use it for a bit with a screen protector, write some stories about it, and then probably sell it and return to a midrange-budget phone. $1,000 is still so much money to spend on a phone. But this thing that I stayed up too late to preorder, woke up too early to buy, and stood in line like an asshole for — I think I’m going to keep it. Now, I just have to go stand in line at the Apple Store, buy another iPhone X, and flip it to cover the cost.

An Early Morning With the iPhone X