I have been contemplating on getting the iPhone, and when it was exclusive to Singtel I did consider switching my carrier and port my number over from M1 to Singtel, but then I’ve heard some bad stories about number portability, so I shrugged the idea off.
When it was announced almost weeks ago that M1 (as well as Starhub) will be offering soon, I was quite excited but since I was holding on to a HTC Snap for less than six months, I wasn’t particularly set on it. However, when the price plans were revealed on Monday 7 December, almost everyone was abuzz about it. At that time, M1 led the competition with its bundled 10GB dataplan, after which Starhub upped the ante by raising it to 12GB, and M1 responded by matching the deal. Singtel announced revised price plans to entice its current subscribers. The competition is good, but for me I’m pretty much decided to stick to M1 and get the phone.
Going for the midnight launch was unplanned. Most people think it’s silly to sacrifice precious sleep when there’a absolutely no difference getting the phone at the midnight launch or at the retail outlets a few hours later. I contemplated for a while on Tuesday evening while staying back late at the office. I finally reasoned that due to my busy work schedule during the day (im doing logistics work by the way), the only time I can spend to get the phone is by sacrificing my own personal time, so in this respect, going for the midnight launch is ideal.
So at 10:45pm, I packed up and headed to Paragon to join the queue there.
The queue was snaky but it was not as long as I expected it to be. Standing at the doors of Paragon, the queue ahead of me curved around to the escalator at the walkway and spilled into the basement. From where I was at 11:00pm, there seemed to be less than 100people.
I joined the queue with two mistakes – I did not have a companion and I was carrying a haversack. Loaded with my laptop, cables and daily gadgets, it felt that it weighs about 10kg. Without a companion, I couldn’t take a break from the queue and tag a partner in. And standing for a long time with the load resting on my back and shoulders is going to be challenging. However, the greatest challenge was the humid weather. Even though it’s an hour away from midnight, the atmosphere was stuffy.
While counting down to midnight, hosts Rod Monteiro and John Klass (?) entertained the crowd with their quips and also broadcasting about M1 offers. There were performances on beatboxing and dances but I think they’re more entertaining to passers-by and those not in queue. While in the queue, I wondered sometimes whether I’m doing the right thing, but with every minute I spent, I told myself I’m not going to back out, especially when I looked back and see that the queue had stretched very far behind. In a way, I was lucky to reach before the sudden surge. There’s no way I was going to give up.
At different intervals, although the doors have not opened, I noticed that the queue moved a few inches. It looked that they shifted the crowd in and psychologically, this act of ‘moving closer and closer’ was encouraging. I managed to get a glimpse of faces who were ahead in the queue. I figured that when I see them getting out of the store, I would be able to gauge how long I would take. However, it led to a discovery later on which I felt was a huge drain of morale.
Finally, the clock strucked midnight and the queue moved a little faster. We heard from the hosts that there are 22 service counters operating at the same time. Within 15minutes from the midnight, I started seeing customers from the first batch of 22 counters walking out the basement.
Not bad. I might just get home before 2am. Little did I know that I was going to be utterly disappointed.
As we moved closer to the basement, I was greeted by another long queue towards the inner corners (opposite Starbucks) which branches back to the entrance of the basement (where M1 store is). What this means is as I stood in the queue, the familiar faces I spotted earlier were just standing beside me in the opposite direction. If he took that long, I realised that I was going to spend a longer time than expected.
On my left is Starbucks and that tall glass of Mocha ice blended seemed to be what I need to rejuvenate. But I was alone in the queue and also there were crowd officials around who would issue ticket counters to those who wish to leave the queue for a while, I didn’t want to give up the momentum. If I were to sit down now, I might just last longer than expected and I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize my position in the queue. I just want to get the phone, get home and rest.
Standing inside the basement was supposed to be cooling, but no. Either the aircon was not working (or turned off at midnight) or that the body heat from those before me had lingered in the air. The only thing that kept me energised was the music. Being alone, I had no one to talk to (which is a good way to pass time) so I looked around for something new to gaze upon. Most of my attention are fixed at the people lounging away at Starbucks, who seemed to be in a more relaxed state. There are a couple of children running around and I’m surprised to see them awake after midnight. While I’m sure this is the only night they can go crazy without being reprimanded, it’s sad to think that they are passing time just because their parents or accompanying adults are going after the iPhone.
Soon the hosts announced that it was 1am, and I was nowhere near to being served. The stuffy atmosphere is draining and my haversack feels heavier than ever. There’s a paper fan and a bottle of mineral water in the M1 goodie bag but what I needed most is a seat.
It was only around 1:30am when I got served at a preliminary counter. These staff helped to determine your eligibility so you don’t waste any more time in the queue if you don’t qualify for the upgrade. This is a good checkpoint but it is badly placed considering that you need to spend over an hour just to get to them. The other bad thing is they don’t seem to update their data frequently (or especially for a big launch like this). What happened was I had taken the liberty to contact M1 earlier on Tuesday morning to determine my eligibility and having found out that I have an outstanding payment over a closed account many years ago, I proceeded to make that payment at another M1 store before noon.
Unfortunately, this is not recorded in my profile and the M1 staff did not alert me first. Instead, he alerted his colleague or supervisor who had to run over to another counter to do something before informing me about it. I could not understand Mandarin so I couldn’t guess on what they were talking about. I thought they were checking on another matter not related to me. The second I was told about it, I pulled out a receipt showing that I had paid. They were speechless and proceeded to give me my queue number. But this whole process took longer than expected and I felt bad for those in the queue behind me. There were three staff manning this preliminary counter.
Because of the delay, I was given a later queue number and some of the people behind me had already gotten ahead of me. However I was glad that I’m able to take a seat now. With 22 counters serving at the same time, the queue numbers moved quite fast. In all, I waited for about 20 minutes before I was served.
One thing to have to take note is that M1 requires you to pay for your current subcription up to next month, so while budgeting for the cost of the phone, do factor this into your budget. It was quite an unpleasant requirement but I guess all telcos would do that.
The final disappointment is instead of waiting at your seat and making payment immediately, you are required to join another queue to make payment. At 2am, this was a challenge for me when I see another long queue that snaked out of the entrance of M1. Do you know why it’s so darn long? It’s because there’s only three staff manning the cash register. Compare that with 22 speedy service counters and you get an unbalanced management of crowd control. It was not encouraging to see those familiar faces ahead of me still in the same queue.
By the time I reached the counter, some of the accessories were out of stock. All I wanted was to make payment and get out of the store with my phone. I checked the time as I took the escalator up. 3:45am. As I looked out, there were some people in the queue where I started. Well, all the best to them.
I reached about about 4:15am and took a quick nap. Soon it was time for dawn prayers and around 6:34am, I was already leaving the house for work. It was a challenging day but I survived at the office. At least I managed to charge my iPhone while doing my work.