Apple iPhone mania as a business model

The iPhone 6. (AP)
The iPhone 6. (AP)

New York - Manhattan's Fifth Avenue buzzes at lunchtime with businessmen scurrying to appointments, window-shopping tourists and women in designer clothes walking their Chihuahuas.

Nearly everybody is on the move, except for Jonah Wong. The 29-year-old sits on a camping chair near the entrance to the Apple store, where he has been for more than a week.

"I wanted to be to the first to hold the iPhone 6 in my hands," he said.

Lines began to form at Apple's New York flagship store days before the latest model was officially introduced on 9 September.

A record number of people started pre-ordering the latest Apple phone on Friday, the company said, without disclosing how many units it had sold online.

Advertising ploy

Wong and his friend Eduardo travelled from Hong Kong to New York and camped in front of the Apple Store on 3 September. The queue had already started to form when they arrived to stake out the fifth and sixth spots.

The battery company Ravpower sponsored his plane ticket and is also paying for his food. In return, Wong has to wear a green sweater with the company logo.

The advertising ploy seems to work. About every five minutes somebody stops and takes a picture of Wong.

Apple said the new phones would be in stores 19 September. Wong will have to sit tight for about another week before holding one of the coveted new gadgets in his hands.

For now, he says life on the street has been comfortable.

He bought a one-month membership with the YMCA so he could bathe, and the Apple store provides its restrooms for free. When the people waiting in line get hungry, one of them makes a run to the closest fast food joint, and that is why Eduardo's chair is currently empty.

"May I take a picture?" a tourist asks, sitting down and snapping a photo without waiting for a response. Wong grins.

'Business model'

"During the day we chat with a lot of people so we do not get bored. At night it is sometimes hard to fall asleep," he said, wrapping himself in a sleeping bag.

Hunter Kemp sits on a chair next to Eduardo's. The 25-year-old music producer from New York is not even an Apple fan.

"I want to sell my good spot in the line later on," he revealed.

A year ago, when the iPhone 5s debuted, the queue in front of the store snaked around the entire block.

"People are willing to pay a lot of money not to be at the end of the line. For $2 000, I am willing to up one of my seats," he said, pointing at his three chairs.

Jean Anacreon has a similar motive. The clothing vendor from Brooklyn has brought six chairs.

"I will keep one of the iPhones for myself and sell the other ones," he said. "In previous years, every customer was allowed to buy two phones. As soon as I get mine, I will get back in line."

Anacreon plans to make about $15 000 this way.

An older man wearing a designer suit stops in front of him.

"That is meschugge," the man said, when he finds out how long Anacreon has been waiting at the store already. He shakes his head and walks away.

The 23-year-old just laughs: "He calls it meschugge [crazy]. I call it a good business model."

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