Today the technology press is buzzing in anticipation of Apple’s event where the company will announce the new iPhone. Bloomberg is calling it “Apple’s biggest event in years.” Reporters are lined up outside of the newly unveiled Steve Jobs theatre on Apple’s new $5 billion campus.
Apple Park is stunning, down to the fact that every part of every building is aligned to look perfect in the morning sunlight.— nilay patel (@reckless) September 12, 2017
But what about the everyday people wandering around a local Apple store?
I walked into one of Apple’s stores in Soho, the posh shopping district in lower Manhattan, about an hour after it opened. A few shoppers and employees wearing matching blue shirts wandered around the first floor where iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and Macbooks are mounted on wooden tables.
A man wearing a backwards hat and an olive Nike jacket approached one of the employees and inquired about purchasing a new iPhone. After being informed that prices could drop soon because the new iPhone is being announced today, the man wandered upstairs to the accessories section to think. I followed him and asked if he had known there was a new iPhone being announced today. “No,” he said.
“I'm not like a tech snob,” he told me. He paused, and looked as if he thought I might be offended. “Uh, I mean... I'm not that into tech, that's a better way to put it.”
The man was facing a classic conundrum: The iPhone he has had for three years is suffering from a failing battery, so he thought it was time to upgrade. Now, armed with the unexpected knowledge that a new phone is coming out, he was unsure of his next move. Prices for the iPhone typically drop by $100 shortly after the latest model is announced, and can drop even more when the latest model is released, usually a week and a half after the announcement.
“I don’t know man. I don’t know what to do. It’s so crazy.”
I asked the man what he would want in a new iPhone, which only led to more confusion. “I don't know man. I don't know what to do. It's so crazy.” He gazed up the translucent staircase in the center of the store.
This particular Apple store features a small theater on one end of the second floor, intended for sessions for customers like “Intermediate iPhone and iPad.” An employee told me they would be attempting to stream the event. The employee seemed optimistic. “We’ve never done it before, but it should be pretty cool.”
Another man, wearing a McDonald’s cap emblazoned with the “I’m Lovin It” slogan, was browsing the Museum of Modern Art website on a display iMac. I asked if he would be purchasing the new iPhone. He shrugged. “I'm not one of those people who needs to have everything when it comes out.” He then stepped away from the iMac and turned to face me. “The entire world is going to hell and there are a lot more important things to be worried about. Different people have different priorities.” I told him the high-end model of the newest iPhone will reportedly cost $1,000. “It just fell a lot further down my priority list,” he said.
I asked if the world was going to hell because Trump was president, and he explained it’s more because of politicians that say they’re going to fix the problems then do nothing. The man’s phone, which appeared to only send texts and make calls [this is called a feature phone —ed.], started ringing. “It’s not good,” he said to me before answering the phone.
I walked up to a man looking at iPads and asked him if he would be getting the new phone. “I’m in the market for an iPad,” he told me. He then gently stroked the iPad he had been considering, smiled, and quietly uttered “goodbye.”
I walked over to a man hunched over a table of Apple Watches. “It’s crazy. I won't be buying it.” I asked him why not. “I have no money,” the man said before putting his head down on the table.
“We are really proud of Tim.”
I approached an older couple on vacation in New York from Alabama. “My husband is so excited for the new phone,” she said as her husband nodded approvingly. Without hesitation, she began a long story. “You know, Tim Cook is where we are from in Alabama. We are very proud of Tim. He was added to an honorable list, and he gave a speech, and well, some people didn’t like it and got mad, but that’s because he spoke from the heart. He spoke about how gays were treated badly in Alabama. We are really proud of Tim.”
I asked a woman if she was excited about the new phone, she held up her hand, told me to “hold on,” and then walked away. Minutes later, her boyfriend approached me and asked “Do you have the iPhone 8?” I told him that it hasn’t even been announced yet. “I came here today to buy it,” he said. “If you have one, can I buy it from you?” I politely declined.
And what of the man in the backwards hat who had come to the store to replace his phone? He decided to wait and see if prices for current models dropped later that day and went home. I felt like the Apple Store employees had become suspicious of me wandering around the store for more than an hour without buying anything, so I left not long after.