I was walking in Central Hong Kong today[~11/13/11], and on an elevated walkway, I saw a huge crowd camped out behind police barricades. TV cameras were everywhere, gangs of cops were talking into walkie talkies, and Central looked more trashed than I’d ever seen it. Thousands and thousands of people were milling about, the walkway was full of trash and tents and people sleeping on the street. For a moment, I thought I’d walked into an Occupy protest.
Nope! A couple thousand people were camping out for the launch of the iPhone 4S. The iPhone isn’t due to launch for two more days, and people already started camping out the night before, waiting in line to get an iPhone. Walking around, it felt a little like an insanely great version of the United Nations. Pakistanis, Chinese, Hong Kongers, Indians, Filipinas–people were coming in droves, sleeping in the street and waiting for their iPhone. But why? It’s just a phone. Could it possibly be worth spending a couple days crammed in a noisy Hong Kong sidewalk?
As it turns out, it’s absolutely worth it. These weren’t the apple fans who we see waiting in line at the San Francisco or New York stores. Everyone I talked to had one thing in common: they were going to resell their phone. The new iPhones are going for around US$750, and the various people I spoke to were sure that they could resell them for a $120 profit. Apple imposes a limit of two iPhones per person, but that’s a tidy 17% profit in two days. Everybody waiting in this line knows that the world wants iPhones, and they’re not about to let this opportunity slip away.