The survival guide to waiting in line for iPhone 6

line at apple store over night

We’re almost there, folks! After months of rumors, speculations, and leaks from “sources familiar with the matter,” iPhone 6 will be launching tomorrow Friday at 8am. For many of us, this is arguably one of the most exciting days of the year. If you have pre-ordered your iPhone 6, then you’ll likely be waiting for it from the comfort of your home, or maybe it will just be waiting for you at the door when you come back from work.

But for those of us who haven’t pre-ordered and opted to get in line to pick up an iPhone 6, some decisions have to be made, and a game plan has to be drawn. Today, I’ll share with you some of the things I’ve learned from waiting in line for an Apple product several years in a row. This is not rocket science, but it might as well be.

Apple Store, retailer, or carrier store?

The first thing you must figure out is where you’ll be getting in line. The Apple Store usually appears as the safest bet, but it is also where most people go, guaranteeing to have a line longer than any other location selling iPhones. From my experience, getting in line at the Apple Store is the worst idea because everybody goes there. Sure, you’ll be with like-minded people who share your love of Apple, but this isn’t the main goal. The main goal is to get home with an iPhone as soon as possible. If that is your goal too, you’d probably be better off waiting anywhere but at an Apple Store.

Several retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart, Target, etc, will also open early to allow customers to grab an iPhone 6. While those stores usually have a shorter line than the Apple Store or carrier stores, they also usually have much less inventory, which means you could be waiting in line for a few hours, just to be told that they’re out of stock minutes after opening their doors. If it’s a risk you’re willing to take, a retailer store is not a bad place to wait.

Your last option, and definitely my favorite, is to wait in line at your carrier’s store. Carriers have much less people queuing up in front of their stores, and they usually have larger inventory than retailers, making it one of the safest options to get an iPhone 6. My advice is for you to search carrier stores around you and locate one that is in a not too busy area. One more reason to wait in line at your carrier’s store is that if there is a problem with your line for whatever reason, they’ll be the only one able to help you (Apple and retailers won’t).

Scout the area

Let’s assume you’ve decided where you’ll be waiting in line. For the purpose of this post, I will be taking the example of me deciding to wait in line at my local AT&T store.

The next step is to start scouting the area by driving by on a regular basis the day before the launch to make sure not too many people are lining up. For the launch of iPhone 5s last year, I must have drove by the AT&T store a dozen times the night before just to make sure no one was in line yet. If there were people there, I would have probably thought my plan over and looked for a different location.

If you don’t want to burn a tank of gas just by driving around the parking lot, at least make sure to drive by the store at about 8pm the night before. You’ll see if there is any activity there. If there is, decide what you want to do: you can either find a better location, go home and get up early, or camp there.

Getting up early vs camping

Now you have two simple options. You may decide to go home and sleep though the night, and set an alarm to wake up early. Or you can decide to camp in front of the store. The decision might be dictated by the amount of people already in line.

If you drive by the night before and see no one in line, it might make sense to just go home, sleep and get up early. If that is what you’re going to do, make sure you set an alarm early. I’d suggest setting an alarm for 4am at the very worst. Obviously, the earlier you go, the better your chances. This being said, my plan for last year was to get up early, but when I got in bed, I was so excited about the launch of iPhone 5s that I couldn’t fall asleep. I then decided to go wait at the AT&T store at about midnight.

Of course, if there already are people in line, and you feel like camping, sleeping in front of the store could prove to be a very effective solution as you’ll pretty much be guaranteed a top spot. This is pretty hardcore, but as I always say, “you gotta do what you gotta do”.

Bring comfort

Whenever you decide to go get in line, you have to be prepared to wait for a while, which is why you have to make sure you bring every possible piece of comfort with you. Camping chair, blanket, pillow, sleeping bag, ear plugs are some of the basic items you should load in your car. If like me you want to take it a notch further, bring a lounge chair. You’re going to be there for a while so you might as well be comfortable.

Comfort isn’t only found in physical items. Because you’re going to be out there for a while, you should make sure you have plenty of water and food with you. Sandwiches, snacks, water (and a beer or two) should be in your survival bag.

Bring the power

As part of your comfort plan, you should make sure that all the electronic devices you’ll bring along with you are fully charged. It’s going to be a long night (or day), so it would probably be wise to also bring a portable battery pack along to recharge your devices if necessary (I use this one).

Make friends

You likely won’t be the only person in line, so this is the occasion to make new friends. Again, it’s going to be a long night and the only way to make the best of it is to embrace and enjoy every moment, no matter long each moment might seem to be.

If the people around you are in line too, it’s because they love Apple products, just like you. Engage in conversations with them. Interact with them. The later it gets, the more tired you are, which means the less sense conversations will make. It’s actually fun! No matter what you do, please, oh please, don’t be that guy who’s just refreshing his Twitter feed all night to avoid physical human interaction with others.

In and out

Before the store opens, employees might be able to give you a tip about what they have in stock. They won’t tell you the exact numbers, but they could tell you they have more silver than gold iPhone 6 for example. This is important information that might dictate your final decision.

Because you’ll have so many hours to think about it, you should know exactly what model, finish and storage option you want as soon as you get in the store. This is of course assuming that there is plenty of stock for each model. You should also have a backup option just in case they don’t have the specific iPhone you want.

If you play your cards right, you could be in and out of the store in 10 minutes.

What’s your plan?

What I described above are simple common sense tips that I hope will help you find the right spot and be in a comfortable situation where waiting for hours won’t be that bad. At the end of the day, only you can make the decision about where you’ll be waiting in line, what time you’ll get there, and how the waiting time will pass by.

Waiting in line for an iPhone is a privilege that the vast majority of this planet will never be able to experience. Make the best of it. Have fun. Hey, you’re getting an iPhone!

Now what’s your game plan? Make sure you share your tips with us.