This is not intended to be a technology review of the iPhone 4 as the internet is now filled with such things and also what is becoming 'Ye Olde iPhone vs. Android Debate' during which people favouring the iPhone or handsets from various manufacturers which run using the Google provided operating system 'Android' argue with each other with an almost religious fervour about the pros and cons of each system. I do love iPhones but I am a fairly pragmatic fellow and think that any form of extremism is BAD, religious or otherwise.
Nevertheless, I too was quite excited about the prospect of getting my hands on the new iPhone. Gladys is probably more smitten with Apple products than I am, perhaps through seeing the way my iMac performs in comparison with her Windows 7 computer (we share a study) and was near-frothing with enthusiasm at getting them for us, which was great because I was busy at work.
Even though she is suffering from a tummy bug at the moment, she called the main O2 shop in the centre of Sunderland and was told there was a long queue and they were fast running out of phones. In the USA there are always reports of people camping outside Apple shops when new products are released.
There is another O2 shop situated in Seaham which is a small seaside town a few miles from where we live so she took herself there but even there a queue had formed which extended from the shop into the mall and almost to the pavement outside. It was a pleasant sunny day and there were plenty of people to chat to, so Gladys didn't mind waiting awhile.
It's at that point that things became interesting from a human behavioural point of view. People in the queue, united in common purpose but enjoying the sunshine, started chatting away with each other. Gladys was standing in line with a couple of local lads pictured here.
Seaham is quite a small, sleepy port town on the North-East Coast of England so doesn't have the hustle and bustle of the big city.
With the collapse of the traditional mining and other heavy industries it is being developed into a pleasant little coastal resort. The harbour is shown here.
After about twenty minutes, one lady spoke to Gladys and her new compatriots.
"What are we queuing for?"
"The new iPhone 4"
"What's one of those?"
"It's a new mobile phone from Apple"
"Are they giving them out for free, like?"
"No - you have to pay for them"
"Tsk - not interested then. Thought it must be summat for free or a bargain"
This happened repeatedly with people joining the queue, obviously without any idea what the queue was for, just on the basis that if there was a queue, there must be something at the end of it worth queuing for, perhaps a bargain or a free gift. Who knows?
Hours must have been wasted by passers-by that morning this who clearly had nothing more pressing to do. It highlighted the instinct of the herd and the strange British cultural propensity for forming queues, which other cultures don't seem to suffer from in such an extreme form.
It became quite a sport because the two characters pictured above started to gave a range of responses to questions from passers-by about the purpose of the queue. The one that seemed to stir the most response was:
"We're waiting for tickets to see Peter André"
"Oooh! Fancy that - I didn't know HE was coming to Seaham!!"
And so Gladys whiled away her morning. When she finally entered the shop and spoke to the O2 shop assistant, they tried to argue that we had to commit to a further two year contract (with much less favourable terms) as part of the conditions of the upgrade. Gladys argued, quite rightly that a contract is a contract and they can't go adding conditions into it will-nilly. They argued and argued but they had picked the wrong adversary in Gladys, who is a highly intelligent accountant with a good knowledge of contract law and a dogged insistence not to be out-done. Neither does she suffer the normal British reserve about haggling. In her eyes absolutely anything involving the exchange of money for goods or services is negotiable. (Sometimes I have to walk away because I can feel my toes curling).
As these discussions took place in the shop, more and more people started joining in. Eventually, after taking advice from the O2 Head Office on a number of occasions, the beleaguered hapless O2 staff had to admit they were wrong, although we had been given a similar story about having to commit to a new contract, as part of the upgrade, by other O2 shops. Perhaps it was some weedy ruse by O2 to take advantage of customers in breach of their own contracts, or a simple lack of competence and briefing.
I'm afraid that for me it has tarnished the reputation of O2 and as the iPhone 4 is not tied to a particular provider, I shall look more seriously at other providers as soon as the existing contract expires.
The upshot of all this is that Gladys emerged triumphant clutching a small carrier containing two iPhone 4s (box shown here - photo taken with iPhone)
This was waved at me joyously as soon as I returned from work and I must say that we have not been disappointed. It is a lovely thing to use and even just hold. I know it is just a tool but I do think it is crucially important to love and appreciate the essential tools you use in everyday life.
So, a good day for Gladys, me and a few O2 customers last Thursday in Seaham but a bad day for O2's reputation.