Toronto iPhone Launch Event: Elation and Disappointment

Last Friday morning, iPhone 3G launch day, I caught the earliest commuter train into Toronto and arrived at the Rogers “designated” Toronto iPhone launch store about 30 minutes before opening at 8 a.m. A lineup of about 150 to 200 potential customers (awaiting what turned out to be 100 units with a cap of 2 per customer) who had endured a massive downpour about an hour earlier and been served a “breakfast” of a granola bar and orange juice. Ironically this store occupies the location of what was, at one time, Canada’s largest record store (Sam The Record Man) which went out of business a few years ago due to the Internet’s impact on music distribution.

During the wait I had the opportunity to interview Jordan Brown, (left) a 16-year-old high school student, who had arrived at 4 p.m. the previous afternoon to be first in line, and Robert Cowley, an auctioneer and Mac fanatic, who joined Jordan 45 minutes later once he saw that a lineup was forming. Jordan had been following the original iPhone activity for the past year but did not join the crowd who went to the U.S. to get an unlocked iPhone. This would be his first Rogers wireless account; he decided to acquire an iPhone as a result of the service plan changes announced by Rogers two days earlier. His reasons for wanting one included the browsing experience and the App store. But at a broader level he was keen to explore all the features. Robert was a long time Mac aficionado who wanted to extend his Mac experience to a mobile device. He had heard rumors about limited supply and high demand so wanted to ensure he acquired one on the launch day. In his case he was going to move the Rogers account for his Blackberry Pearl to the iPhone.

About ten minutes prior to the launch the media were allowed into the store to take up positions prior to the opening. (Blogger credentials helped here.) There were seven agents ready to take orders and Steve Krecklo had been designated to take the first order. Surrounded by at least forty video cameras, Steve patiently waited as the time approached. At the store opening, Jordan arrived and was overwhelmed by the media. He was interviewed live for Canada AM – CTV’s national morning show and CITY-TV’s Breakfast AM – a “local” station. The most popular question: “whom would he make his first call to?” “My friend who chided me for wanting to wait so long to get an iPhone.” An iPhone package appeared; Steve opened it and gave it to Jordan while he set up Jordan’s account. As shown to the right above, more media madness ensued!

Finally Jordan was able to make his call — and got voicemail! Another call got him through to a friend with whom he talked about his experience. Meanwhile Rob was completing his purchase and activation of two iPhones, one to replace his Pearl 8100 and the other for a friend. I actually witnessed the moving of his SIM to the iPhone. Another Rogers rep was taking the time to walk Rob through all the details of his service agreement. In a subsequent interview with Rob (for which a new N95 user interface for Qik.com resulted in not getting Qik.com’s video streaming working) he pointed out that (i) he viewed his iPhone as a mobile extension of his Mac and (ii) he would have acquired an iPhone even under the initially proposed Rogers service plans. It was certainly clear that Rob was a Mac fanatic who was well acquainted with its differentiating features. I hope to do a follow up interview with Rob once he has a few days’ experience with it.

During all this activity I was reporting the activity via Twitter4Skype using iSkoot on my Blackberry; I also was seeing reports of iBricks when previous iPhone users attempted to upgrade to the iPhone 2.0 software.

At that point it was time to move onto my next appointment. Outside, more media were interviewing Jordan after he left the store. There was still a lineup of about 75 being entertained by Rogers personnel handing out Rogers umbrellas (yes, it was raining again) and Rogers “I was at the launch” T-shirts. But, as later reported:

  • This primary launch location only had 100 iPhones (80 8GB, 20 16GB) and was soon sold out. The following morning I visited my local Rogers Plus store which had only received 13 units that were sold out in the first hour (and left a line-up of potential customers disappointed). They had no indication of when they would be restocked (other than maybe on their normal Thursday restocking day).
  • There were no reports of “rain checks” for those who had persevered under not the best weather conditions.
  • Rogers had eventually encountered the worldwide activation problems reported elsewhere.

My Facebook Photo Album for this event with more details.

Tom Cross: iHate my iPhone because it’s iDead. Hat tip to Andy who also reports that Bastille Day celebrations possibly delay the iPhone launch in France.

To follow: Learnings from the Canadian iPhone 3G Launch.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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