Be mine. 

Inside My IPhone Purgatory

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I woke up a bit before 4 a.m. in New York this morning, having planned to wake up shortly before 3 a.m. (which would have been shortly before 12 a.m. in California). Like bazillions of other mobile fanatics, I had carefully positioned myself to be ready when Apple's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were set to go on pre-sale. I planned to soon be skating across an outsize phone screen, swooning over extended battery life and attracting jealous glances from onlookers on the subway.

And then I overslept.


Had I slept through those alarms? Had I not set them correctly (or at all)? Had my measly iPhone 4S with a shattered back failed to alert me that it was time to choose his successor?

Most important: Had Apple already sold its entire inventory of the little goodies before I had a chance to bid?

I am blessed with two technophile brothers -- one older, one younger, one on the West Coast, the other on the East, and we had been in touch earlier to forestall disaster. Long before I fell asleep, my younger, 13-year-old brother sent my older brother and me a text message suggesting that we text the group if anyone saw the store open its digital doors. So began our cross-country vigil.

Eventually, I went to sleep.

When I woke up an hour after I intended to, I still couldn't get an open iPhone store on the Apple website. "Use the iPhone app," instead, texted my younger brother, who had already ordered (per a 3:27 a.m. text message) his 6 Plus.

I didn't have the app. Would there be enough space on my iPhone 4S -- on which I'd been deleting apps so that I could keep taking pictures -- to download it? Why was it downloading so slowly?

After I did manage to download the app, my order wouldn't seem to go through. The app (Apple's very own app!) crawled along and then failed. Finally, I got my order to go through on the app and ended up at 4:19 a.m. with only a "reservation" for an iPhone 6 (the same predicament in which my older brother had found himself).

"We have an iPhone for you," read the note on my phone's screen, beneath an image of my cherished, golden, beauteous iPhone 6. It later continued, "We can't reach the carrier systems to process your order, but we have reserved an iPhone for you." An e-mail from Apple about an hour later re-iterated: I had a reservation for my phone; when Apple could "reach the carrier systems," it would e-mail me. I would then have 24 hours to return to Apple's online store and finish my order. If I failed to do that, I was informed, my reservation would be canceled.

IPhone purgatory was a place of mental exhaustion, too. Apple used to be a company pretty well suited to indecisive people, like myself. Suddenly, on Tuesday, it gave me too many choices. Not like a how-much-memory-do-I-need or what-color-do-I-want choice, but a real choice: iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. Little or BIG.

My thought had initially been that I wanted the biggest, the newest, the best. So that was the iPhone 6 Plus. But it was so very PLUS. The New York Times' Farhad Manjoo told me I "would look fairly foolish trying to make a phone call" on it. Would I be able to run with that monster strapped to my arm? Would anyone refer to my phone as a "phablet" causing me to want to shatter my new prized possession into a trillion pieces?

On Thursday evening, David Harding, Bloomberg View's resident product guru, introduced me to the paper cutouts. Of course the Internet had thought of allowing you to print outlines of the phone sizes, so that you could cut them out and experiment with sad, flimsy replicas of the real things. So began far too much time during which intelligent people in my office, transformed into Apple's white collar guinea pigs, stared at little sheets of paper, held little sheets of paper in our grasping little hands, and tried slipping little sheets of paper into tight pants pockets -- all in the service of testing out prospective phone sizes.

Later, lacking David and his little sheets of paper, I made my own little sheets of paper. At home I tried to fit my little sheets of paper into my little purses. But the little sheets of paper could bend! Were they lying to me?

By the time I fell asleep I was kind of, sort of, probably leaning toward the iPhone 6. It would be a game time decision. But then I overslept, and my tardiness left little time to ponder once I was ready to order.

Wait. In the end, I had only "reserved" it.

No one had charged me for anything. I could still change my mind. The bigger -- better? -- badder? -- model was still in sight.

Well, no. Mr. iPhone 6 Plus, the Hummer of Apple's iPhone fleet, had quickly sold out (even if you size-hungry shoppers order it now, it will take up to four weeks to ship).

Today at work, I discovered that my older brother had simply gone on to the Apple website this morning and ordered the smaller, tidier iPhone 6, ignoring his reservation.

I did the same. It was light outside when I ordered my gold iPhone 6. I was spared anxious jousting with the iPhone 6 Plus because I wanted my device on Sept. 19, because after all I had woken up in the middle of the night to get my device by Sept. 19, and it turned out I didn't even need to do that to get my device by Sept. 19.

At 12:14 p.m. today, I received an e-mail from "" It told me "Thank you for your order."

Fifty-eight minutes later I received an e-mail from "" It told me, "We're ready to proceed with your iPhone order." I had until 9 a.m. California time on Sunday to complete my order. Did that really mean noon in New York? What a reasonable hour for purchasing a phone.

But I had taken matters into my own hands and bought a phone. The reservation didn't matter anymore.

For once, Apple, I beat you to it.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Zara Kessler at

To contact the editor on this story:
Timothy L O'Brien at