SingTel iPhone 3GS Launch Event

SingTel - Apple iPhone 3GS

I came, I queued, and I bought my iPhone 3GS.  Yes, feel free to label me an Apple fan boy – I’ve been one ever since owning my Powerbook G4 back in 2003.

It took me another 7-odd hours of waiting in line before I reached Counter 7 at the temporary tentage next to the stage and cradled my new toy in my hands.

Upgrade penalty of S$600 less S$300 + S$138 (for 32GB) = S$438 + 24-month re-contract

Apparently, the reduced upgrade penalty of S$300 was a mistake – a case of miscommunication within SingTel.  A site manager had to complete a requisition/variation order form to ‘honour’ the purported claim by their 1626 customer service line.   I might be one of the lucky few who got away with murder.

Earlier in the day, I had called SingTel’s 1626 hotline to enquire about rumours of a cheaper upgrade penalty after catching whiff of it on Lester’s blog post, and was heartened to hear an affirmative from the SingTel call centre staff.  I had an appointment earlier that evening, and rushed down right after.  Everyone was parking their vehicles illegally, and even though I’m sure SingTel had done their part so that the Traffic Police would turn a blind eye to all parking offences in the vicinity over these 3 days of the launch, I wasn’t going to take my chances.  By the time I found a sufficiently legal lot in one of the side streets along Killiney Road and made my way to the start of the incredulously long and winding queue, it was already 8.45pm.

I’d gone ill-prepared – I’d sold my iPhone 3G the night before, and had nothing on me apart from a beat-up Nokia brick phone and my pre-registration print-outs.  There was absolutely nothing I could do while waiting in line, so I ended up chatting with the chaps before and after me.  In the process, I realized the majority of folks who were in line were soon-to-be first-time owners of the iPhone; a passing SingTel Launch event staff chuckled it was probably because they couldn’t bear to go on waiting for another year in vain for M1 or Starhub to reach an agreement with Apple.  The rest of the times when we weren’t talking – I simply stared into space and zoned out.

People who were further ahead in the queue had the fortune of being entertained by the performances at the stage.  While SingTel was nice enough to provide us with an endless supply of bottled water, ice cream, cakes and junk food, I’d much rather they provided each of us a field chair to sit on.  Queue-cutters also made occasional appearances amongst the crowds in a feeble attempt to leapfrog ahead of a never-ending stream of human bodies.

Given SingTel’s experience from organising last year’s launch event, I’d have expected shorter waiting times.  That was really the only area which disappointed me the entire night.  I suspect SingTel probably found it easier to hold it at a central location to create greater buzz and hype, and would never consider distributing iPhones through its extensive network of Hello! shops.  Here’s my suggestions for a future (and inevitable) iPhone 4G launch event so that our calves and thighs can be spared:

  1. Give us welfare where it matters the most – i.e. hand each customer a goodie bag with an accompanying collapsible field chair.  I really don’t care very much for mini cakes with ‘2x’ and ‘3GS’ on them, or junk food that only made me more thirsty after I was done with them.
  2. Streamline the registration, phone pick-up and payment process. The teenage girl that serviced me took 30 minutes to hammer the system into submission, photocopy my particulars and catch the attention of her manager to resolve my inquiry on the S$300 v.s. S$600 upgrade penalty.  During that time, I looked around and did a quick and dirty sample.  Average serving time was about 10 – 15 minutes.  Some service staff were also spending time teaching customers how to use their phones.
  3. Take care of your loyal customers – give priority to customers who have queued at all the previous iPhone launch events in Singapore; we groupies will definitely be re-contracting, which makes SingTel’s paperwork much easier.  All I had to do was to digitally sign 3 documents, which barely took over a minute.  SingTel already had my particulars.  The rest of my 29 minutes at Counter 7 was spent waiting.  I didn’t understand why I had to wait in line together with the rest of the first-timers. Maybe it’s because I’m already a subscriber with a contract – I’m guessing they’d be better off serving subscribers who were churning from the other 2 mobile operators?
  4. Have better iPhone accessories ready and available – instead of trying to run the accessories part themselves, invite vendors/partners to pick up the slack.  I was disgusted with the limited range of accessories on sale and left without spending a single cent, despite having a S$30 voucher.

About James Chan

James Chan is an entrepreneur, investor, geek, photographer and husband/father based out of Singapore. Apart from frequent travels to Vietnam, Myanmar and Indonesia for work, James can also be found online via his trusty 15" Retina MacBook Pro or iPhone 6+.