'Independent' journalist Jamie Lewis

Jamie Lewis uncovers the lucrative business of being at the front of the Apple store line

A woman poked her head through the outer shell of our tent. “Are you waiting for the new iPhone?” My companion’s response was emphatic: “No.”

I spent two nights on the cold pavement outside Apple’s Regent Street store with the hardcore queuers, camping out to be the first to get their hand on the highly-anticipated iPhone 5S, which goes on sale at 8am this morning.

Photos of queueing consumers have become a familiar part of the hype surrounding any Apple launch, usually accompanied by expressions of amazement at the devotion of the tech firm’s so-called “fanboys”, or derision at their willingness to give up days of their lives to get gadgets slightly earlier than their friends.

But my investigation, unscientific as it may have been, suggests many Apple queuers have just as much interest in making a quick buck as they do in exploring the iPhone 5S’s new features. The frenzy surrounding the launch offers plenty of opportunities for money-making – not least from selling your place in the queue to wealthier Apple devotees unwilling to spend days waiting in the September cold.  

The queue outside the flagship Regent Street store consists of two lines. Directly outside the Apple store is the first part, where the first eight people are allowed to queue. The second part lies a few dozen yards up the road and round a corner.

Apple privately hire out use of this road and its cycle lane in anticipation of queuers, the majority of whom arrive around 12 hours before the device is actually available. Those in the second queue are likely to receive the phone just a few hours after those at the front.

The first queue is where the money lies. A few people talk to the frontrunners, looking to get themselves a phone at a massively inflated cost. Rumours of a man who sold his seat as the frontrunner a few years ago for an astonishing £8,000 resonate in the ears of those nearer the Apple store’s doors.

One such “broker” offered a queuer £5,000 for two phones on the condition he did eventually manage to sell them. There was no money up front to be bartered for. Of course, he was turned down but more came with offers of money in the thousands to the select few nearest the store doors.

I was placed sixth in the queue, and was offered £500 to give up my seat 30 minutes before the store opened.

Beyond the actual phones, the number of other brands couriering free food was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Food from Greggs, Dominos, Nandos, Subway was shipped in. A drinks company had sent round two crates of their product. All in the hope that a press photographer would snap the queuers consuming their produce.

Noah Green, 17, the man at the front of the queue today, was wearing a bright orange shirt which advertises an app. He was paid a three-figure sum to get the brand some free marketing.

Two others, second and third in the queue, are running a liveblog for the Daily Mirror’s website on their progress. They are also getting paid.

The media will, as they do every year, label these people as fanboys to be shunned by society, because that’s what sells papers. From what I can see, they are simply young men that meet once a product launch to drink beer, discuss video games and make some money at the same time.