Every time Apple releases a new iPhone, excited consumers all around the world wait in line for days, braving wind and rain and obnoxious tech reporters in order to be among the first to purchase the year's hot gadget.
This year, however, a woman sent a robot to wait in line for her.
While Lucy Kelly sat at her home in Sydney, Australia, a so-called "telepresence robot" braved the actual lines in front of the Apple Store. The robot sat motionless, plugged into an outlet so that it did not lose power, broadcasting Kelly's face to the real, actual humans who endured the elements, and slept on concrete, and stared at their soon-to-be-obsolete iPhones for days on end.
"Kelly is meanwhile chilling in the warmth of her office," Mashable reports, "while her robot counterpart stands in the wind and rain…If all goes to plan, the robot will…purchase the iPhone without any human interaction."
Apple cannot let this happen: It should not sell a new iPhone to anyone who sends a robot to wait in line. This is cheating, and cheaters should not be rewarded. The Apple Genius who greets this robot should turn it around and point it straight to the exit. "Not in my house, robot. Next guest, please."
Since the iPhone's official release in 2007, waiting outside for a new iPhone has become something of a tradition: a stupid, meaningless tradition, yes, but a tradition nonetheless. Every September we get to shake our heads at the people who are huddled up on the sidewalk, sleeping in tents, relieving themselves on our streets, creating a general Pigpen-like cloud of stench in the areas surrounding Apple Stores, all in order to purchase a smartphone slightly earlier than they would have if they had ordered one through the internet.
Truly, this is a proud ritual of capitalism, and a reliable, regular pretext for non-early-adopters to feel smug, if only for a couple of minutes per year.
All of that is in jeopardy with this robot trick. If we start allowing Apple die-hards to send robots in their stead, the fun will be over, and the annual ritual will die. This has huge implications for other semi-depressing shopping events, from Black Friday mega-sales to basketball sneaker releases to Barnes & Noble appearances by reality show stars. All we will have left is the possibility that one of these robots gets stolen, or pummeled and mangled in Philadelphia.
But what is really at stake here is fairness: Everyone else in that iPhone line gave up their bodies, and their comfort, and some time at home with their families and their friends and their video game consoles to camp out for an iPhone. The woman who sent a robot to wait in her stead gave up nothing, and even got some publicity for her digital agency in the process.
iPhones are for humans, Apple. Please say no to this line-hopping, rule-breaking cheater of a robot.