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Scenes from the iPhone 5 launch in San Francisco (PHOTOS)

At the downtown San Francisco Apple Store, Charlie Hufnagel became one of the first in the world to buy the iPhone 5, which hits New Zealand retail stores on September 28.

But as with so much first-day iPhone sales lately, all was not as it seemed.

Mr Hufnagel told NBR ONLINE he had been paid $US1500 to hold an anonymous individual's place in the queue since Monday. The un-named person hired his queuing services through odd-job site, whose logo featured on his shirt.

He was a “sort of contractor for TaskRabbit", he said.

The gentleman he was holding a place for (pictured below) arrived at the very last minute and declined to give his name.

In any case, as TV crews and photographers milled around, it looked like great value publicity for TaskRabbit, and founder Leah Busque – whether or not it was a genuinely commissioned task or a jack-up.

ABOVE: Apple's crowd control techniques are not as advanced as its technology

ABOVE: First-in-line Charlie Hufnagel (left), the un-named man he turned his place over to, and an Apple Store staffer

NBR ONLINE asked one of two armed but laid-back policemen if Mr Hufnagel had been safe sleeping in his small tent outside the store all week. “Look around. People do it every night. It’s not a problem,” the cop replied.

As with any iPhone queue these days, there was an endless parade of food, drink companies and others, pushing product on waiting customers in the hope of a photo-op.

ABOVE: Apple Store staffer Cory Moll protests against his employer.

Apple Store staffer mounts protest
This being ultra-liberal San Francisco, however, there was also a protestor walking up and down the line – and what’s more, an employee at the Apple Store, which had around 100 staff on deck for the launch.

Cory Moll told NBR he was taking a stand in solidarity with his colleagues at Apple Stores in France, who wanted better pay and better conditions.

“Of all things, they don’t have the ability to refresh during the day. They don’t have bubblers [water coolers] in their stores.”

Asked about his employer's reaction to his protest, Mr Moll said: "They haven't said anything. I know my rights."

ABOVE: All of the people in this photo are Apple Store floor staff

ABOVE: Despite booming online sales, a crowd of around 1000 gathered before the iPhone 5 went onsale at 8am. UPDATE: At 7pm people still had to queue to get in the door. There's probably something Yoobee can learn from this. Like, be owned by Apple

ABOVE: Straight from central casting: the boys in blue told queue jumpers to get to the back of the line

ABOVE: The media scrum (and this was a secondary Apple store, not the flagship one in the area).

Those queuing were plied with free snacks by Apple staff, and many feebies from vendors looking to piggyback on the publicity

More by Chris Keall

Comments and questions

Will Cory Moll get fired?

Meh bought a samsung, its several generations ahead even if Apple are trying to screw another US$750k out of Samsung

A great battle continues across the technological corporate landscape. Whoever wins this battle could dictate the role computers play in the foreseeable future. The arsenal on both sides includes hardware, software and the power of the Internet. It hasn't been pretty, and it's likely to get even uglier.On one part of the battlefield is Microsoft, a corporation founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen. In June 2010, Microsoft was trading at $26 a share on the NASDAQ and its market value was $227 billion [source: Wolfram

Samsung hands down! Apple has run out of ideas.