Outside Apple (AAPL) stores across the Bay Area on Friday morning, fans of Apple and their mobile products were like children on Christmas morning, with a mixture of excitement and exhaustion building from camping out -- sometimes for multiple days -- to be one of the first to get their hands on a new iPhone 5.
At the Westfield Valley Fair shopping center in San Jose, more than 300 people were lined up by 7 a.m., with the queue stretching 200 yards outside the door to the mall. Apple Store employees passed out Krispy Kreme doughnuts to the fans, some of whom had stayed overnight for the chance to get their hands on the device as early as possible.
First in line were Emma Harris, 56, of Morgan Hill, and her daughter Elizabeth Chapman-Arata, 29, of San Jose. They arrived at 8 a.m. Thursday. in a practice developed for every iPad and iPhone launch since 2007, Harris said.
"I have to have it. This is Silicon Valley," Chapman-Arata, who uses her smartphone for work at an insurance company in Cupertino, said of the iPhone 5.
Through the night, they watched TV and listened to music on an iPad "and just kind of hung out" while staying inside the mall. Carl Sarmiento, 25, of San Jose, arrived at 1 p.m. Thursday for his second overnight adventure in search of a new iPhone. He uses the device to take notes and do research in his studies at San Jose City College.
Why does he want he new iPhone bad enough to sleep overnight to get it as early as possible? "The new features, new looks, girls dig it," he said.
As the store prepared to open for business, dozens of employees wearing blue T-shirts emblazoned with the Apple logo loudly began a 10-second countdown. Then, when the clock struck 8 a.m., one of the workers leaned out the front door toward the waiting customers and said, "Are you guys ready?" A cheer went up and the crowd was ushered inside in small groups to ogle the new phone and pull out their credit cards.
In San Francisco, the line at the Apple Store on Chestnut Street wrapped around the block to Steiner and Lombard, and an observer used a bubble machine and a homemade string device dipped in a bucket of suds to send bubbles flying around the line.
Julianne Paulsen, 24, and Joe Bourque, 30, both of San Francisco, waited overnight with a giant Teddy bear bigger than Paulsen, but she only got 20 minutes sleep due to the excitement. While Bourque plans to sell the phone he buys on Craigslist and keep his cracked Samsung Galaxy, Paulsen wanted to have her new iPhone before she left on vacation this weekend.
She "is super stoked about having FaceTime on my iPhone everywhere I go," she said.
The newest iteration of Apple's popular smartphone launched Friday, more than a week after CEO Tim Cook and other executives detailed the new features at a San Francisco event. The iPhone 5 is the fastest, largest and lightest smartphone Apple has introduced, with the screen expanded from 3.5 inches to 4 and 4G, or LTE, capability.
Online pre-orders began last Friday, and it took only an hour for arrival dates to begin being pushed back as Apple shattered its own record with 2 million pre-orders in the first 24 hours of availability. Combining pre-orders and purchases at brick-and-mortar stores, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster predicted this week that Apple will sell a minimum of 6 million iPhones through the weekend, with 10 million a possibility.
Californians are some of the last to get their hands on the device, despite being closest to Apple's home of Cupertino, as sales rolled out at 8 a.m. local time across the world.
Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak went to Australia, ostensibly to give a speech and attend a concert, but also to get his hands on an iPhone early.
"Well, this is the place where the iPhone 5 is being released to the world for the first time in the world, and I don't have to wait 17 extra hours to get it in California," he told Canadian news source CBC as he lined up to wait at a Queensland Apple store.
As many Californians were just getting off work Thursday, Wozniak purchased two 64GB iPhone 5 devices in black and white, calling them "beautiful" but saying he was going to reserve judgment on the upgrade until he had time to play with the device.
"I want to use it for a while -- not half an hour, not a day. I want to use it for at least a week to see if it seems quicker and more responsive," Wozniak told the Los Angeles Times. "It's hard to imagine because my current phone works so well already."
Wozniak is the most famous perpetual line-sitter when it comes to Apple product debuts, but he is far from alone, as the practice has become so common that scientists have paid attention, and been baffled.
"We've never seen anything like this before," Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Digital Business, told Bloomberg News. "It used to be that with tech products the nerds got them, obsessed about them, and talked about them, and the cool kids wanted no part of that conversation. That's just not true anymore."
Part of it's just business, however -- companies paid the first 11 people in line in Sydney more than $200 a day to promote their businesses, and hundreds of people agreed to be paid to hold places in line across the United States on TaskRabbit, an online meeting place for odd jobs and tasks.
Those not being paid for their wait are just fans of Apple devices, however, or fans of being interviewed. Yasin Okan, or Okan Yasin, was quoted by reporters from Bloomberg and Reuters as he stood in line for 17 hours outside an Apple store in Frankfurt, Germany, despite being among at least 1,000 waiting.
The musician and imitator held a sign saying "Ich Bin Nummer 1," and had memorable and different quotes ready for both news sources
"There is nothing cooler than being the first. Now I am gonna go home and unpack it slowly and with joy -- this is gonna be better than sex," he told Bloomberg.
"I just need to have it. I know that the new iPhone from a new features perspective hardly has anything extra to offer. But I just needed to be here. It's the hype, man!" he told Reuters.
More common was the statement from Hidetoshi Nakamura, 25, who listened to his iPod and read a book while waiting in a two-block-long line in Tokyo.
"I love Apple," he told The Associated Press. "It's only the iPhone for me."
Mercury News wire services contributed to this report. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/mercbizbreak.