The scene at the Mall in Columbia was something akin to the Christmas shopping season, but for Apple fans, the holidays had come early with the release of the much-anticipated iPhone 5.
Every space in the second-floor parking garage between Macy's and Lord & Taylor was occupied. Inside, hundreds of people waited in line outside the Apple Store, many of them using their phones and iPads.
The first person in line said he had been waiting in line since 3 p.m. on Thursday. He spent the night outside the mall before the doors opened this morning at 6 a.m. The Apple Store opened its doors at 8 a.m.
"It's been a long day," he said minutes before the store opened. "Hopefully it will be worth it."
With a four-inch retina display, a new panoramic camera and the iOS 6 operating system, the iPhone 5 is billed by Apple as the "thinnest, lightest, fastest iPhone ever." It has a baseline cost of $199.
Meanwhile, about 30 people lined up outside the Verizon Store on Snowden River Parkway in the brisk hours of early morning, with store manager Joe Janusziewicz pumping up the group in the minutes before the store's opening.
"Alright, we are good to go," Janusziewicz said at 8 a.m., opening the doors.
Janusziewicz said people had started forming a line to buy the new iPhone "early," and the fifth person in line said he had arrived at 5 a.m.
Let into the store in small groups, the line had disappeared around 20 minutes later. By 8:30 a.m., store employees were ripping up the electrical tape on the sidewalk placed to indicate where the line should form.
Slowly, they emerged from the store, triumphant.
The new phone was Emojevwe Sowho's first iPhone. The 25-year-old student at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is a recent convert from the Blackberry, and initially, he was overwhelmed by the iPhone 5.
"I don't even know where to start," said Sowho, of Silver Spring. "I had a Blackberry, but I was looking for something faster, something more in this era."
Sowho said he wasn't sure yet how he felt about his purchase. He knew the iPhone 5 was lighter than previous models, but wasn't sure if that was to its benefit.
"It looks sleek, though," he said.
With Sowho was Bellah Morfaw, who accompanied his friend to provide emotional support.
"Yeah, you could call it that," said Morfaw, 24, of Lanham. "It's all foreign, like another language to him. I'd help him (learn the ins and outs of the phone) but he needs to learn it on his own."
Morfaw already has an iPhone 4S, the previous model, and had an iPhone 4 before that. Eventually, he'll get an iPhone 5.
"Definitely," he said. "It's only a matter of time."
When Dana Molyneaux, of Elkridge, got to the Verizon Store at 6:55 a.m., she was thirteenth in line. She had no problems getting to the store that early, she said — she's an early riser for work — and while she's never stood in line for a phone before, this was the time to do it.
"I've had an iPhone before, and it was time for an upgrade," she said. "And, I wanted to switch back to Verizon (Apple had an exclusive carrier deal with AT&T until 2011)."
Besides, Molyneaux said, she's a "crazy Black Friday shopper," so waiting in line for an iPhone paled in comparison.
She emerged from the store about two-and-a-half hours later, iPhone 5 in hand and beaming.
"It's wonderful," she said. "It's the best phone out there."
Stan Rappaport contributed to this article.