It's been seven years since the launch of the first iPhone prompted pandemonium at stores around the world, and the promise of a bigger screen on its latest model meant the scene Friday morning was little different.
At Towson Town Center, hundreds waited off the premises in the wee hours of the morning Friday, until about 5:30 a.m., when a "stampede" broke out and phone-hungry shoppers overwhelmed security guards, scrambling to spots in line closer to the Apple store entrance, according to shoppers. At other retail stores, the waits were shorter but no less silly.
"It was like a party outside," said Shwetha Gupta, 25, of Timonium, who said she arrived at an AT&T Store on York Road in Timonium about 5:45 a.m. and was the 25th person in line.
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, slim and available in four colors, feature larger screens and longer battery life than earlier editions. Gupta said she just wanted a screen that wasn't cracked and couldn't afford to wait.
"I desperately needed a phone," she said as she left around 9:45 a.m., gray iPhone 6 in hand.
Preorders for the phones started Sept. 12, drawing more than 4 million requests in the first 24 hours, more than double the 2 million for iPhone 5s over the same time period two years ago.
Braden Myers, 26, of Hagerstown said he started camping out in his car in the Towson Town Center parking lot at 9 p.m. Thursday, hiding behind tinted windows from security guards who were kicking people off the premises.
About 5:30 a.m, a rush of customers crossing Dulaney Valley Road overwhelmed security and surprised Myers, who found 100 people ahead of him in line, despite his advance planning.
"All of a sudden, I hear yelling and screaming," he recalled about 10:30 a.m., as he continued to wait for an iPhone 6 Plus. "I just got overran."
But Myers, who has waited in line for Apple products before and maintains a blog called geekthief.com, said he would do it again.
"I'm a nerd, so I have to have it launch day," he said.
Limited stock, particularly for the larger iPhone 6 Plus, meant the model sold out at AT&T's Timonium store well before 10 a.m., when the shop typically opens. Customers peered hopefully into the back of a FedEx truck that arrived about 9:40 a.m., hoping for an emergency resupply.
Marta Rosado, AT&T's director of sales for Maryland and Baltimore, said she was not surprised by the demand.
"I've been doing this since the first iPhone launched in 2007," she said. "Every single year, it makes it so much fun."
At Towson Town Center on Friday morning, blue-shirted Apple employees swiped screens, checking on customer "reservations" and directing traffic, while at a nearby stand, three Microsoft employees chatted quietly among themselves, distributing information about Microsoft apps compatible with iPhone.