Harford County cell phone retailers big and small were preparing Thursday for a mad rush for the national release of the iPhone 5 early Friday morning.
The phone, which will cost between $199 to $399 depending on its gigabytes, was set to create another day of havoc for local phone outlets.
"This is like our Christmas," C.J. Nasuta, manager of the AT&T store in Bel Air, said Thursday afternoon.
He expected people to start camping out by the store, at Route 24 and Baltimore Pike, Thursday evening and said the business has typically gotten between 50 and 100 customers for the iPhone launches.
The phone will be carried by AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. The last launch, of the iPhone 4 version, was in 2010.
"Sometimes I have had people spending the night outside right about now," Nasuta said about 5:30 p.m. Thursday. "When we do sell out of phones, which I pretty much guarantee that will happen, we will do pre-orders."
Nasuta said he will go out to buy water bottles and granola bars for the iPhone enthusiasts to try to make them comfortable. He will also give out coupons so everyone will know if they will actually be getting a phone that day.
Like most other retailers nationwide, the Bel Air store will open at 8 a.m. for the release, two hours earlier than normal.
"Usually in the past years, everybody is really excited because they are getting their new toy and I pretty much tell everybody in the morning how many phones we have," he said.
He was "sort of" concerned, however, because he heard Apple already sold all of its pre-orders in the first hour.
"We have our entire staff in tomorrow morning in at 7 a.m. to prepare for the 8 a.m. launch," he said.
Nasuta said he would not know how many iPhones he would be getting until Friday morning, but another phone distributor, the Verizon store in the same shopping strip, had an idea.
That small Verizon store would be getting 20 pre-ordered phones on Friday, manager Matthew Musser said.
Musser said he has received a lot of calls about the phone and plans to be in the store "a little earlier" Friday.
"We definitely expect a lot of them," he said about customers, despite the pre-ordered phones. "We are getting right about . They give us a few extra based on how many pre-orders."
Unlike other phones, for the iPhone, "it's always a bigger release," Musser said. "I think it's going to be a little bigger rush than the other [releases] because it's 4G LTE. That's just significantly quicker."
LTE, or long-term evolution, is a standard for increasing the capacity and speed of wireless data networks.
According to Apple's website, the iPhone 5 will have an increased display screen, faster Internet speed, longer battery life and a more vibrant screen.
"Every phone that's out there, the iPhone has just a little bit better," Charlie Peacher, a sales associate at the Verizon store, explained.