Stores worldwide were gripped Friday by the now familiar scene of gadget geeks scrambling for Apple's latest smartphone, the U.S. giant's first new release since the death of co-founder Steve Jobs.
The iconic chief executive's death brought a more somber air than usual to some of the Apple shops celebrating the launch of the iPhone 4S, with fans laying flowers alongside the long queues waiting to buy.
The fresh loss of the iconic leader of Apple's cultish following was expected to help drive opening weekend sales into the millions.
Steve Wozniak, who started Apple with Jobs in a garage, camped out overnight at his local Apple Store in the California city of Los Gatos to be part of the iPhone 4S frenzy.
"I actually have iPhones delivered to my house, but I've gotten so used to loving to wait in line overnight," Wozniak told a local news reporter.
"The product has meaning... It is such an important part of life that I want to recognize it."
Wozniak triumphantly walked out of the Apple Store caressing a new iPhone 4S and promptly told the gadget's robotic assistant to ring up his wife.
"It did it right," Wozniak said. "I'm really happy already."
Apple users see themselves as an elite group, and their sense of community was boosted by the tributes for Jobs and by jokes about the debacle suffered by Apple rival Blackberry, whose mobile network was disrupted this week.
"This is my first time buying an iPhone," 22-year-old Nicole McClain said at an Apple Store in Washington, D.C.
"I think it's about to change my life," the college student continued. "I had a Blackberry, but it's so far behind."
In Frankfurt, scuffles broke out in the queue as shoppers camped overnight, while several of the most prized versions of the model sold out at dawn in Paris and more than 300 fans mobbed the brand's biggest store in London.
"I was the fourth one here to get the new iPhone!" boasted 20-year-old Anton Makhlov, a student from San Diego, California, in transit in Frankfurt waiting for his flight to his Russian homeland.
"I slept two nights in front of the Apple Store. It was OK. I had every generation of iPhone before, so I needed to get this one too. Besides, it is the last device from Steve Jobs."
Users say they love Apple's Macintosh computers, iPhones, iPods and iPads because they have changed the way consumers relate to technology.
"They are so intuitive," retiree William Regardie said of Apple gadgets as he bought an iPhone 4S in Washington.
"You put it in your hand and instinctively you know how to do it... It's like petting a pretty dog."
In some cases, the devices have changed lives.
"I used to work as a bin man, then I submitted an app that achieved success in 2009. Without Apple as a company, I would still be emptying dustbins," said Rob Shoesmith, 30, from Coventry in central England.
Awe of Jobs's achievement mixed with shock at his death.
"It did actually make me want the iPhone more," said 42-year-old forex trader Duncan Hoare. "I was devastated. He was Apple, the creativity he gave to Apple products is what made them."
In Paris, the Apple store had barriers in place to contain the crowds — a mix of both locals and tourists.
Friday's launch did not extend to all corners of the planet, but the phones themselves soon will. Brazilian tourist Ricardo was up at 5:00 am at the Paris store to be sure he could be the first to bring one home.
The party began at sun-up on the other side of the world, as hundreds queued outside Apple's flagship stores in Sydney and Tokyo, filming themselves on their iPhones as staff inside clapped, cheered and chanted.
"It feels amazing, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world so far," said Tom Mosca, 15, who was first through the door in Sydney after queuing for more than three days to snare an iPhone 4S.
"I did it for Steve Jobs as a tribute. I was very sad at his passing," he told AFP on the pavement outside, where flowers surrounded a picture of the Apple icon who died on October 5 at age 56 after suffering from cancer.
The iPhone 4S is already a record-breaker for an Apple product, with more than one million sales in the first 24 hours of pre-orders last week.
Bidding to build on the proven track record of the best-selling smartphone, Apple says the latest iteration boasts faster speeds, a voice-controlled assistant called Siri and an improved camera.
In Japan, service provider Softbank will for the first time no longer be the exclusive iPhone carrier as rival KDDI joins the fray.
"I met Steve for the last time in June," said Softbank president Masayoshi Son. "He looked thin but his eyes were sparkling, talking about his work with passion. Let's praise this great piece of Steve together."
Despite the fanfare, questions now hang over the future of Apple, with the spotlight on Tim Cook, who was made chief executive of the California-based company in August after Jobs's resignation.
The performance of the new iPhone will be seen as an early test for Apple's life after Jobs, the creative visionary whose death was mourned worldwide by government leaders, industry titans and ordinary fans alike.