The iPhone 5 is displayed at the Apple store on George Street in Sydney, Australia. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
(USA TODAY) -- Early iPhone 5 retail sales appear to be living up to the hype as Apple stores were inundated with customers ready to snap up the company's latest model.
PHOTOS | Long lines for the iPhone 5
Outside the Upper West Side Apple store in New York City early Friday, hundreds lined up around the block as blue-shirted Apple employees walked around the line, answering questions and handing out coffee and water.
David Lopez and his son, David, arrived on Wednesday at around 1:30 p.m. Their early arrival paid off: they held the first two places in line.
"I'm excited," said the younger Lopez, who turns 18 Saturday.
"I'm tired," said his father, who had suggested they wait in line together and get the phone to mark his son's birthday. They brought a cooler of food to sustain them during the wait. It included Doritos and Coke. The Lopezes, who live in Manhattan, also sustained themselves on burgers and fries from a local diner.
Some early birds were already leaving the store, holding up their purchases in victory. They're part of the cultural phenomenon of shoppers shamelessly engulfed in a retail love fest and sweaty urban camping experiment -- for the latest hot gizmo.
The ritual gathering at Apple stores worldwide was once again swelling in numbers as fans queued up at stores in the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore for the Friday sale.
Hundreds of people lined up outside Apple's Georgetown store in Washington, D.C., many cradling coffee cups, quilts and muffins.
Promptly at 8 a.m., the first person in line, Eric Breese, 19, a sophomore at George Washington University, entered the store with dozens of cheering Apple employees lined up on either side of him. The soul train continued cheering as several other customers entered.
"Being the first guy in the store is pretty exciting," said Breese, who had been in line 18 hours. "You have everyone looking at you, cheering you on. You feel like you're really part of something that's special."
About 10 minutes later, Breese emerged with a grin and a black iPhone 5. Using iCloud technology, he's already loaded his personal information on the phone.
"Getting my hands on a phone -- it's so light, so well constructed," he said. "It just feels good when I hold it. That says a lot about the build quality of the phone."
"I think everyone has something that they love, and for me and everyone else in line, it's technology and being part of this groundbreaking period where we're seeing technology change the way we live," Breese added. "It's really exciting."
Expectations are running high that Apple will sell tens of millions of the iPhone 5 within a few weeks, blowing past previous sales.
The early sales surge was expected to boost already red-hot Apple shares when Wall Street opens later Friday morning. Apple, which traded about $700 for the first time earlier this week, closed at $698.70 Thursday.
Lining up for first day purchase appeared to be a global phenomenon, with long lines formed at Apple stores in Australia and Japan. In Hong Kong, buyers had to sign up online for the chance to pick up the device at a preset time. According to the Associated Press, the first customers were greeted by staff cheering, clapping, chanting "iPhone 5! iPhone 5!" and high-fiving them as they were escorted through the front door.
At the flagship New York City Apple store, there was a line 60 deep at midnight, with people watching videos on iPads, relaxing under blankets and chatting with each other. At the Upper West Side store, an entrepreneurial man was just leaving the scene after selling $15 folding chairs to those who were originally sitting on the sidewalk.
Israeli Aviram Levy was at the Manhattan store to buy used phones. He says that he'll resell them on his website. Representatives from buybackworld.com are also soliciting for that firm by handing out pamphlets that say "we pay cash" for iPhones and smartphones.
About halfway down the line, Nicole Coffiel, 24, chatted with those around her. Each in the small group around her had arrived alone, but she said that they all bonded.
Coffiel said that the experience was fun, and that she came out to both get the new iPhone quickly and "to meet new people."
Earlier Thursday, lines were swelling in New York and San Francisco.
It's "bragging rights, you know, for friends and family," said Johnny Soria, 33, who took a spot in line at the San Francisco flagship Apple store on Wednesday at 11 p.m.
Last week, Apple took the wraps off its iPhone 5 -- thinner, lighter and bigger than previous models, with over 200 new features in its iOS 6 operating system.
Marine Sgt. Iggy McDonald began camping outside of an Apple store in Arlington, Va.,. on Tuesday.
"I've spent Tuesday night and last night here and I'm planning on spending tonight here as well," he said Thursday. "I've stood in line for all of the iPhones."
Those ordering the phone online now may have a three- to four-week wait for their purchase to arrive as demand exceeds current supply.
On Sept. 28, Apple will launch in 22 additional countries and the phone will be available in 100 countries by the end of the year.
(Laura Petrecca, Scott Martin and Gary Strauss, USA TODAY)