Apple has a very faithful customer in Marius Chirita, 40, from Bucharest, Romania, who on Friday became the first person in Washington, D.C., to own the new iPhone 5s after waiting in line for 27 hours at the Apple Store in Georgetown.
"I have all of the Apple products except for the MacBook Pro desktop," he says.
Chirita was worried that he might have to wait until December to buy the iPhone 5s before it became available for retail store purchase in Romania. The iPhone 5s is expected to be in short supply worldwide for this weekend's launch, and Apple might sell 5 million to 6 million units of the new iPhone 5c and 5s this weekend, according an investor report by Gene Munster, an Apple analyst at Piper Jaffray investment bank. The iPhone 5s became available to customers at 3:01 a.m. EST, and mailing orders could already be backlogged more than 10 days for delivery.
Zak Newman of the Woodley Park neighborhood reads a book while waiting in line in Georgetown.
Apple could not be reached for comment.
After finishing a business trip in Washington for the major U.S.-based vacuum cleaner company he works for, Chirita saw the opportunity to buy the phone on Friday, so he canceled his flight back to Romania to stay for the launch and started waiting in line next to the Apple Store in Georgetown at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
"I went up to the Apple Store employees and told them I wanted to wait, so they were very nice. They held my space and knew I was waiting," Chirita says.
Two more iPhone fans, boyfriend and girlfriend, joined him at 6 p.m. on Thursday. By 10 p.m., about 20 of the Apple faithful had gathered on the sidewalk in the Georgetown neighborhood, with sleeping bags, protein bars and iPads to keep them ready through the night for the latest creation from Apple. When the store opened at 8 a.m. on Friday, more than 200 people were waiting excitedly in a line that stretched around the block. The crowd included students in hoodies and businesspeople in suits.
Apple employees prepare to open the store in Georgetown.
During the night, Chirita says he went across the street to buy pizza and water for the couple waiting in line behind him, creating enough goodwill with his new friends that he could step away from the line occasionally knowing that his space was safely waiting for him. As a true Apple fan, Chirita spent most of the night watching shows including "Suits" on his iPad mini.
At dawn on Friday police lined up to make sure things went smoothly, as they did in other cities around the world, anticipating a rush to buy the phone this weekend. Apple Store Genius Bar employees also went through the line, thanking people for waiting by offering coffee and doughnuts while giving customers tips on how to order while inside the store to allow the line to move along quickly.
Hundreds of customers formed a line in Georgetown, which stretched around Dumbarton Street.
After 27 hours of waiting the moment came at 8 a.m., when the doors opened and Chirita walked with a big smile on his face past a line of cheering and applauding Apple Store employees up to the desk where he bought the new iPhone 5s. The Apple Store limits people to two of the latest phones during a launch weekend, so he bought a second iPhone 5s for his wife. Chirita also waited in line in September 2012 at an Apple Store in Tucson, Ariz., to buy the original iPhone 5.
Apple's iPhone 5s has a faster processor than the iPhone 5, and has new features including an improved camera and a fingerprint scanner to lock and unlock the phone without a password. The iPhone 5s is available for $199 with a wireless contract, and the iPhone 5c is available for $99 also with a wireless contract.
Google's Android phones are the chief competitor for Apple's iPhone series, but Chirita said he's going to stay with the iPhone because the browsing is simpler, and he enjoys the new iOS 7 system experience that was released for download on Wednesday. Google stepped up the software compatibility appeal of its phones on Thursday by announcing that it would make QuickOffice available for free, allowing Android and iOS users to edit Microsoft Office documents.