Call it a phone-omenon.
As many as 200 customers were camped outside the Apple Store in Polo Park Friday morning -- some literally camped beginning on Thursday afternoon -- to be first in line for the iPhone 5.
Ravdin Rampersad, 37, and two friends were the first to queue up at 1 p.m. Thursday, and braved temperatures that fell to near freezing overnight.
"It was pretty chilly, but we had some blankets, coffee... and Chinese food," said Rampersad, who was also first in line for the unveiling of the iPhone 4 at the same store two years ago. "I didn't want to risk the tradition. I wanted to be here first."
When Rampersad, along with wife, Celena, and friend, Joel Chandran, were let into the mall at 6 a.m. Friday, staff at Apple said, "Hey, Ravy."
The smartphone was also launched in the U.S., Great Britain, France and Germany. It will go on sale in 22 more countries next week. The iPhone 5 is thinner, lighter, has a taller screen, faster processor, updated software and runs faster fourth-generation mobile networks than previous models.
Order numbers indicate the iPhone 5 has overcome initial lukewarm reviews. Apple received two million orders in the first 24 hours after announcing its release date, more than twice the number for the iPhone 4S in the same period when it launched a year ago. Analysts have estimated Apple will ship as many as 10 million of the new iPhones by the end of September.
By 3 a.m. Friday, the line at the Winnipeg outlet was approaching 100.
"Love them or hate them, you can't deny that Apple knows how to build the hype," said Bradley Lacroix, 24, an IT programmer. "You don't see lineups like this at Samsung."
Lacroix and his mates, 21-year-old computer program student Jared Mariash and 18-year-old university student Lindsey Watson, survived the night in a little tent. "And snuggles," Watson said.
"Honestly, this is about the experience for me," Mariash said. "This is fun to say we did it."
Naturally, those in the lineup passed away the time on their iPhones and iPads, symbolic of a generation raised on technology where "there's an app for that."
Interestingly, Colin Champagne, a 21-year-old carpenter, said the one application he uses least on his new iPhone is, well, the phone.
"I sold my old iPhone 4 on Kijiji (just before getting in line)," Champagne added. "And I kept reaching in my pocket all night thinking it was still there."
The Apple Store opened its doors at exactly 8 a.m., when staff rushed to greet the customers running around the length of the lineup and cheering. Within minutes, customers started herding through the front doors. Once inside, Lacroix stuck his head out a few minutes later and loudly announced: "It's so beautiful guys! It's awesome!"
There were TV cameras and reporters waiting for the first customers to show off their wares.
When Celena Rampersad was asked if it was crazy to camp out for more than 30 hours for a phone, she smiled and replied: "I think it's crazy not to be here."
Added Lacroix: "It's good. I feel like a better person."