"For me it's kind of like going to a memorial for Steve Jobs," said one 40-year-old Upper East Side resident, who would only give her first name, Teri.
Jobs, who brought Apple back from the brink in the late 1990s with a series of ground-breaking innovations such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad, died on Oct. 5 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. His death sparked an outpouring of grief in New York and around the world.
Teri said she had waited in line for three hours before finally getting close to the front.
"It's just a beautiful object," she added. "It’s elegant in how it works and how it looks."
Some people waited outside all night to be the first to buy the phone, which sold out on the Internet after going on sale last Friday.
Luckily, they were greeted with an early morning pick-me-up — free coffee from Via Quadranno.
"We've given away more than a thousand cups," said Issy Rodriguez, 36, who had been giving away the java from 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
One woman said bad luck drove her to brave the long lines.
"I dropped my iPhone 3G in water a month and a half a go and I'm dying," said Jessica Hernandez, 29. "I have no idea how to use this," she added, pointing to a regular cell phone that she had been using in the interim.
Hernandez said she was taking a "long, long lunch" break to get the new iPhone.
"I wanted to upgrade for a while," said East Village resident Jake Siewert, 20, whose iPhone 3GS was over two years old. "I love the 8 mega pixel camera. This is a lot closer to substituting a digital camera."
The store also attracted at least one entrepreneur.
Brian Burke 28, took a 6 a.m. flight from Cincinnati, OH, to promote his company, which buys and sells used Apple products.
Burke said he pre-ordered the new iPhone, which will replace one of his two iPhone's — one for business and one for personal calls.
"It's waiting for me at home," he said.
Braving the long lines Friday also gave new iPhone 4S owners another, less tangible, prize.
Siewert said the first thing he was going to do after buying a phone was text his brother, who was really excited about the new gadget.
It would make his brother jealous "for at least a couple days."