Hundreds of people who lined up to be among the first to get their hands on Apple Inc's coveted iPhone are now the braggarts and guinea pigs for the latest cutting-edge piece of techno-wizardry.
The doors of Apple and AT&T stores opened promptly at 6pm on Friday with cheers from employees and eager customers.
"I'm glad it's over," said Carlos Sanchez, 19, at Apple's Fifth Avenue store in New York City, clutching shopping bags containing two iPhones -- the maximum allowed per person. "I don't have to sleep outside anymore."
Stores farther west followed suit as the clock struck 6pm in each time zone.
In San Francisco, customers sang the traditional New Year's Eve song Auld Lang Syne following a countdown, as if heralding a new era in telecommunications.
Patrons at the Apple store in Palo Alto, California, were treated to a very brief appearance by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. He momentarily posed for pictures before leaving.
Techies, exhibitionists and luminaries -- even the cofounder of Apple and the mayor of Philadelphia -- were among the inaugural group of iPhone customers.
Apple is banking that its new, do-everything phone with a touch-sensitive screen will become its third core business next to its moneymaking iPod music players and Macintosh computers.
The electronic gadget combines the functions of a cellphone, iPod media player and wireless Web browser.
The company has set a target of selling 10 million units worldwide by next year, gaining roughly a 1 percent share of the cellphone market. It is expected to go on sale in Europe later this year and in Asia next year.
Apple has not disclosed how many iPhones were available at launch, but analysts expect stocks will sell out by early next week.
The handset's US price tag is US$499 for a 4-gigabyte model and US$599 for an 8-gigabyte version, on top of a minimum US$59.99 per month two-year service plan with AT&T Inc, the phone's exclusive carrier.
Shares of Apple rose 1.2 percent to US$122.04 on Friday and have gained more than 30 percent since Jobs unveiled the phone in January. AT&T shares rose 1.9 percent to US$41.50.
Because Apple designed a new way for customers to activate the cellphone service from AT&T, by logging onto Apple's iTunes software from their computers, many buyers headed straight home to christen the device.
In Newton, Massachusetts, Khu Duong, 30, said he was excited but "afraid to open it. You want to sit down and relax."
In Seattle, Paul Clark, a videographer, had his iPhone up and running in short order right outside the Apple store.
Clark immediately installed the required new version of iTunes, hooked up the cellphone to his Macbook, synchronized his phone contacts and calendar, and was soon off taking calls from clients, putting them on hold, checking his calendar, phoning his wife and responding to e-mails.
Scared about dropping the phone, Clark then darted back into the store to purchase a protective skin for the gadget.
Will all the waiting have been worth it? For many, it didn't seem to matter.
"I just love getting new stuff," said retiree Len Edgerly, who arrived at 3am on Friday to be first in line outside an Apple store in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"It's the best new thing that's come along in a long time. It's beautiful," Edgerly said.
Even Steve Wozniak, the ex-partner of Jobs, showed up at a Silicon Valley mall at 4am aboard his Segway scooter.