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Ron and Staci Muse's Western New York vacation included the usual tourist attractions - Niagara Falls, the casinos ... and the AT&T store.

The Bakersfield, Calif., couple has purchased every version of the popular iPad and iPhone on the day they debuted in stores. Friday, even while on vacation, they kept that tradition going with the release of the iPhone 5.

"We like the challenge of technology," said Staci Muse, 45. "And we have a reputation to keep up. We're the couple that always has the latest Apple products."

They joined hundreds of Western New Yorkers at Walden Galleria early Friday morning as they waited patiently in lines of varying lengths at the Apple Store and cellphone providers' stores and kiosks.

"It was worth the wait," said Mike Kiezbak, with his new iPhone 5 in hand, after waiting eight hours. To buy his fourth iPhone, Kiezbak, 26, and two friends got to the mall at midnight with their lawn chairs.

"It was a fun experience," the Buffalo resident said.

Apple's latest smartphone boasts many upgrades, like a faster processor, a bigger screen, 4G LTE wireless connections and slimmer and lighter frame. The handset has become a hot seller despite a new map app that early users have deemed inferior to Google Maps, the software it replaces. With a new wireless contract, the device costs $199, $299 or $399 in the U.S., depending on the amount of memory.

Apple received 2 million orders in the first 24 hours of announcing its release date, more than twice the number for the iPhone 4S in the same period when that phone launched a year ago. Analysts have estimated Apple will ship as many as 10 million of the new iPhones by the end of September.

"This is exciting," said Vanessa Wiltberger, a 25-year-old Cheektowaga resident. She'd had the iPhone 4, which is slower and lacks many of the features on the new phone.

"I want a black one, and it's going be faster and better than the one I have now," she said waiting at the Verizon Wireless kiosk at Galleria.

Many had tried pre-ordering online, but it was sold out.

Although Stacie Muse had successfully pre-ordered a Verizon Wireless iPhone 5, she said she needed to buy an AT&T model, too. Yes, she will have two of the same phones with different service providers.

"We just love Apple products. Everything we have is Apple," she said. "I'm so familiar with the products, I could be a salesperson for Apple."

Kiezbak said the crowd outside the mall grew from a few at midnight to about 40 by 2 a.m.; it swelled even more by sunrise. The mall opens at 6 a.m., and that's when Trevor Maclin, a 21-year-old Cheektowaga resident, arrived to buy his very first iPhone. Maclin's iPod had broken, and he had an outdated flip-style phone, so he decided to replace both devices with the iPhone 5.

"I'm really excited; I'm just bottling it up right now," the UB student said. "It's the newest, the latest thing."

Kathy Scaccia, a Lancaster nurse, headed to the Apple Store right after work to buy two phones to give as Christmas, birthday and graduation gifts to her adult children. She was in line by 7 a.m.

"I knew the line would be long, and I know they've got a limited supply and they could sell out," she said. "My children will be excited. This way they'll be able to keep up with the 21st century."

The Apple Store, which had the largest supply of phones, attracted the biggest crowd. The line wrapped around the store when it opened at 8 a.m. Employees handed out coffee and water. Consumers had the option of purchasing their smartphones at the store or from their cellphone service provider.

"I went to Apple first, but I wasn't going to wait two hours in line," said Kyle Tolbert, a 23-year-old Buffalo resident. So he went upstairs to the AT&T store, where the line was considerably shorter. He was behind the Muses, who beamed with excitement as they got closer to making their purchases.

After 3 hours of waiting, Maclin was near the entrance of the Apple Store.

"I'm almost there," he said. "It's a long wait, but it's really not that bad. It's not as bad as some of the lines for Black Friday."

After almost three hours and stopping at three locations, Wiltberger was also closer to purchasing her smartphone. At 9:30 a.m., she was second in line at the Verizon Wireless kiosk. She had first stopped at the Verizon Wireless store on Walden Avenue at 6:45 a.m. After an hour of waiting, she learned the store had sold out of the 16G phone. She then went to the Apple Store, but it was out of the Verizon models. So she then she went to the kiosk.

"I just didn't want to wait to buy it," the 23-year-old said. "If I didn't get it today, I'd have to wait until the middle of next month."?



email:?esapong@buffnews.com