Some are the hard-core queue-sitters - people who have been waiting in line for days rather than hours in order to buy an iPhone when Apple opens its doors at 1800 local time.
They hope either to pass on their phone to people willing to pay over the odds rather than queue - or to sell their prime spot to someone else at the last minute.
The others, identifiable by the PowerBooks and iPods they clutch, are true Apple aficionados who cannot wait a second longer than necessary to get their hands on the iPhone.
All have been dreaming of owning the device, which combines phone handset with music player, web browser and camera, and features a 3.5in (9cm) touch screen instead of a keyboard.
The man who is first in the queue - Greg Packer, a 43-year-old former highway maintenance worker - has been waiting so long he has become something of a celebrity.
... others are die-hard Apple fans.
Since setting up camp outside the Apple store at dawn on Monday, he has done dozens of media interviews and had his picture snapped by countless onlookers.
"It's been a bit of an adventure, a bit of a freakshow," he tells the BBC News website, asked about his five-day wait.
It will not be the first time Greg is first in line - he has a reputation as a semi-pro queue-sitter for gigs and signings - but he insists he is here for the gizmo, not the glory.
"I want to be the first person to have it in my hands," he says. "I heard a lot about how the iPhone is going to be. I'm planning to keep it."
Graphic designer Pablo Defendini, 28, is immediately recognisable as a die-hard Apple fan.
It's a beautiful piece of equipment but unfortunately I can't afford it, so I'd rather make money out of it
Balancing his PowerBook on his knee, he is among those taking advantage of a wireless network around the store to swap news and tips on the iPhone, as they leak out to the media and bloggers through the day.
"The Apple community has been waiting for this phone for a long time," he says. "Rumours have been flying round on the internet for the best part of two or three years.
"The attraction is very simple - it's Apple's approach to interface design, as well as their beautiful industrial design."
He plans to send his second iPhone - Apple is allowing each person to buy only two - to a friend in Puerto Rico who would otherwise have to wait much longer.
Marc Falato, a Broadway theatre producer, is jokingly collecting small change from passers-by in a doughnut box - and with $10 in small change is only some $592 short of what he will need when he gets in the store.
"I'm here because I really want the phone," he says.
"It will make travelling around a lot easier without a laptop. I'll be able to search the internet with a real web browser, unlike other phones, and that's really something different."
Some have come equipped with foam mattresses, blankets, camping chairs and coolboxes filled with supplies.
Marc Falato is only pretending to be hard up
Others, with only the clothes they are wearing, are grateful to Apple and other businesses who have handed out food and water to keep them going.
Ray Martes, 18 and from New York's Upper East Side, has been outside the store since Wednesday night and is number 24 in the line.
A cardboard sign advertises his spot for sale at $250 - and he is optimistic he may make more.
"If you think about it, it's in a way like making minimum wage," he says. "It's been an interesting experience - a lot of people have talked to us, it's been pretty friendly, we've been sleeping in shifts."
Next to him, Manny Garcia, 25 and from Brooklyn, is planning to sell his iPhone as soon as he gets it, without even opening the box.
"It's a beautiful piece of equipment but unfortunately I can't afford it, so I'd rather make money out of it," he says. "I know a lot of people feel the same way."
Nearby, Imran Khan, queuing with wife Sarah, is optimistically offering to sell his spot for $5,000 - with a free folding chair thrown in.
Some analysts have questioned whether potential buyers will be put off by the $500 or $600 price tag for the handset, let alone paying a premium to have one first.
IPHONE VITAL STATISTICS
Screen size - 3.5in (8.9cm)
Resolution - 320x480 pixels
Memory - 4GB/8GB
Wireless - Quad-band GSM/wi-fi/Bluetooth
Camera - 2 megapixels
Battery life - 5 hours talk/16 hours playback
Size - 115 x 61 x 11.6mm
Weight - 135grammes
Operating System - OS X
But Sarah Khan replies: "$600 is a lot of money - but I want one because it will last. It's not something where you'll need to get a new one every day."
The prize for the longest journey may go to Max Viadas, a mechanical engineer who has come all the way from the small town of Ituzaingo in north-eastern Argentina to buy iPhones for himself and his wife.
He says: "In Argentina we would have to wait maybe two or three months. New York is the capital of the world - it's very easy to buy here. In my country it is more difficult."
Rory Cellan-Jones compares iPhone rivals with Tom Dunmore, Editor in Chief of Stuff Magazine.