Apple Stores Prepare For iPad 2 Frenzy

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Apple’s second-generation iPad tablet will be available in UK shops from 5pm on Friday

Apple retail stores across the UK are gearing up for the launch of the iPad 2 this Friday, despite rumoured delays. The long-awaited device will go on sale at 5pm local time, and will also be available to order online from 1am.

Prices start at £399 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model – £30 less than the launch price for the same model of the original iPad last year. Meanwhile, at the high end, the 64GB Wi-Fi and 3G model costs £659 – £40 less than the same model of the original iPad.

This is the first time that Apple has reduced the price of a product for a successive version, and may be an attempt to undercut some of its Android competitors, such as the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab. The company also slashed the price of its original iPad, ahead of the second generation tablet launch.

Thinner, faster model

The 9.7-inch iPad 2 includes a built-in gyroscope and front- and rear-facing cameras. It has a dual-core A5 processor and is 33 percent thinner than the previous model, weighing in at 1.3 pounds. Customers can choose between a black or white model.

Apple will also offer a “smart cover” for the iPad 2, complete with magnets to grasp and auto-align over the screen, which will wake the device upon opening and put it to sleep when closed.

The device will go on sale in an additional 24 countries tomorrow, including Australia, Canada and much of Europe.

“While competitors are still struggling to catch up with our first iPad, we’ve changed the game again with iPad 2”, said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, in a statement. “We’re experiencing amazing demand for iPad 2 in the US, and customers around the world have told us they can’t wait to get their hands on it.”

Stock shortages

The news comes despite reports of stock selling out, and rumours of component shortages due to the Japanese quake and tsunami. Jobs thanked customers for their patience and said that Apple was working hard to build enough iPads for everyone.

Analysts estimate that Apple sold as many as 500,000 iPad 2 devices on its first day of sales in the US on 11 March – 200,000 more than the first iPad sold in its first weekend of sales last April. “Strong demand in stores and online suggests that our estimate of 5.5 million iPads in the March quarter is likely conservative,” said Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.

Retailers are expecting queues outside Apple stores throughout the day tomorrow. Last year, some particularly eager customers camped outside shops overnight, in order to get their hands on one of the first iPads to be sold in the country.

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