Apple's latest tablet is now available at Apple, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart stores, starting at $499.
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Apple retail stores opened at 8 a.m. Friday to eager tablet buyers looking to get their hands on the latest iPad. The iPad Air, a new version of Apple's full-sized tablet, is available starting Friday; the iPad Mini with Retina Display won't be available until later this month.
The iPad Air is available to consumers in a wide range of countries, including the U.S., Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Puerto Rico, Spain, Switzerland, and the U.K., among many others. The new tablet features a brand-new design that is slimmer and lighter than last year's model. It lost nearly an inch in width and one-third of a pound in weight. It still has a 9.7-inch, 2024 x 1536-pixel Retina display, which is capable of displaying HD content.
The iPad Air comes in black and white and is powered by Apple's 1.4-GHz dual-core A7 processor with the M7 coprocessor. It has 1 GB of RAM and storage between 16 and 128 GB. The tablet includes front and rear cameras (1.3 megapixels and 5.0 megapixels, respectively) and a number of sensors, and, if you don't mind spending a bit more money, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and 3G/4G cellular radios.
The 16-GB Wi-Fi model costs $499. Pricing ranges up to $929 if you choose 128 GB and cellular radios. Walmart and Target are selling the 16-GB Wi-Fi iPad starting at $479 -- a $20 discount. Apple stores may match that price for customers who ask for it.
Lines formed in several locations, though fewer than in years past. CNN points out that there were people waiting at stores in Amsterdam, Sydney, and Tokyo. CNN also noted that only 419 people were in line at the 5th Avenue store in midtown Manhattan. Its data suggests this year's line was half the size of last year's when the iPad Mini launched and just 35% of when the iPad 2 launched.
InformationWeek scouted out one Apple store in New Jersey, and there was no line at all. The new iPad Air was selling briskly, however, with one going out the door every couple of minutes based on our observations.
Apple, which shipped 14.6 million iPads during the second quarter but 14.1 million during the fourth, needs to move some iPads this weekend and throughout the rest of the holiday quarter. The company has recently lost ground to inexpensive tablets running Google's Android platform, but the new iPad models could help it recover its market share. If Apple moves more than one million units over the course of the first weekend, it will likely announce this on Monday morning.
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