iPad 2 Availability Tomorrow: 1:00 AM Pacific Online, 5:00 PM Local In-Store

085400 ipad 2 hand

Apple today officially announced its iPad 2 U.S. launch plans for tomorrow, including revealing for the first time that online sales will begin at 1:00 AM Pacific Time / 4:00 AM Eastern Time. As previously announced, in-store sales at Apple retail stores and other retail partner stores will begin at 5:00 PM.

Apple today announced that iPad 2, the next generation of its magical device for browsing the web, reading and sending email, enjoying photos, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, reading ebooks and much more, will be available tomorrow at 5 p.m. local time at all 236 Apple retail stores in the US and through the Apple Store (www.apple.com) beginning at 1 a.m. PT. Every customer who buys an iPad 2 at an Apple retail store will be offered free Personal Setup service, helping them customize their iPad 2 by setting up email, loading new apps from the App Store and more, so they'll be up and running with their new iPad 2 before they leave the store. iPad 2 will also be available beginning at 5 p.m. local time at AT&T, Best Buy, Target, Verizon Wireless, Walmart and select Apple Authorized Resellers.

The broad distribution and daytime launch should hopefully limit long lines, but the lack of online pre-orders may drive more customers who do not want to wait for shipping from the online store to line up at retail stores.

Initial stock levels for Apple retail locations are currently unknown, but we have received word from an employee of one Best Buy location that is looking to have 100-150 units on hand, spread relatively evenly across all nine models (three capacities each of Wi-Fi, AT&T 3G and Verizon 3G) with a slight emphasis on the entry-level 16 GB Wi-Fi model.

Update: AT&T and Verizon have also issued press releases announcing availability for tomorrow. In line with Apple's plans, AT&T will begin taking online orders at 1:00 AM Pacific Time, with in-store availability set for 5:00 PM local time. Verizon appears to only be offering in-store sales at "select" retail stores beginning at 5:00 PM local time.

AT&T's press release also notes that the personal hotspot functionality included in iOS 4.3 will be available to customers on the $45/month data + tethering plan. Interestingly, the wording makes no mention of the iPhone 4, in fact suggesting that tethering and hotspot functionality is available on iPad data plans. Apple has been clear, however, that the personal hotspot functionality is for the iPhone 4 only, but can obviously be used to provide on-the-go data access for Wi-Fi-only iPads linked through an iPhone.

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