As anticipation builds for the debut of Apple’s new iPad 2, the company has announced it will be throwing its doors open early—at least virtually—so Apple fans can get their fix. Apple plans to start offering the iPad 2 to online shoppers starting March 11 at 1 a.m. Pacific time via www.apple.com. Folks who want to pick up a device in their hands can also visit an Apple retail store: all 236 Apple retail stores will start selling the iPad to customers at 5 p.m. local time. Apple retail partners like Best Buy, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Target, Walmart, and other selected resellers will also offer the iPad 2 at 5 p.m. local time.
Customers purchasing an iPad 2 at an Apple store will be offers free Personal Setup assistance, enabling users to customize their iPad immediately by loading up apps and configuring it to grab email.
Pricing on the iPad 2 falls in line with price points for the original iPad: a 16 GB model with Wi-Fi will be priced at $499, bumping up to $599 for a 32 GB model and $699 for a 64 GB version. Adding 3G wireless connectivity adds a $129 premium to those prices: $629 for 16 GB, $729 for 32 GB, and $829 for 64 GB. Pricing for 3G versions of the iPad is identical regardless of whether the devices operate on AT&T or Verizon Wireless networks; versions that operate with Verizon Wireless will only be available in the United States.
Apple plans to launch the iPad in a broad selection of international markets on March 25, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Additional international rollouts are expected in the next few months.