To all you iPad fanatics out there: It's time to break out your camping gear.
On Friday, March 16, Apple's new 3G/4G-ready, Retina Display-equipped iPad hits shelves at the company's retail locations in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK, Puerto Rico, and, finally, the U.S. Virgin Islands. Doors will open at 8 a.m. local time.
The third-generation iPad was announced at a media event on March 7, and Apple has already sold out of preorder stock on its website. A company spokesperson told ABC News on March 12 that pre-order units had sold out. If you pre-order an iPad through Apple's website now, you'll have to wait an estimated two to three weeks before it will even ship.
To avoid that torture, you can always hit up your local Apple store on Friday morning, but you're likely to meet a snake of a line if you don't show up early enough. (Just check out these ridiculous queues at the release of the iPad 2 in March 2011).
The (not-much-shorter) alternative would be your local Best Buy, Radio Shack, Sam's Club, Target, or Walmart. Even AT&T and Verizon stores will be selling the new iPad on Friday, Apple said in a press release on Wednesday. It's expected that the mobile carriers will open their doors early, and a Verizon rep told GottaBeMobile that the Verizon website will start taking orders for new iPads on Friday, starting at 3 a.m. However, if you do purchase your new Apple tablet at one of these third-party retail stores, you'll have to give up the free Personal Setup service offered by Apple's staff, who will help you outfit your new iPad with email, apps, and more before you even leave the store.
And, lastly, if you'd rather not leave your house in the middle of the night to groggily suffer in line for the new iPad (they've already started forming in London, according to SlashGear), you can try keeping an eye out for the new iPad on sites like Amazon or Craigslist, where you'll definitely pay an arm and a leg if the device sells out at Apple-approved locations. eBay already has the new iPad up for sale, but for hundreds more than standard prices.
Apple's official pricing model for WiFi-only iPad devices is $499 for 16GB units, $599 for 32GB, and $699 for 64GB; for devices with 4G connectivity, the prices are set at $629 for 16GB, $729 for 32GB, and $829 for 64GB (plus the cost of a data plan from AT&T or Verizon). Apple has also knocked $100 off the price of the iPad 2. (Check out our roundup of tip on how to get more great deals on old-model iPads.)
On March 23, the new iPad will become available in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
Check out the slideshow to see the 11 biggest things you need to know about the new iPad.