Apple's iPad 3G arrives April 30

Pre-orders to arrive, sales start at company stores; reports of supply problems mount

The New York Times iPad app.

The New York Times iPad app.

Apple today said that the more expensive iPad models that connect to the Internet using AT&T's wireless network will go on sale April 30 in the US, barely meeting the company's self-imposed deadline to ship the tablet by the end of the month.

Customers who pre-ordered an iPad with both WiFi and 3G capabilities before April 19 will receive their tablets April 30, while consumers can purchase the iPad at Apple's retail stores starting at 5 p.m. that day.

However, orders placed with Apple's online store starting yesterday won't be delivered until May 7, according to the company's Web site.

In the US, which is the only market where Apple is currently selling the iPad , the 3G models will also be available at most Best Buy stores and some of Apple's authorized resellers.

The 3G iPad is priced at US$629 for the 16GB model, US$729 for the 32GB and US$829 for the 64GB. AT&T 3G data plans, which can be started, discontinued and restarted without penalty, range from US$14.99 per month for 250MB of data to US$29.99 per month for unlimited data.

Some analysts have called the US$130 surcharge over the WiFi-only iPad's pricing "ridiculous," while teardown experts at iSuppli have estimated that the additional parts in the more expensive models cost Apple just US$24.50 .

The 3G iPad also includes GPS-based location-finding functionality.

Once the iPad 3G is in users' hands, their reaction to how well it connects to AT&T's network will be worth watching. Some owners of the WiFi-only iPad have complained bitterly about weak signals, dropped connections and slow surfing speeds, problems that may also haunt the WiFi+3G models.

Last week, Apple announced that it would delay the launch of the iPad until late May in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the U.K. The company will take pre-orders in those countries starting May 10. Apple cited "surprisingly strong U.S. demand" for the move, a decision reinforced recently by reports of production problems due to short supplies of the device's 9.7-in. screen.

Apple said it had sold 500,000 iPads in the US during the first week of availability. Although those sales will not be counted in the year's first calendar quarter, Apple executives will certainly face iPad sales and supply questions during its earning call later today with Wall Street and industry analysts.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com .

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