If you missed the launch day pre-orders and want to get an iPad on Friday, you should start planning your strategy now. Like any good consumer, you'll need to decide which store will have the most iPads and the smallest line so you can maximize your chances of getting the model that you want.
In the past, customers have lined up in advance and waited at least overnight to get their hands on the latest iPad. This year, it's all up for grabs because Apple had an ample supply of pre-order tablets that'll be delivered on launch day. A lot of people who wanted an iPad already pre-ordered one and will have one in their hands on Friday.
If you plan on hustling down to a store on Friday, here is a list of retailers that'll have a limited supply of iPads on sale. A few pro tips: be sure to call ahead to make sure the store will be selling the iPad, get there early as sales are first come, first-served and ask about any procedures if there happens to be a line.
Apple retail stores
Apple confirmed today that its retail stores will open at 8 am on Friday for the big iPad launch. Lines tend to be longer at Apple Stores because that's where most people go. Apple Stores usually have the most inventory and racks of accessories for the tablet device. It's also the first retailer to open so you can always wait there first and then head to another retailer if you walk away empty-handed.
If you want a 4G iPad, then you might want to start at your local wireless carrier. The carrier's retail stores can sell you the device and get you setup with a data plan at the same time. Both Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless in the US will be carrying the iPad at launch.
Best Buy is a popular spot for customers to grab an iPad. The electronics chain carries a variety of Apple devices and will likely have an assortment of accessories as well. There's no indication that Best Buy will be opening early, so I would make plans to be there during normal store hours. In the past, Best Buy has used a voucher system so early comers can get a number and leave. This way they don't have to wait in line for hours.
Radio Shack was the only third-party retailer to accept pre-orders for the iPad last week. You could buy a $50 in-store gift card to lock in a device and return on Friday to claim it. Radio Shack won't have the same stock as the Apple Stores, but it is less traveled. If you didn't pre-order, you still should call ahead to make sure they have iPads in stock.
Sam's Club will open at 10 am on Friday and offer the new iPad to members on a first-come, first-served basis. Only select stores (store list) will carry the iPad so you'll want to call ahead and find out which stores will have available inventory. Limit one per Membership.
Target is a another well-known retailer that'll sell the iPad on Friday, but not many people realize the store sells Apple devices. Last year, my local store still had inventory a week after launch when every other retailer was sold out.
You can even trade in a working iPad and receive up to $350 in Target store credit (64GB 3G+Wi-Fi iPad 2 version). This money can be used towards the purchase of the new iPad, or any item at Target purchase. Target REDCard users will receive 5 percent savings on the purchase of the new iPad as well. Depending on where you live, finding an iPad in your local Target may be hit or miss so be sure to check ahead before trekking down to the store. Stores will be open regular hours.
When you think of Apple, you don't often think of Walmart but the retailer is an authorized Apple reseller just like Target, Radio Shack and Sam's CLub. Walmart carries several of Apple's mobile and music devices and will have the new iPad on Friday. Walmart will also keep its normal store hours and will have inventory on a first-come, first-served basis. You can use the store locator to find a Walmart in your area that'll have the iPad on Friday.