When and Where to Buy the iPad 2, Does It Matter?

Today's date is Friday March 11, 2011. Do you know what that means? An end to the work week and the beginning of a weekend of partying, for some of you. For others, this is the day you decide between a black or white iPad 2, between 3G or Wi-Fi, and 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of capacity. But before you settle which version of the iPad 2 you plan to purchase, you have decide where exactly you're going to buy one. Let's look at your options.

Option 1 -- Apple.com

You can direct your browser to www.apple.com/ipad/ and order Apple's second generation tablet right now. Every model is available for purchase, and while you're there, you can tack on a cart full of accessories too. But just because you can order one right now (and up to two per order) doesn't mean you should. With the exception of the black 64GB Verizon 3G model, which ships in 1-2 weeks, every other model ships in 2-3 weeks. That's a tough pill to swallow if you've been waiting patiently for this day to come, and is in stark contrast to the iPad 1, which was delivered to your door on the day of release.

Option 2 -- Best Buy

Probably the most popular option, you can march your tush into a Best Buy store starting at 5 PM local time and walk out with any version of the iPad 2 you want, assuming nothing sells out. We don't expect demand to be as rabid as it was for the iPad 1 launch, and even then it wasn't too hard to find one in stock at your local Best Buy. But whether or not that presents a challenge today depends on how much stock Apple was able to allocate. This could especially be true of the white model.

Option 3 -- AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and Apple Stores

Like Best Buy, both supported wireless carriers (AT&T and Verizon Wireless) as well as all 236 Apple Stores will make the iPad 2 available for purchase starting at 5 PM. The advantage to purchasing directly from an Apple retail outlet is that, should you need it, you'll receive free Personal Setup service, meaning an Apple guru will guide you through setting up email, loading new apps, and whatever else you might need help with.

Option 4 -- Walmart and Target

Unlike the iPad 1 launch, Walmart and Target will carry the iPad 2 on day of release (today). For what it's worth, if the only thing holding you back from purchasing an iPad 2 is that, daggonit, it costs $1 too much, Walmart will sell the iPad 2 starting at $498, a single George Washington less than Apple. That gives you enough buying power to purchase pretty much anything you want from the local Dollar Store, assuming you can scrounge up a few pennies for tax.

Target, meanwhile, will sell the iPad 2 for the same price as Apple, though be aware that "model availability may vary by store."

What It Boils Down To

The bottom line is, if you really want an iPad 2, you should be able to get one. While we wouldn't be surprised if a particular SKU sells out, we doubt there will be any major shortage issues that affect all stores. Alternately, Motorola's Xoom tablet is looking like a sexy Android slate, albeit comparative chubby next to the iPad 2.