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Dear Aunt TUAW: Should I buy an iPad online?

Dear Auntie TUAW,

My plan to go to the Apple Store a little later to get my iPad 2 backfired. They were out of the model between the time I called to make sure they still had it and when I got to the line. What should I do? Should I order one or wait until they get restocked at the Apple Store?

Your adoring nephew,

Paul

Dear Paul,

Auntie was lucky enough to have the time to get to her Apple Store early, spending a lovely afternoon in the company of Uncle Steve and a friendly local pot dealer on the day of the March 11 launch. (No, Auntie is not kidding. The conversations while waiting on line were fascinating!)

Not everyone had the flexibility to spend the day on line or could get there early enough to secure an iPad.

You may want to try ordering online, and if you find an iPad sooner, cancelling that order should you be able to snag a unit at a local store.

Darrell Etherington over at GigaOm writes today that some Apple Stores will offer a second chance tomorrow, opening early for another line-wait/iPad-buying frenzy. Participating locations will open at 9 AM (Apple Stores usually open at 10 AM) to provide iPad 2 distribution early and avoid interfering with normal retail operations.

The online Apple Store's expected ship times for iPads is currently holding at about 3-4 weeks (Apple has called the demand "amazing") with concerns bubbling in the rumorsphere about refilling supply channels due to the ongoing tragedies in the Far East.

Last April, Apple diverted initial iPad stock to US markets and delayed its release overseas. If Apple does so again, this might help ease demand a bit.

Your best bet is to call around daily to all the local retail Apple Stores (typically after 10 AM or noon -- check with each store to find out when they normally receive stock) and to third-party suppliers, like Target, Walmart and Best Buy to see if any shipments have arrived. If so, be prepared to move rapidly because these vendors rarely allow you to place holds on stock.

Buying an iPad today may not be as orderly as it was last Friday, but there is still stock available if you can hunt it down. As a rule, the third-party stores receive fewer units, but they also probably have fewer people hunting them there.

When Auntie called her local store this morning, she was greeted with a friendly "Hello, welcome to Apple Store. We are currently out of stock for iPad 2, and there are three calls ahead of you. Can you hold?"

The nice lady told Auntie that while the iPad 2 is sold out across the country, stores are expecting some additional stock this week -- they just don't know how much or when. "It's always a surprise to us exactly what is in each shipment," she told Auntie, emphasizing that, as far as she knew, Apple was not completely out of units even if the stores were. We've got some more tips for would-be buyers here.

Hope this helps.

Love and kissies,

Auntie T.



Dear Auntie TUAW, My plan to go to the Apple Store a little later to get my iPad 2 backfired. They were out of the model between the...