Apple launches 3G iPad, looks to maintain momentum
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - In the second stage of a two-part rollout, Apple Inc on Friday began selling the pricier, high-speed wireless version of the iPad in the United States, following the successful launch of the short-range Wi-Fi tablet earlier this month.
Although the event certainly lacked the buildup and excitement of the April 3 debut -- with the heartiest waiting in line overnight -- some Apple retail stores in big cities still saw decent-sized crowds ahead of the 5 p.m. launch.
At a store in downtown San Francisco, roughly 75 people stood in line 90 minutes before the 3G iPad went on sale.
Several people said they had waited for the more expensive version of Apple's tablet because they saw it as a potential replacement for their laptops, at least in certain situations.
"I'm going to take it everywhere with me, I already take my laptop everywhere, and it'll definitely replace my laptop in a lot of cases," said Long Nguyen, 22, who works in IT repair and was first in line.
The 3G model -- which is also Wi-Fi compatible -- starts at $629 and tops out at $829. The Wi-Fi-only iPad starts at $499.
The 9.7-inch touchscreen iPad is essentially a cross between a laptop and a smartphone. It is intended as a media consumption device, good for video, games, electronic books and magazines and Web browsing.
But some said they were hoping to also use it for work, mainly because of the device's thin-and-light profile.
"I travel a lot for work, and I have a lot of projects that are out in the field, so I think it will be useful for some of that," said Gary Riley, 36, an environmental engineer.
"I'm on the road all the time, and I think it will give me a nice choice, especially when I travel," said Bob Geib, a consultant. "It will complement my laptop."
AT&T is providing the wireless data plans for the iPad, charging $29.99 a month for unlimited access.
AT&T is also the exclusive U.S. carrier for Apple's iPhone, and has been subject to plenty of criticism over the quality of its network. It remains to be seen whether iPad users will encounter any problems with their service.
Apple sold 300,000 iPads on launch day April 3 and a half-million units the first week. Although the device won't reach international markets until late May, some analysts expect Apple to sell roughly 5 million or so this year.
The iPad rollout has been accompanied by a crush of media hype, but it has not been without its hiccups. The company delayed the international launch for a month for what it said was stronger-than-expected demand.
Analyst say the company has also had difficulty ramping production of a new product.
Shares of Cupertino, California-based Apple closed down 2.8 percent at $261.09 on the Nasdaq.
(Reporting by Gabriel Madway; Editing by Bernard Orr)
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