As has become a custom with every major Apple product launch, die-hard fans lined up outside the company's retail stores worldwide to purchase the third-generation iPad, called the "new iPad," which went on sale on Friday morning.
Buyers were attracted to the sharper display on the new iPad, which has a 9.7-inch screen. The tablet is also the first iPad with LTE 4G mobile broadband connectivity.
The iPad is designed to provide a strong multimedia experience. The tablet's display shows images at a resolution of 2048 by 1536 pixels, which is an improvement over the 1024-by-768 pixel display on the iPad 2. Games should be snappier with the new A5X dual-core processor, which has four graphics cores. Apple claims the device will provide 10 hours of battery life on active usage and nine hours on 4G usage, which is roughly the same as the iPad 2.
About 200 people braved cold temperatures waiting outside the Boston Apple store in the city's Back Bay neighborhood. Many arrived just a few hours before the 8 a.m. opening. There appeared to be no shortages as buyers in line received a card, passed out by store employees, that guaranteed them a tablet.
"I like to use the iPad for movies and TV shows and what's really attractive about this one is the new screen," said Hyemee Shin, a hedge fund manager in Boston who planned to buy an LTE iPad. She said she would give her first and second generation iPads to her parents.
Tristan McDonald, a system administrator at a local university was first in the Boston line. He had been waiting since late the previous night and said one thing attracted him to the new device: "The screen."
Lines outside the flagship Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York stretched around the block, with many lining up in the early hours of Friday morning. Many in the line came from countries such as South Korea and Brazil, and lined up not only to get quick access to the iPad, but also for the price. IPads are sold at a premium in some countries.
The first person in the line was Greg Packer, from Huntington, New York, who purchased a 64GB iPad with 4G LTE on the Verizon network. He formed the line on Monday.
"It's a lot better than waiting at Walmart," Packer said.
A small protest by Change.org asking Apple to use ethical manufacturing practices behind products colored the scene. The organization has been behind recent protests for Apple to address poor working conditions in China at factories run by companies such as Foxconn, which assembles products such as the iPad and iPhone.
"We know Apple is listening," said Jessica Morales, of Change.org. "We just want Apple to be the leader they are. We're Apple consumers ourselves, we have iPhones, iPads and MacBooks."
In France, mobile network operator Orange earlier this week promised it would begin sales of the new iPad online and at "select" stores across France. The country's most select store, on the Champs Elysées in Paris, hosted midnight launch parties and opened early to sell previous Apple devices, but on Friday morning the store was empty and the shutter still down. The only device on display in the Window was Nokia's bottom-of-the-range smartphone, the Lumia 710, while a massive in-store display visible behind a curtain still touted the iPad 2.
Things were more animated at the Apple Store near the Opera: some customers were allowed in shortly after 8 a.m., but those left waiting in line outside were almost outnumbered by journalists, security guards and a guerilla marketing team from lekiosque.fr, whose members handed out free cups of coffee while promoting an online newsstand app for the iPad.
In London, the new iPad's higher-resolution screen was the big draw.
"It is my first iPad, so I am kind of looking forward to all of it. But the display was enough to convince me to buy one," said Mike Lee, who had decided to get the 64GB Wi-Fi version after hearing that applications would be bigger because of the increased resolution.
But the improved camera and the faster processor also made the new iPad worth buying, said Amir Saeed, who had turned up at the Apple's store on Regent Street in London. Saeed didn't mind the weight increase, saying that it would help users notice that they actually had it with them.
The new iPad weighs 1.46 pounds (662 grams), a little heavier than the iPad 2, which weighed in at 1.35 pounds.
Users in the U.K. won't be able to take advantage of the iPad's LTE connection, because there aren't any commercial 4G networks in the country and when they are eventually launched, the spectrum bands used will be different from the ones Apple currently supports.
Hundreds lined up in Tokyo outside Apple's store in the upscale Ginza shopping district. Some waited for a day and a half to buy the iPad.
Ryo Watanabe, a 19-year-old university student, lined up 36 hours prior to the device going on sale so he could be the first to buy the new iPad. He cradled his new 16GB Wi-Fi model, still in the box, as he talked to reporters.
"It's not that I like Apple itself so much, it's just that Apple makes good products, so I choose them," he said.
There are some features missing in the iPad though. Buyers wanted Apple to include USB ports and the Siri voice interface, which is available on the iPhone 4S.
The new iPad also went on sale in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Germany, Switzerland and Canada. It will be available in 25 more countries next week.
The iPad starts at US$499 for the 16GB model and $699 for the 64GB version. With 4G connectivity, the price will be $629 for the 16GB model and $829 for 64GB.
The new tablet's 4G LTE capabilities overshadow the 3G connectivity on previous iPads. The tablet will also work on HSPA, HSPA+, HSDPA and EV-DO networks. Based on carrier support, the device can also be a personal hotspot and share a high-speed network connection with up to five devices. Other features include a 5-megapixel camera and voice dictation features.
(IDG News Service staffers Nick Barber in Boston, Peter Sayer in Paris, Mikael Ricknas in London, Jay Alabaster in Tokyo and Joab Jackson in New York contributed to this story.)