Apple's 4G iPad debuts early, quietly in Australia

Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:11pm EDT
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By Lincoln Feast and Poornima Gupta

SYDNEY/SANFRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc's new iPad went on sale in Australia early on Friday, greeted by a throng of fans hoping to get hold of a 4G-ready tablet computer that won good reviews despite stopping short of being called a major innovation.

Carrier Telstra stole a march on Apple, commencing sales at just two of its own stores at midnight. Numbers were down compared with previous launches, though a still-solid turnout reflected demand for a new iPad version deemed a collection of incremental improvements.

Apple shares breached $600 for the first time on Thursday on the Nasdaq, but gave up gains and dipped into the red in the afternoon. The stock is up 47 percent for the year and nearly 10 percent for the month, partly on anticipation for the new device. A single Apple share now costs more than the Wi-Fi-only iPad, which is priced starting at $499.

The initial rush for the first new third-generation iPads sold globally was not at one of Apple's gleaming glass and polished wooden stores in Sydney, but across the road at Australian phone company Telstra. Telstra opened two stores just after midnight local time to begin selling the iPad, stealing an 8-hour march on Apple.

David Tarasenko, a 34-year-old construction manager who was the first to pick up the iPad, said ever since Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook revealed the tablet's third iteration, he couldn't wait to get one.

"When Tim Cook announced it, it sounded like such a magical tool. I just got hyped into it, I guess," he said.

The third-generation iPad from Apple - which sports a high-definition "retina" display and comes with a better camera - is capable of operating on high-speed 4G "LTE," or Long-Term Evolution network. But this version is not compatible with Telstra's 4G network in Australia.

The tablet houses a wireless chip from Broadcom Corp and a Texas Instruments Inc driver, components carried over from the previous iPad, according to teardown and repair outfit iFixit.   Continued...

Construction manager David Tarasenko (R) purchases the first iPad3 from a store in Sydney, moments after midnight, March 16, 2012. A REUTERS/Tim Wimborne