Nov. 2, 2012 at 12:26 PM ET
The iPad Mini is now available — at least the Wi-Fi-only version is. If you haven't gone online to pre-order the tiny tablet already, you'll have to wait two weeks to get one shipped to your home. But if you want to leave the house, you could have one today.
Estimated shipping dates on Apple's website are currently hovering at the "two weeks" mark and your luck won't be much better on the websites of authorized Apple retailers such as Walmart, Target, Best Buy and RadioShack either. If you want an iPad Mini and you want it right now, you'll need to lace up your boots and take a stroll over to a good ol' brick-and-mortar store.
Despite plenty of reports that iPad Mini lines pale in comparison to those of other Apple product launches, it is difficult to establish just how high or low demand is. NBC News made calls to several Apple Store locations as well as to some authorized retailers in several states. In some instances, we got endlessly ringing phone lines, suggesting that things are busy. At one Best Buy in Florida, a clerk explained that the store didn't get the shipment it expected, and only had a few units.
When we visited an Apple Store in Seattle, we didn't see any crowds or lines. Business was brisk, and there was high interest in the iPad Mini, of course, but crowd control wasn't necessary to keep the buyers from getting too rowdy.
Things could be more complicated this week, in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Product shipments all over the country may have been delayed due to the storm. Then again, many people on the East Coast and in the Midwest have greater concerns than buying the latest shiny product from Apple, so it may have lessened demand as well.
Since things can be very different depending where you live, our best advice is to plan, call ... and run.
Plan to head to a store early in the morning, when inventory may have been replenished — and plan to get there early. Call ahead of time to see if you can get any details regarding how things are looking. And run as soon as you hear that an iPad Mini is available. If demand happens to be high, those things won't sit on a shelf too long.
Additionally, don't forget that your luck may be better at a store that's slightly out of the way. While it might get a smaller shipment of devices in the first place, folks might not bother going to it out of sheer laziness.
As a reminder: The iPad Mini starts at $329 for a 16GB Wi-Fi-only model. 32GB and 64GB Wi-Fi-only models are available for $429 and $529, respectively, while their LTE-capable cellular counterparts — launching later — are priced at $459, $559, and $659, for the 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB versions, respectively.
The LTE-capable models are expected to ship (and hit shelves) mid-November.
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