updated 04:35 pm EST, Sat February 11, 2012
3G iPad 2 models run low at fringes
Fresh checks have shown the earliest signs that iPad 2 supply might be ramping down ahead of the iPad 3 launch rumored for the next few weeks. The 9to5 investigation pointed to sales channel sources who said supply of 3G models was "constrained" across the board. Supporting this, searches at Carphone Warehouse and Orange in the UK both had some or most of their supply as "out of stock."
Wi-Fi models were so far in healthy supply across major countries' stores, although Apple UK is showing a 1-3 day delay in 64GB white versions. Apple's own US store shows full stock regardless of the tablet.
While it's speculated that the shortages may be owed to a change in cellular technology that would see Apple want to eliminate the split between EVDO and HSPA models, any ramp down for 3G iPads could also simply stem from existing supply. The higher-priced 3G versions usually sell in smaller quantities and are more likely to run out sooner.
Unconfirmed suspicions this year are that Apple will keep one iPad 2 model as a cheap alternative, similar to the iPhone, both to reach a wider user base and to put pressure on Amazon and other low-priced competitors.
Regardless of the motivators, the shortages follow a typical pattern for Apple products where third-party resellers run out first and the more amply stocked Apple retail stores and website keep supply until much closer to the unveiling. Rumors surrounding the iPad 3 debut have it unveiled in early March and shipping within one to two weeks later, letting Apple ramp down relatively quickly without leaving stores out of stock.