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The iPad Air launch was about as smooth a launch as a company can hope for. The product hit retail days after being announced, and the reviews that poured in for Apple’s thinner and lighter flagship tablet were overwhelmingly positive. The iPad mini with Retina launch? Not as smooth. That product arrived a bit later, first showing up on Apple’s website without a single announcement from the company. Reports speculated that stock for the iPad mini with Retina might be strained, and while big box stores seem to be getting shipments of the tablet, wireless carriers that provide broadband to it aren’t so lucky.

ipad-mini-retinaAccording to a report from CNET, every major U.S. carrier is back-ordered on the LTE version of the iPad mini with Retina. Verizon estimates it won’t have the tablets in stock until December 2. Sprint (a carrier strangely omitted by CNET) estimates a wait time of 2 weeks. If you want the tablet on T-Mobile, you’ll have to wait 6-8 weeks. AT&T has by far the worst wait time of all for a cellular-enabled iPad mini with Retina, stating that orders will take between 21-28 days to ship out.

These delays seem to be carrier-specific, however. Apple’s online store has a wait time of 5-10 business days for the LTE iPad mini with Retina, which suggests that carriers simply aren’t getting enough stock from Apple to keep up with demand. A check of local Best Buy locations revealed that a few have cellular models available for same-day pickup — these stores likely received more stock overall than carriers.

If you can do without LTE connectivity, tracking down a Wi-Fi-only iPad mini with Retina shouldn’t be all that difficult. I also searched local Best Buy locations for available Wi-Fi models and found many have them in stock and ready for same-day pickup. Apple’s online store also has the WiFi iPad mini with Retina available, though processing and shipping is set at 1-3 business days.

Should you become frustrated in your search for the smaller, less-expensive iPad mini with Retina, you could always pay an extra $100 and bump up to the iPad Air. You’ll add an extra 1.8 inches to the diagonal screen size and you won’t have to search as hard to find a Wi-Fi or cellular model in stock. Word has it that the Apple website as well as retail stores and wireless carriers all have plenty of iPad Air stock to go around.

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