Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) said the new iPad mini with a high-resolution screen is now available for shipping, while indicating that supplies of the tablet are limited ahead of the critical holiday shopping season.
The device, at prices starting from $399, can be ordered online to be shipped or picked up at Apple’s stores, the company said in a statement today. While the larger iPad Air went on sale Nov. 1, Apple hadn’t said when the smaller tablet would be available beyond sometime in November.
The iPhone maker usually stocks its products in stores so customers can buy them on the spot. Apple is restricting purchases of the new iPad mini to online orders because the availability of high-definition Retina screens is capping the number of the new tablets the company can make, according to market-research firm IHS.
“They had an issue with panel production to get them done on time,” said Rhoda Alexander, a senior manager at IHS who analyzes the tablet and display markets. “They didn’t have the volumes to support a full launch.”
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Apple has seen sales growth for the iPad slow in recent quarters as consumers held off purchases as they waited for new models, and the market becomes more crowded with rival devices from Samsung Electronics Co. and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN:US)
The iPad is Apple’s second-biggest source of sales after the iPhone, accounting for $32 billion in revenue in the company’s latest fiscal year through September. The Cupertino, California-based company sold 14.1 million units last quarter, down from 14.6 million in the prior period.
Alexander said giving the iPad mini a high-definition screen added logistical challenges. Apple is squeezing more pixels onto a screen, while also trying to keep the device thin, light and have a high-computing performance.
“All that becomes difficult to do,” she said. “They have real world limitations that they have to work within.”
Markets where the new iPad mini is available include the U.S., Japan, U.K., Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong. Resellers and wireless carriers will also sell iPad minis, and may offer in-store sales.
The device’s starting price is $70 more expensive than last year’s model. The priciest version can cost as much as $829 with 128 gigabytes of memory and access to fast wireless networks. The older version of the tablet released last year will still be sold, starting at $299.
“The response to iPad Air has been incredible, and we’re excited for customers to experience the new iPad mini with Retina display,” Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said in the statement.
Apple shares rose less than 1 percent to $520.01 in New York, and are down 2.3 percent so far this year.
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