Just in time for a China launch, strained supplies of iPads (s aapl) are easing, even as rumors of a 7″ iPad ramp up for early 2011.
Via Apple 2.0, iPad inventory at Best Buy (s bby) has shown “strong improvement” in the last two weeks, according to Barclay analyst Ben Reitzes. Prior to Aug. 16, only the 64GB 3G iPad could be found somewhat reliably, and even then, availability was under 50 percent. Those numbers reinforce the recent drop in ship times at the Apple Store, the wait declining to 3-5 days from 7-10 days previously. Kevin over at GigaOM reports similar drops in wait time for the iPhone 4. That applies both in the U.S. and most international stores, with one important exception.
The Hong Kong Apple Store currently still shows a wait of 7-10 days, which makes sense because that’s the only place in China you can (legally) get a (real) iPad. As of now, those unable to purchase an iPad from the Hong Kong Store are stuck with high-priced, gray-market iPads, or, as the Wall Street Journal reports, fake iPads.
These wretched knock-offs with a Home Button on the front and an Apple logo on the back can be found in places like Beijing bazaars and cost the equivalent of between $100 and $200. The devices run Android (s goog), poorly, and have “unresponsive” touchscreens, but there is hope.
China Unicom has previously stated the company was in talks with Apple regarding both the iPhone 4 and iPad, and multiple reports citing sources within the company assert the iPhone 4 will go on sale in China next month. The iPad will follow at an unspecified later date, though with production finally meeting demand worldwide expect sooner rather than later.
In my opinion, don’t expect the rumored 7″ iPad sooner. Apple will undoubtedly be introducing a new line of iPods in the next few weeks for the holiday buying season, including a new iPod touch. That device is strongly expected to gain cameras and FaceTime capability, and it seems highly unlikely Apple will have the iPod touch share the stage with iPad 2. If you don’t see a new iPad in September, you won’t see it this year, and if you don’t see it this year, Apple might as well wait until the spring to release one.
If you want one, buy the iPad now, not the rumor later.
Related GigaOM Pro Research: Can Anyone Compete With the iPad?