Canadians snapping up Apple’s iPad

Canadians were snapping up iPads Friday, with at least one Toronto store quickly selling out of the most popular model of Apple’s tablet computer on the first day of sales in this country.

Apple retail locations across Canada opened at 8:00 a.m. local time on Friday, several hours earlier than usual, and all have extra staff on hand to help control the massive lineups. Customers trying to enter the store directly were asked to stand in one of two lines: one for people specifically coming to purchase the iPad, the other for basically everybody else.

"It is going to be very controlled, nobody will be allowed to just walk right into the store you’re going to have to line up," an Apple spokesperson said. "I know it is going to suck a little bit but that is just our way of controlling what will be going on."

More than 100 people were lined up outside the Fairview Mall Apple Store Friday morning, some arriving as early as 6:30am to be among the first to lay their hands on the latest Apple status symbol.

As of 10:30am the store had sold out of the 3G 16GB iPad. The tablet computer ranges from $499 to $829 in Canada.

"It’s all hands on deck this morning," said one Apple Store employee who was earlier handing out bottles of SmartWater to ipad owners-in-waiting.

"I only got four hours of sleep last night but I’m just so pumped to be helping out with this launch that I don’t care," the employee said.

One Apple Store employee, who declined to be named, had even taken the day off work to get his ipad right away.

"[Apple Store employees] want it just as much as everyone else, but we have to wait in line for it just like everyone else," the employee said. And there’s no employee discount on iPads.

Wait times in the lineup were about an hour, but the excitment level remained high.

"[The ipad] might just be a bigger iPhone but it just looks so supersexy," said Gene Artates, a 34 year-old IT support worker after more than an hour in line.

He already ordered an ipad online two weeks ago but couldn’t wait until the expected shipping date of June 7 to start screen-tapping.

The 3G model he will purchase today will be for travelling while the WiFi model that he preordered is just for using at home.

"Anything Apple does you just have to get on right away," Mr. Artates said.

No details on the number of iPads each store will have available for sale have been released, but it will be on sale "while supplies last," the computer giant said on its website.

Many Canadians couldn’t take the wait and already drove to the United States for their iPads back in April. But even those early adopters weren’t able to officially purchase apps until Canada’s iPad app store went live on May 20, though a creative loophole allowed the especially savvy to get apps right away. More than 200,000 downloadable apps are already available.

Wireless carrier Rogers and Bell are offering identical data pricing plans for the iPad. Customers of either company can pay $15/month for a 250mb no-contract plan or $35/month for a 5GB no-contract plan. Vancouver-based Telus Corp. is expected to release their iPad data pricing plans on Friday.

On Friday, Rogers declared itself the only Canadian carrier to offer on-device activation, allowing customers to activate and make changes to their data plans without having to call customer service. Also on Friday, Indigo Books and Music Co.’s Kobo eReader unveiled its own application for the iPad.

In addition to Canada, Friday also marks the official iPad launch date for Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

A mix of the ubiquitous iPhones and MacBook laptops, the iPad is essentially a flat, 10-inch touch screen with Internet access that can play music, photos, and games.

The iPad was greeted with skepticism when it was first unveiled by Apple CEO Steve Jobs in January. But by the time it went on sale in the U.S. in April, the same hype that made the iPod a generational touchstone had sunk in. Within a month, more than a million had been purchased.

Future Shop, the country’s largest consumer electronics retailer, expected "an onslaught of customers to come in" to get the iPad Friday.

"It’s expected to be a huge success like any other Apple launch," communications manager Elliott Chun said.

"Often people will go that extra mile to be the first to get it," he said.

With files from Canwest News Service

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