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If set on iPad 2, your next decision: Where to buy?

Online sales of iPad 2 start early Friday at Apple, Verizon and AT&T retail stores at 5 p.m.

March 10, 2011 01:50 PM ET

Computerworld - If you have decided on Apple's iPad 2, your next decision is where to buy it: your local Apple store, online, from Verizon Wireless or AT&T? Here are the basics to help you decide which way to go on Friday.

Both U.S. carriers and all 236 Apple stores in the U.S. will start selling the thinner, lighter, faster Apple tablet, with its front- and rear-facing cameras and 9.7-in. screen, in stores at 5 p.m. (local time) Friday. Expect lines if you're going to show up at a retail store.

Apple and AT&T will begin online sales at 1 a.m. Pacific (4 a.m. Eastern); Verizon will begin telephone sales at 5 p.m. Eastern.

If you're getting the Wi-Fi-only model and don't care about 3G access, your best bet may be the nearby Apple store or Apple's online store. That's because AT&T and Verizon both say they will only have the pricier models with both Wi-Fi and 3G access.

If you want the iPad 2 with 3G connectivity, both major carriers are offering 3G data plans without a contract, although the plans are priced differently. AT&T will allow you to prepay for data with a credit card or to post-pay on your monthly phone bill; Verizon still requires only prepaid data purchases.

iPad 2 pricing

The Wi-Fi-only versions of the black or white iPad 2s will sell for the same prices as the first-generation models: $499 for 16GB of storage, $599 for 32GB, and $699 for 64GB.

Wi-Fi+3G models will sell for $130 more from both AT&T and Verizon: $629.99 for the 16GB version, $729.99 for 32GB, and $829.99 for the top-of-the-line 64GB model. (These prices are 99 cents above Apple's suggested pricing.)

The Verizon model, which operates on CDMA/EV-DO, will be sold only in the U.S., but the AT&T version runs on GSM wireless, a standard used widely throughout the world.

Starting March 25, Apple will sell the iPad 2 with GSM outside the U.S., in 26 countries, including Canada, Mexico, Australia, Japan and most countries in Europe and the U.K.

U.S. data plans

AT&T offers two monthly plans: one for $14.99 for 250MB, and the other for $25 for 2GB, whether purchased prepaid or post-paid.

AT&T is sweetening the deal by offering the first month free to customers who activate a new post-paid account at $25 for 2GB.

Also, the iPhone Personal Hotspot feature that is a part of iOS 4.3 will be available to AT&T customers who pick a $25 plan for 2GB, plus the $20 per month for a tethering option that provides an extra 2GB. That would be a total of $45 for 4GB monthly.

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