Editors' note: And now it's really, really official: Here's Apple's Tuesday morning press release on the iPad Mini with Retina display going on sale.
In a bit of a surprise move, the Apple Store began accepting orders for the iPad Mini Retina at midnight Monday after word of the tablet's impending launch leaked out in an internal notification intended for support technicians and resellers.
Wi-Fi-only versions sporting 16GB and 32GB of storage are expected to ship to buyers in one to three business days, while the 64GB and 128GB versions list shipping expectations of five to 10 business days. Versions with cellular connectivity are also expected to ship in five to 10 days.
Until Monday, the new tablet's launch date was a bit of a mystery. Previously the most Apple had said about a release date was that the entry-level $399 tablet would not be available until "later in November."
But a note posted on Monday to Apple's Global Service Exchange (GSX) -- an internal online tool used to process repairs -- said that the new tablet would become available in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United States on Tuesday.
The new tablet has been expected to be in short supply at its release. Apple CEO Tim Cook alluded to possible shortages of the tablet during Apple's earnings conference call last month. The next day, it was reported that Sharp may be responsible for the expected shortage. The Apple supplier is having problems with production yields of the 7.9-inch display for the Mini Retina, according to a Digitimes report.
Apple said that the iPad Mini with Retina display can be ordered through the Apple Online Store to ship or through Personal Pickup at Apples retail stores. It's also available via AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and some Apple resellers.
Aside from the obvious size difference, the iPad Mini Retina features practically identical specifications to the new iPad Air. Both sport A7 processors, the same-resolution Retina Display, 5MP rear cameras, and, according to Apple, up to 10 hours of battery life. However, while the 9.7-inch iPad Air weighs a full pound, the 7.9-inch iPad Mini Retina weighs in at 0.73 pound.Update 5:52 a.m. PT: Noted Apple's posting of the official press release.