The new iPad went on sale in the United States on Friday as Apple fans lined up in the rain outside the company's flagship New York store to be among the first to snap up the device.
Apple began selling the iPad 2, which was unveiled by chief executive Steve Jobs last week, online overnight and it will be available in the gadget-maker's 236 US stores starting at 5:00 pm (2200 GMT).
Around 150 people, including some who camped out overnight swathed in rain gear and equipped with chairs and big umbrellas, had formed a slowly growing queue around the block outside Apple's Fifth Avenue store.
Many in the crowd were foreigners seeking to take advantage of an opportunity they won't have in their own country for awhile.
The iPad 2, which is one-third thinner, nearly 15 percent lighter and faster than the model released in April, will be available in around two dozen other countries later this month.
Mingda Zhong, 18, a student from Nanjing, said that even the original iPad is rare at home. "You cannot buy the iPad 1 very easily," he said. "Most Chinese do not have it."
He said he planned to use the iPad 2 in class. "I don't want to take my laptop. It's heavy," he said.
Anton Bondarenko, a 24-year-old student from Ukraine, said he hoped to get one for himself and another as a present for his sister -- "if it's possible to buy two."
"You use them for everything: for studying, games. You can find any book on the Internet, any news," Bondarenko said. "It's very convenient, especially for students."
Besides the size and weight, the other major improvement to the touchscreen tablet computer is the addition of front- and rear-facing cameras that allow users to take still pictures and video and hold video conversations.
Apple sold 15 million iPads last year, bringing in $10 billion in new revenue and creating an entirely new category of consumer electronics devices.
Dozens of other companies have been scrambling since then to bring their own tablets to market, most of them relying on Google's Android software, and Apple is hoping the iPad 2 will keep it a step ahead of its rivals.
But with the exception of the Galaxy Tab from South Korea's Samsung, rival tablet-makers have enjoyed little success.
Technology research firm Gartner is forecasting sales of 55 million tablet computers worldwide this year and another research firm, Forrester, said Apple has little to worry about for now.
"Competing tablets to the iPad are poised to fail, which is why we're forecasting that Apple will have at least 80 percent share of the US consumer tablet market in 2011," Forrester said.
The iPad 2 received mostly glowing reviews from the influential technology columnists of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.
"While it's evolutionary rather than revolutionary like the first model, the changes Apple has made are generally pleasing and positive, and the device worked very well for me," the Journal's Walter Mossberg said.
While pleased with the iPad 2 overall, Mossberg said it was not a must buy for owners of the old model.
"Unless you are desperate for the cameras or feel you are laboring under the greater bulk of the original model, I don't advise that iPad owners race to get the new version," he said.
David Pogue of the Times said the improvement in thinness, weight and speed "transforms the experience" of using an iPad and the cameras are a "treat."
He predicted the iPad 2 "will still dominate the market, because it dominates in all the most important criteria: thinness, weight, integration, beauty -- and apps."
More than 65,000 applications have been created for the iPad, while there are currently only about 100 crafted for tablets running Android.
The iPad 2 is selling at the same prices as the original iPad, ranging from $499 for the 16-gigabyte version to $829 for the top-of-the-line 64-GB model.
The iPad 2 will be available on March 25 in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.