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Price reductions on Apple's 3G iPad in UK fuel rumors of iPad 2 launch

Two mobile carriers in the U.K. have lowered their subsidized price for Apple's first-generation iPad, fueling speculation that the company is clearing inventory in anticipation of its still-unannounced "iPad 2."

As noted by TechRadar.com, both T-Mobile and Orange have reduced their prices for the entry-level 16GB iPad with both 3G and Wi-Fi. The price drop led the publication to presume the iPad 2 could arrive "in a matter of weeks."

Orange is now selling the 3G-capable iPad for £99 with a two-year contract. The same deal has also been matched by T-Mobile U.K. for existing customers.

Those prices are significantly lower than the £199.99 Orange was charging previously for existing customers with a £25-per-month contract, or the £229.99 for new customers with a £27-per-month deal. T-Mobile's new pricing applies to existing customers with a new two-year, £25-per-month contract.

"On the other hand, the reduced price could just be Orange and T-Mobile offering customers a bargain because they're nice like that — right?" author Kate Solomon wrote.

The first-generation Wi-Fi-only iPad launched in the U.S. in early April, before gradually expanding to other countries overseas. The 3G-capable iPad was introduced about a month later.

Apple's other iOS devices, like the iPhone, are typically given an annual refresh, which would point to an iPad 2 release in early April. But with the new discounts applied before the end of February, it could point to a device launch even sooner.

The second-generation iPad is generally expected to have at least one camera for FaceTime video chat, along with the usual internal component upgrades with more RAM, faster CPU and more graphics processing power. Other rumors have suggested an integrated Mini DisplayPort for video out, a near-field communications chip for e-wallet transactions, and a high-resolution Retina Display.

In fact, rumors have already gone beyond the unseen iPad 2 and speculation about a potential new, third iPad model for release this fall. Such a move would allow Apple to match the release of the touchscreen tablet with the company's annual iPod lineup unveiled before the holiday buying season.