Retina iPad mini rollout expands with walk-in sales at some Apple Stores, regional carrier availability [u]

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Empire State customers can now purchase a Retina iPad mini at select New York City Apple retail stores without securing the tablet online in advance, while regional carrier partners like Bluegrass Cellular are beginning to announce availability, possibly signaling the start of a more expansive rollout.

Update: The Retina iPad mini rollout continues to spread throughout the day. Apple retail stores outside of New York City have begun to receive stock for walk-in purchase, according to an investor update from Cantor Fitzgerald, and midwestern regional carrier U.S. Cellular has announced immediate availability of the tablet.

Apple's Upper West Side, Chelsea, and flagship Fifth Avenue stores are the first to make the high-resolution 7.9-inch tablet available for unreserved purchase, according to a Friday morning note to investors from erstwhile Apple watcher Brian J. White of financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald. No other Apple retail outlets in or out of New York City were found to have similar availability.

White had previously predicted a wider walk-in launch for the tablets as early as this week, and the analyst now believes Apple will make that move some time next week in preparation for the busy post-Thanksgiving Black Friday shopping event.

The Retina display-equipped iPad mini has also begun to make its way to Apple's regional carrier partners in the United States. Kentucky-based Bluegrass Cellular announced immediate availability of the tablet earlier Friday, while previous announcements from C-Spire Wireless and U.S. Cellular indicate stock should arrive before the end of November.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company's "clandestine" sales rollout for the Retina iPad mini, with an unannounced midnight launch and reservation-only in-store availability, is thought to have been designed in response to severely constrained supply of the popular slate.

Apple CEO Tim Cook had previously said it was "unclear" whether the company would have enough stock for the holiday season. Many Apple observers credit the supply pinch to low yield rates for the iPad mini's Retina display from partners Sharp and LG.