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Apple's tight grip: iPad Mini Retina still not in carrier stores

The iPad Mini with Retina Display is still a no-show at Verizon and AT&T stores, as Apple continues to control the launch of the high-res tablet.

iPad Mini Retina
iPad Mini Retina Apple

The newest iPad Mini with Wi-Fi and cellular capability (3G/4G) has yet to reach carrier stores in the US, pointing to Apple's tight control of supply.

Verizon shows the iPad Mini with Retina Display back ordered until December 16, as of Friday morning Pacific time, while AT&T is still showing 21-28 days when the device is ordered online.

Neither carrier, when contacted by CNET, could provide information about when the iPad Mini Retina would reach its stores.

T-Mobile's Web page for the iPad Mini Retina is showing, as of Friday, that the tablet will be "available for shipment soon," but no target date is given.

Meanwhile, the availability of all iPad Mini Retina models -- both Wi-Fi-only and cellular versions -- on Apple's store page has improved somewhat: availability is now 5-7 days, a slight improvement over the 5-10 days that the company had been showing last week.

Cellular models of the iPad Mini Retina are also available for walk-in purchase at many Apple stores across the US, despite the fact that this is not possible at Verizon and AT&T.

Apple did a low-key launch of the iPad Mini Retina on November 12 amid analyst commentary and reports that the displays were in short supply.

Apple's CEO Tim Cook was cautious about supply of the Mini Retina during Apple's fourth-quarter earnings conference call.

"It's unclear whether we'll have enough for the quarter or not," Cook said.

Rhoda Alexander, director of Tablet and Monitor Research at IHS iSuppli, points to initial "production problems" as the reason for Apple's tight control over supply of the tablet.

"Even though they were able to ramp up more quickly than anticipated in November and December it still takes a while to get those products out," said Alexander. "So, they're managing the rollout very carefully."

The availability of the iPad Mini Retina cellular models contrasts with the iPad Air sales launch. When Apple started selling the iPad Air on November 1, it was available at Verizon, AT&T, and other carriers on the same day. Currently, carrier outlets like Verizon and AT&T typically have the Air at stores.

The new iPad Mini sports a 2,048x1,536-resolution display that boasts 326 pixels per inch -- one of the highest of any tablet to date. Analysts believe the display has been a challenge to make in the large volumes that Apple demands.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.