Apple has today released the WiFi + Cellular versions of its iPad and iPad mini tablets in China, but strong customer demand around the globe has caused it to launch with a 2-week backlog on all iPad mini models.

The company’s Chinese online store showed 2-week shipping estimates for both the WiFi-only and cellular versions of the iPad mini. Cellular versions of the iPad 4 were listed as shipping in 1-3 working days and the Wi-Fi only full-size iPad was in stock. By comparison, the iPad mini ships in 1 week in the US and is also experiencing a 2-week delay in the UK.

ipadmini backlog 520x389 Apple struggles to keep up with iPad mini demand as cellular model launches in China to 2 week delay

Apple announced at the start of this week that the its cellular-equipped iPads would go on sale in China this Friday. The Wi-Fi-only models arrived on the mainland on December 7th.

CEO Tim Cook has projected that China will eventually surpass the US to become Apple’s largest market. He has also said he is looking into working with the government to close the gap between the initial launch of Apple’s products and the Chinese release, which usually comes months later. Cellular devices in particular have a longer approval process due to the country’s certification requirements.

The lower pricing on the iPad mini should help Apple reach millions more Chinese customers. The company has also introduced an interest free pay-by-installment plan in partnership with a Chinese bank to further mitigate the cost barrier for the country’s emerging middle class.

Supply chain rumblings suggest that Apple’s partners are working to manage the ups and downs in iOS device demand. Reuters noted on Friday that Sharp had reportedly scaled back on production of 9.7-inch screens for the full-size iPad in order to better meet demand for the iPad mini.

Judging by demand, the iPad mini could become the preferred Apple tablet in the Greater China region. The device quickly sold out when it arrived in China, and analyst Brian White tracked ”insatiable” demand for it in the following weeks. More than a month later, Apple is still struggling to keeping up.

While Apple stock has slumped in recent weeks on rumors that iPhone demand has tapered off, the company’s China division, at least, appears to be doing its part, after achieving a record iPhone 5 launch and a strong Wi-Fi iPad mini release in the country. We’ll find out exactly how much that helped next week when Apple reports its results for the most-recent quarter.

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