Apple’s third-generation iPad will be available to consumers Friday, and The Verge offers some tips to help customers get the much-anticipated tablet:

Buying direct from Apple: get ready for a line

The first, and probably most popular, option for purchasing the new iPad is at Apple's own website. Unfortunately, shipping times quickly slipped past launch day, and you'll wait two to three weeks for all models if you order now. The next obvious option is heading to an Apple store on launch day. Apple's stores have historically carried significantly more stock than any third-party options, but heading to an Apple store on launch day brings its own special challenges — you'll be fighting mobs of fans to get your hands on the new iPad. Apple has just announced that its stores will be open at 8AM this Friday in nine countries for customers looking to purchase the new iPad, but you'll want to be there a lot earlier to have a chance at buying Apple's latest.

LTE models from Verizon and AT&T: in-store and online availability this Friday

If your heart is set on an LTE iPad, Verizon and AT&Twill be offering the iPad in-store and online this Friday. AT&T requires you to purchase a data plan along with your iPad (though you can cancel it after one month); Verizon sells iPads with or without data plans online. Even if you want data, we'd recommend you buy without so you avoid a $35 activation fee. As for buying offline, Verizon and AT&T let you purchase in-store without immediately purchasing data. If you're planning to go to the store, you'll likely again want to line up ahead of time, but note that there will be quite a few less iPads available at carrier stores compared to Apple's retail outlets — but probably a lot fewer people as well.

Just ahead of the launch, The Verge’s Joshua Topolsky gives his take on the new Apple tablet:

Last week, Apple chief executive Tim Cook took the stage and announced the new iPad in San Francisco. Even though the device looks and acts like the previous version, there’s a lot that’s new under the surface.

For starters, the new iPad boasts a magical 9.7-inch “Retina Display” screen with 2048-by-1536 resolution. That’s a million more pixels than an HDTV.

The tablet also offers a greatly improved camera on its back (a 5 megapixel shooter with technology similar to the one featured on the iPhone 4S), new 4G LTE options (for both Verizon and AT&T), and a considerably more powerful processor.

But does the new iPad successfully defend its reputation as the King of Tablets?

In terms of materials, general design and even packaging, it’s essentially the same product as the iPad 2. It’s a tiny bit thicker and a little heavier — but that’s about it. also weighs in on the new iPad before its launch:

Applications for the third generation iPad are getting bigger. That means even you, users of lesser iPad models, will have to give up storage space to support the tablet’s new high-def screen.

When the next iPad is released to the hounds on March 16, it will come with a fancy new display, twice the resolution of its predecessor. The screen is 2,048 by 1,536 pixels, with 264 pixels to an inch, which makes for much crisper image details. Because of this, apps are getting a graphics boost, meaning the apps are getting significantly bigger.

Vietnamese tech blog Tinhte first found the increased sizes, saying (translated by The Verge):

That’s a huge increase and a potential suck on data storage in even the newest 16GB iPad. Because Apple wants apps in the App Store to work universally with any of its mobile devices, the company isn’t going to make an exception for the new display. We checked the App Store to see if the Pages app had actually increased to 269MB, and indeed it has.

It wouldn’t make sense for Apple to release applications that work with older iPad models, of course. The point is to push consumers toward the newer technology. It is the same reason why older Mac computers only accept operating system updates until its technology doesn’t make the cut anymore. But even if you leap for the newest iPad, storage on even the 16GB version is going to become precious.