HONG KONG ( AP) — Apple- mania gripped Asia today as the company’s latest iPad went on sale, drawing hordes of die- hard fans to shops selling the highly anticipated tablet.

Gadget fans lined up in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore so they could be among the first to get their hands on the device.

The third version of Apple’s iPad also went on sale in Australia and it will be available in the U.S. and five other countries beginning at 8 a.m. local time, with 25 other countries getting it a week later. The new model comes with a faster processor and a much sharper screen. It also boasts an improved camera, similar to that of the latest iPhone.

For many customers, visiting a store in person — instead of having one shipped — offers consumers a chance to mingle with die-hard Apple fans.

About 450 people lined up outside Apple’s Ginza store in downtown Tokyo. Some had spent the night sleeping outside the store to be among the first when it opened at 8 a.m. — two hours earlier than usual.

“I wanted to be able to show it off to my friends,” said Norio Nakayama, a 33-yearold computer consultant outside Apple’s crosstown shop in the trendy Shibuya district. “ I think I’ll give my older iPad 1 to my wife.”

In Hong Kong, a steady stream of buyers picked up their new devices at preset times at the city’s sole Apple store after entering a random drawing online.

The system, which required buyers to have local ID cards, also helped thwart attempts by visitors from mainland China — Apple’s fastest growing market — who have a reputation for scooping up Apple gadgets to get them earlier and avoid sales tax at home.

“I’m happy I won the lucky draw,” said Kelvin Tsui, a 26- year-old hospital worker who was allowed to buy two.

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