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Unlike most electronics manufacturers out there who launch new products willy nilly throughout the year, Apple keeps to a fairly strict schedule (when they can). With the exception of last year's iPhone and the CDMA iPhone, Apple tries to launch new devices roughly 12 months from the launch date of the last model. In past years (not 2011), Apple has always tried to release a new iPhone in the summer months. And the first iPad was released in April, 2010, followed by the iPad 2 in March of last year.

This makes Apple very predictable, which is particularly nice for those who like to keep up with their latest products. To those who have bought either the original iPad or last year's iPad 2, it's about time to start thinking about selling your old model iPad so you can pick up the iPad 3 once it's finally available.

According to a report from CNET, over 125,000 tablet owners have traded in their old model tablets to eBay's Instant Sale program in the last month, likely in anticipation of the approaching iPad 3 announcement. A whopping 97.6 percent of those trade-ins were iPads.

But how and when should you sell or trade-in? And for how much?

Well, the obvious problem is for those who use their iPad every day. My mother, for instance, doesn't want to sell her original iPad just yet because she uses it at work and her Android-powered Eee Pad Transformer doesn't support all of the software she needs and uses on a daily basis. Just last week, I sold my Galaxy Tab 10.1 in anticipation of some new tablets at Mobile World Congress this year. But I had a hard time coping without it. So I caved and bought an ASUS Transformer Prime with a keyboard dock. This is a problem a lot of tablet owners are facing.

Until yesterday, we were kind of unsure when exactly the iPad 3 announcement would be. We could only assume, based on piecing a couple rumors together, that March 7th was going to be the date. Apple confirmed those assumptions yesterday. But despite the announcement being March 7th, the question still stands: when will the iPad 3 actually launch? If you trade-in or sell your iPad now, how long will you have to go without one?

Lucky for you, in typical fashion, Lifehacker has a solution. Well, sort of. In an article yesterday morning, Melanie Pinola explained how you can lock your trade-in value now and continue using your iPad for at least a little while before selling. She quotes Dealnews, a site listing daily deals, who says:

"In the event that Apple announces it will continue to manufacture the iPad 2, but at a lower price point, the value of your used iPad 2 tablet will be higher at this very moment than it will be come the announcement."

Both Gazelle and NextWorth give trade-in users respectable windows to ship their tablet. Gazelle offers a 30-day window, while NextWorth offers a 21-day time frame in which to ship your tablet. So you can lock in your trade-in value now and continue using your tablet for a few weeks.

What's more, however, is that Gazelle claims that the trade-in value of the iPad jumped a nice 20 percent after the iPad 2 announcement last year. So whether you want to wait and risk a significantly lower trade-in value is up to you. But it's a risk that could pay off in the end.

If what you're after is a little more cash in your pocket, though, you may want to consider different methods of offloading your old tablet. While programs like Gazelle, NextWorth or eBay's Instant Sale program may offer the "best trade-in value," you have to remember that you're selling your tablet to a reseller, not another individual. That means they are buying with room for profit margins in mind, thus yielding a smaller check in your pocket. You can probably make more money off of private buyer or through sites like Craigslist or eBay. Of course, those routes come with risks of their own.

I don't have an iPad to trade for an iPad 3 once it's out, but I do have a Kindle Fire that I'm going to try to get rid of around that time. Whether that money will go towards the new iPad depends on what specifications it bears and whether I feel compelled to buy one at the time of launch. My wants and needs change with the wind.

What about you, folks? Are you trading in your old iPad (or selling privately) early to prepare for the iPad 3 launch? Are you trading some other tablet for the iPad 3? Will you risk waiting for the possible spike in trade-in value?


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