5 Important Announcements Made at Apple’s iPad Media Event

Source: Apple

Apple unveiled its next-generation iPad models in front of an appreciative crowd at Town Hall Auditorium in Cupertino, California, on Thursday. As expected, the 9.7-inch iPad Air 2 and 7.9-inch iPad mini 3 both included the Touch ID fingerprint sensor that was first introduced in the iPhone 5S model last year. Although the debut of the new iPad models headlined the media event, Apple also had several other announcements to make. Along with additional details on the new iPad models, here are five important announcements that Apple made at its latest launch event.

New iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3

There were fewer surprises about the new iPad models thanks to an early glimpse of the devices inadvertently provided by Apple the day before the event. 9to5Mac reported that an iOS 8.1 user guide posted in the iTunes Store the day before the media event revealed the names of the new iPad models as well as several technical details, including the Touch ID sensors.

“iPad is a magical piece of glass that runs more than 675,000 apps specifically designed for it, and is thin and light enough that you can comfortably hold it all day; the new iPad Air 2 is packed with amazing new innovations, weighs less than a pound, and at just 6.1 mm is the thinnest tablet in the world,” said Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller. “iPad Air 2 has a new Retina display with anti-reflective coating, second generation 64-bit A8X chip, all-new iSight and FaceTime HD cameras, faster Wi-Fi and LTE wireless, and includes the revolutionary Touch ID fingerprint identity sensor.”

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

According to Apple, the beefed-up A8X chip will boost the iPad Air 2’s CPU performance by 40 percent, while its graphics performance is 2.5 times better than the iPad Air. On the other hand, the iPad mini 3 maintained the A7 chip and M7 coprocessor that was used in the previous iPad mini model, as well as the same dimensions and weight. The iPad Air 2 also features a Burst photography mode, a Slo-mo video mode, and a Barometer sensor that is not available on the new 7.9-inch model.

The entry-level 16GB capacity iPad Air 2 starts at $499 for the Wi-Fi version and $629 for the cellular version. The 16 GB iPad mini 3 starts at $399 for the Wi-Fi version and $529 for the cellular version. Apple also slashed prices for its older-generation models, which means that the Wi-Fi version of the 16GB iPad Air now starts at $399, while the iPad mini 2 (previously known as the iPad mini with Retina display) starts at $299. Both of the new devices can be pre-ordered online starting Friday.

Besides showing off the latest iPad models, Apple CEO Tim Cook also touted the overall success of the iPad product line in what was likely a response to growing concerns about the long-term future of the tablet market. Market research firm Gartner recently reported that the tablet market is declining amid longer replacement cycles and the growing popularity of similar devices such as phablets. According to Cook, Apple has sold approximately 225 million iPad units since the device made its debut in 2010. He also noted that the App Store has more than 675 million iPad apps, and that the iPad has repeatedly ranked No. 1 in overall customer satisfaction.

Source: Apple

Apple Pay

Since the new iPad models are both outfitted with Touch ID sensors that can be used to authorize iTunes and App Store purchases, it was appropriate that Apple also announced a rollout date for its mobile payments service. Apple users can start making payments with Apple Pay on October 20. As explained by Apple, the system will allow the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and upcoming Apple Watch to be used as a secure, contact-less payment method through a combination of Near Field Communications (NFC) technology and a tokenization process.

“Our team has worked incredibly hard to make Apple Pay private and secure, with the simplicity of a single touch of your finger,” said Apple Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue. “The reaction to Apple Pay has been amazing. We continue to add more Apple Pay ready banks, credit card companies and merchants, and think our users will love paying with Apple Pay.”

Cook said that more than 500 new banks have signed on to support Apple Pay, along with Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Wells Fargo, and other financial institutions that were announced in September. New retailer partners have also recently been added, including American Eagle Outfitters, Bloomingdale’s, Champs Sports, and more.

OS X Yosemite

In another widely expected move, Apple announced that its latest desktop operating system is now publicly available as a free download from the Mac App Store. Besides being updated with the flatter, more minimalist design style that was first unveiled in the iOS 7 mobile operating system, OS X Yosemite also offers features that make it easier for users to work across Apple’s Mac and iOS devices.

“OS X Yosemite is the most advanced version of OS X we’ve ever built, with a brand new design, amazing Continuity features and powerful versions of the apps you use every day,” said Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi. “OS X Yosemite ushers in the future of computing, where your Apple devices all work together seamlessly and magically. It’s something only Apple can do, and it’s available today.”

Source: Apple

New 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display

Besides refreshing its iPad product line, Apple also unveiled a new 27-inch iMac with a 5K (5,120-by-2,880) high-resolution display. This marks the first time that Apple has brought its Retina display technology to its iMac product line. Like the iPad Air 2, the 5K iMac Retina display is also remarkably thin, with a depth of only 5 millimeters at its edge.

“Thirty years after the first Mac changed the world, the new iMac with Retina 5K display running OS X Yosemite is the most insanely great Mac we have ever made,” said Apple’s Schiller. “With a breathtaking 14.7 million pixel display, faster CPU and graphics, Fusion Drive, and Thunderbolt 2, it’s the most beautiful and powerful iMac ever.”

The new 27-inch iMac with a 3.5 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost, speeds up to 3.9 GHz, AMD Radeon R9 M290X graphics, and a 1TB Fusion Drive can be ordered today and starts at $2,499. Prices for build-to-order models will vary based on which configuration options are selected.

Mac mini

Last but not least, Apple gave its Mac mini desktop computer a long overdue update and a lower starting price of $499. The new Mac mini was outfitted with the latest integrated Intel HD Graphics 5000 and Intel Iris Graphics processors, along with an 802.11ac Wi-Fi connection.

“People love Mac mini. It’s a great first Mac or addition to your home network, and the new Mac mini is a nice upgrade packed into an incredibly compact design,” noted Schiller. “With the latest CPU and graphics, faster Wi-Fi, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, OS X Yosemite, and starting at just $499, the new Mac mini is the best value ever.” The three different standard Mac mini models range from $499 to $999 and can be ordered through Apple’s online store.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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