Apple on Thursday held a new product event on its campus in Cupertino, California, where the stars of the show were a thinner version of its iPad tablet and a 27-inch iMac desktop with a display that has 67 percent more pixels than a 4K TV.
The iPad Air 2, pictured above, will have an entry point of US$499 for a 16-GB model. It is only 6.1mm thick — more than 50 percent thinner than the original iPad — and tips the scale at just under a pound.
While the display resolution on the new iPad Air is the same as the previous model — 2048 x 1536 pixels — Apple improved the Retina screen’s reflective properties so it’s easier to see in direct sunlight. It made its colors more vivid and dialed up its contrast.
Inside the iPad, there’s a souped-up version of the processor in the iPhone 6. The tablet’s 64-bit A8x CPU is, according to Apple, 40 percent faster than the one in the previous version of the tablet, and its graphics processor is 2.5 times faster. Even with the increased muscle, battery life for the device remains 10 hours, Apple said.
Apple brought the new iPad in line with its iPhone line by adding Touch ID, a fingerprint scanner, as well as Apple Pay support. Touch ID can be used to unlock an iPad, make purchases from Apple’s online stores, and open apps that support the technology, like Evernote, Mint and Day One journal.
Touch ID, combined with Apple Pay, will allow iPad Air 2 users to shop online.
“This isn’t for retail, point-of-sale purchasing,” Philip W. Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, said at the event. “This is for online purchasing within all the apps that are going to support Apple Pay, and there are going to be many of them growing starting on Monday.”
Both cameras are upgraded in the latest iPad. The rear-facing iSight camera now has an 8-megapixel sensor, and native resolution of 3264 x 2448 pixels for stills and 1080p for video. It also supports a number of creative features, like panoramic pictures, time-lapse photography and 120 fps slow motion video.
The tablet’s front-facing Facetime camera has a 1.2-MP sensor and supports 720p video. It also supports an f/2.2 aperture setting, which improves performance in low lighting conditions.
In addition to the 16-GB model, iPad Air 2 will be offered in 64-GB ($599) and 128-GB ($799) versions.
Apple introduced a new version of its iPad mini tablet. The iPad mini 3 sports Touch ID, but it runs on the older A7 processor and has a 5-MP iSight camera.
Pricing for the mini 3 starts at $399 for a 16-GB model, then moves to $499 (64 GB) and $599 (128 GB).
Apple will continue to sell older versions of the mini, including the original version for just $249. That could help open up the Apple experience to some market segments previously priced out of it.
“Apple’s products today are more easily approachable, not only to people in developed countries but in developing countries, too,” said Trip Chowdhry, managing director for equity research at Global Equities Research.
“Apple’s addressable market has increased by at least 20 to 30 percent across the world,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
While you may not need as much cash to get in the Apple game after today’s announcement, the experience may be wanting.
“You’re not going to get Touch ID for $249,” Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, told the E-Commerce Times.
“To have the full Apple experience, you still need to have higher degree of disposable income,” he said.
Along with the new iPads, Apple introduced a new iMac with a 27-inch, 5120 x 2880 display that’s only 5mm thick.
Starting at $2,499, it runs on Intel Core i7 processors up to 4 GHz, has AMD graphics with up to 3.5 teraflops of computing power, and supports Thunderbolt 2 bandwidth up to 20 Gbps.
Another refresh announced by Apple was a new Mac Mini, starting at $499.
Also at the Apple event, the company announced that OS X Yosemite, the latest version of its desktop operating system, was available for download.
On a Roll
While most of what Apple announced on Thursday had been roiling in the rumor blender for weeks, the company did manage to tie together some loose ends.
“It pulled everything together for the holiday selling season. It’s created a unified experience across iPad, iPhone and now the Mac with Yosemite,” Moorhead said. “These guys are hitting on all cylinders.”
Wrapping the event, Apple CEO Tim Cook observed, “This incredible lineup of products and the ecosystem that supports them is something only Apple can create.”
That may not be entirely accurate, but it’s close.
“Technically, it’s not true that only Apple can create that amalgam of hardware, software, services and ecosystem,” said former Forrester analyst Charles Golvin, who recently founded Abelian Research.
“However, I think that only Apple is able today to combine these assets into the superior experience that its customers enjoy,” he told the E-Commerce Times, “and extend the benefits of that experience to a network of partners, including developers, retailers, and a wealth of other brands. That is why Apple ranks at the top of the list of partners for these companies.”