CUPERTINO, Calif. — As high profile launches go, Apple’s press event on Thursday was never going to top the buzz and excitement of its last media shindig in September. That’s when CEO Tim Cook introduced larger iPhones, the Apple Pay mobile payments system and an as yet unreleased Apple smartwatch.
The prelude to today’s event was a video of the first enthusiastic buyers snapping up the latest iPhones — in other words, last month’s news. Surprises this time around were kept to a minimum, with Apple executive Craig Federighi even joking about leaks during the festivities.
We already knew for example that Apple Pay would launch in the U.S. sometime this month. Cook revealed the specific date: Monday, Oct. 20.
The fact that there’d be an imminent release of OS X Yosemite for the Mac was also well known — Apple first previewed Yosemite back in June. We now have a date for the Yosemite rollout, too. That day is today, when folks can download it for free.
You certainly couldn’t imagine that Apple would unleash a freshly minted operating system without some shiny new Macintosh computers to show it off? The answer comes in a new iMac with what from my vantage point in the audience appears to be an irresistible 27-inch Retina Display.
And then there is the release of the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3, perhaps the worst kept secret of them all, especially given the leaks that came out on Wednesday. An iPad refresh was inevitable, but Apple hasn’t reinvented the wheel here. No edge-edge to design. No larger display iPad.
I am pleased that Apple — again, as expected — added the Touch ID fingerprint sensor to the iPad that has been such a sweet feature on the iPhone 5S, 6 and 6 Plus. And yes you can use it with Apple Pay to complete online transactions.
No one is going to complain about the new iPads becoming faster, or gaining superior graphics, what with the Apple A8X chip that’s now inside.
The cameras have been improved, and Apple adds the burst mode and time-lapse photography features that have already been offered on iPhone.
Oh, and the new iPad Air 2 at 6.1mm is 18% thinner than its already pencil-thin predecessor. It costs $499, $599 and $699, for versions with 16GB, 64GB and 128GB. Smaller iPad mini 3 models start at $399, and Apple is keeping the original iPad mini and iPad mini 2 in the lineup, for $249 and $299, respectively.
Such enhancements are obviously nice to have, of course, but these are incremental, not revolutionary advances.
Apple is taking pre-orders on the new iPads Friday, with models shipping next week.
Where Apple still retains a big advantage over its tablet rivals is in apps. There are now 675,000 apps that have been designed for the iPad in the App Store.
iPad Air 2 certainly seems a like a better iPad — and I look forward to testing it — but whether it’s better enough to make anyone trade-up from their existing tablet is, well, up in the air.
Probably the hottest of the new products launched today is an iMac with a Retina “5K” 27-inch display. Yes I said “5K.” The ultra thin computer boasts a whopping 14.7 million pixels, seven times the number of pixels in an HD display, and 67% more pixels than 4K.
Alas, the new iMac won’t come cheap. The starting price is $2,499, though Apple is keeping less expensive iMacs (some with smaller displays) in the lineup.
It’s the kind of powerful computer that will have techies and creative types lusting after. But still, we are talking about a desktop computer in an era when mobile is what it’s all about. Apple did not introduce any new MacBook Pros or MacBook Airs.
If there are any surprises about today’s festivities, perhaps that is it.
Email: [email protected]; Follow @edbaig on Twitter.
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