“It’s been way too long”
Apple held its October special event yesterday to introduce its line of new iPads and Macs and as usual, it was a more low-key affair than last month’s iPhone 6 launch.
Teasing us with the mysterious strap line “it’s been way too long”, there was intense speculation that besides the expected iPads, there might be a few surprises in store. Perhaps Apple would finally get serious about the living room with a long overdue Apple TV update or refresh the poor old Mac Mini – a diminutive desktop that is adored by Apple fans yet receives almost no media attention.
Unfortunately there weren’t any real surprises at the event, as details of the new iPads were unintentionally leaked (or was it just a cheap publicity stunt?) on Wednesday in new iPad User Guides in the iBooks store. The inclusion of Touch ID on the new iPads was already assumed, but it makes you wonder about this “doubling down” on secrecy. In fact, Apple even alluded to recent leaks with an admittedly funny video skit about tripling down on security.
Here’s a brief rundown of the main news.
Apple’s strongest product lineup ever?
Echoing comments made by Apple’s Eddy Cue earlier this year, CEO Tim Cook noted that Apple’s product lineup is the strongest it’s ever been, designed to work seamlessly together and made possible by the most advanced operating systems on the planet – iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite.
So what was actually announced?
A new iPad Air 2, an iPad Mini 3, and a new iMac with a “5k” super high-resolution screen.
There was also a welcome update to the Mac Mini, but no Apple TV, and no Retina display MacBook Air.
You can’t have everything I suppose….
iPhone – a record breaking launch
Back to the event itself, and the first 20 minutes covered the stellar launch of the recent iPhone 6, the imminent Apple Pay rollout, and also a brief mention of the Apple Watch.
Unsurprisingly, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus rollout has been an incredible success. According to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, it’s been the most successful launch ever by a large margin. No sales figures were disclosed – they will instead be revealed when Apple reports its quarterly results next week.
But 10 million iPhone 6 sales on the first weekend and 4 million in China in the first 6 hours confirm it’s been a sellout for the new iPhones, which will be available in China from today and another 36 countries on October 31st.
Apple Pay – launch on Monday
Apple Pay (or Pay) has received lots of media attention as Apple plans to aggressively roll out its new wireless payments system using the iPhone’s new NFC chip and Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
As “the easy, secure and private way to pay”, Pay will launch in the U.S. on Monday via an iOS update to version 8.1. Since last month’s special event, Apple has incredibly signed up another 500 U.S. banks to the scheme and dozens more big name retailers. The service is expected to roll out internationally later this year and into next.
Apple watch – still no release date
The Apple watch is, according to Apple “the most personal device we’ve ever created”, and has apparently received a great reception from the tech community, health and fitness sector, and fashion and style industries. This month it features on the cover of Chinese Vogue, worn by Chinese model Liu Wen.
Cook noted that Apple has been working closely with third party developers such as BMW and American Express to create Apple Watch apps. However, the best news for developers is that WatchKit will be available from next month, enabling them to start creating their own unique apps. Unfortunately, there was still no news on the launch date which is still pegged for early 2015. Perhaps the recent bankruptcy of GT Advanced Technologies (Apple’s main sapphire manufacturing partner) will lead to supply screen supply problems…
It remains to be seen how popular Watch will be, as recent surveys have shown that American teens are not that excited by the prospect of the watch.
iOS 8 and OS X “Yosemite”
Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, took to the stage to provide an update on iOS adoption and its latest Mac operating system, OS X Yosemite (actually OS X version 10.10).
iOS 8 has already been installed on 48% of devices in just 4 weeks, said Federighi. That means that 94% of iDevice users have an OS that has been released or updated in the past year (i.e. combined statistics for both iOS 7 and iOS 8). While iOS 8 adoption has been marginally slower than iOS 7, it’s still an impressive figure when compared with Android.
Apple also took time to highlight Android’s adoption rates. According to Federighi (and validated on the Google Developer website), 54% of Android users are stuck on the older Jelly Bean, while the newest version KitKat took 313 days to achieve just 25% adoption.
“What really sets iOS apart is all the great technologies it puts in the hands of developers” – Craig Federighi, SVP Software Engineering
iOS 8.1 will be available on Monday and, besides the various fixes and updates, will include Apple Pay support, and the return of the Camera Roll. It’s obviously a time of the signs that Apple has listened to its users, who complained vocally that Camera Roll had been removed in iOS 8.
OS X Yosemite gives Macs a facelift
In terms of OS X, the new version of Apple’s desktop OS will be available for free from today. Adopting a flatter look more in line with iOS, Yosemite includes improvements to the notification centre and more seamless integration with iOS devices – you can even take and receive phone calls and SMS messages right on your Mac.
iPad Air 2 – thinner, faster, lighter…
Tim Cook took highlighted the impact the iPad has had and how it is being used in ways that nobody imagined – perhaps to position the iPad in a more positive light consider that growth in tablets is slowing, and sales are being cannibalised from super sized phablets and smartphones.
“It’s not surprising that we’ve sold more iPads in the first 3 years than any product in our history. 225 million sold around the world.”
Cook also pointed out that the iPad is consistently rated number 1 in customer satisfaction surveys, with the iPad Mini Retina achieving an unbelievable 100% satisfaction in one instance.
So what was new in the iPad Air 2? As expected – thinner, lighter, faster……
Here’s a brief summary of the main features:
- A new custom A8X CPU – claimed to be 40% faster than the A7, and 12 x faster than iPad 1
- 6.1 mm thick (18% thinner than the iPad Air 1)
- 2.5 x faster GPU (180 x faster than iPad 1)
- 10 hour battery life
- M8 motion coprocessor chip (motion, barometer, speed)
- Anti-reflective screen – 56% less reflective
- Dual New 8 MP camera with burst mode, time lapse, slo-mo at 120 fps
- Faster WiFi up to 866 Mbps and 4G up to 150 Mbps
- Touch ID fingerprint sensor
- Available in silver, space grey and gold
- 16, 64, and 128 GB storage options
The iPad Air 2 is noticeably thinner even than the Air 1. It was shown next to the original 2010 iPad – it’s so thin that two of the new models stacked up are still thinner than the original. But has Apple done enough to update the iPad Air?
It’s a solid upgrade that’s perhaps more incremental than revolutionary, but Apple may have done just enough to maintain sales and tempt users to upgrade.
The iPad Air 2 is available today for pre-order, starting at £399 for the 16 GB version, £479 for 64 GB, and £559 for 128 GB.
iPad Mini 3
The new iPad Mini received only minor updates. While gaining the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, little else on the diminutive iPad was updated – even last year’s A7 CPU was retained.
Perhaps Apple is trying to encourage consumers to upsell to the more profitable iPad Air 2, but there are many people who will be disappointed that the Mini didn’t receive a more significant update.
Nevertheless, last year’s model is retained at the new lower price point of £239 for a 16 GB model, and the original (non-Retina) Mini is also being kept alive at the cheaper end of the price bracket, for just £199.
Let’s hope that Apple deems to bestow a better CPU on next year’s iPad Mini…
14.7 million pixels on the new Retina iMac
Perhaps the star of the event, more so than the new iPads, was Apple’s new super high resolution Retina 5K iMac. The iMac is a popular all-on-one desktop that has helped Apple buck the industry trend and achieve 18% year on year growth.
The new 27″ model now sports a gorgeous 5,120 x 2,880 display with 14.7 million pixels, which Apple claims is the world’s highest resolution display. Contrasting this to regular 1080p Full HD, that’s 7 x more pixels and even 67% more pixels than one of the latest (and expensive) 4K TVs can handle.
Besides the display, the iMac’s internals were also beefed up – £1,999 now gets you a faster CPU, an AMD Radeon GPU and Apple’s hybrid “Fusion Drive” that can be configured up to 3 TB.
The iMac is an important product for Apple, not least because it’s used by professionals for photo and video editing and contributes enormously to the “Halo Effect” that helps drive sales of Apple’s other products.
It’s disappointing that the smaller 21.5″ iMac didn’t receive the same cutting edge display, but as the technology becomes cheaper, it’s something that we’ll no doubt see in the future.
Mac Mini update surprise
One of the products most loved by Apple fans is the tiny Mac Mini, which is sold as a compact desktop machine sans keyboard, monitor and mouse.
If you’ve ever read any Apple forums, you’ll be aware that the faithful have been crying out for an update for a long time.
Thankfully, Apple did update the machine, albeit with a moderate spec bump starting from £399. Nevertheless, it was a much needed update that’s brought the tiny machine up to date with more capable hardware.