Well, we already knew that this Apple press event wasn’t going to be an earth-shaker.
Journalists were invited not to some huge San Francisco auditorium, not to a secret white building constructed for the event, but to an ordinary small theater on Apple’s own campus in Cupertino.
I check out the new Apple toys. (Deanne Fitzmaurice/Yahoo Tech)
Here, Tim Cook and his team spent 45 minutes showing off features we’ve already seen: OS X Yosemite, Apple Pay, iOS 8, and so on. Then, at last, Cook took the wraps off the new stuff — probably Apple’s last hardware announcements before the holiday season. There were two new things, which I spent a few minutes with after the show. Here’s a quick look.
The iPad Air 2
This is actually the sixth-generation iPad, but it’s called the iPad Air 2. And it is thin. I mean, crazy thin. It’s 0.240157 inches thick, or 6.1 millimeters if you’re non-American.
(Deanne Fitzmaurice/Yahoo Tech)
Apple says it’s the thinnest tablet in the world. That record won’t stand for long, though; Dell has already announced its compact Venue 8 7000 tablet, which is 1 millimeter thinner.
But never mind; the iPad Air 2 is certainly the thinnest full-size tablet. On Twitter, the jokes about people accidentally bending it are already flowing like wine.
Everything you’d expect to be improved, Apple has improved. There’s a new, faster processor (40 percent faster, Apple says). An improved screen technology that gooses contrast ratios and viewing angles. The same phenomenal camera that’s in the iPhone 6, complete with the super slow-mo video and time-lapse options. For some reason, though, the iPad Air 2 can’t capture video in astonishingly smooth 60 frames per second, as the iPhone 6 models can.
And, at last, the Touch ID fingerprint sensor that’s been on the iPhone for a while now. You can use it to unlock your iPad — and to buy stuff from Apple’s online stores — without having to type a password.
The new iPad Air 2 is on the right. The barely updated iPad mini 3 is on the left. (Deanne Fitzmaurice/Yahoo Tech)
In other words, all the categories that Apple improved in this new iPad are the categories it improves with every new iPad; technology marches forward, and Apple makes the most of it. These changes aren’t enough to justify ditching the iPad you bought last year. But if you’re used to a first- or second-generation iPad, you’ll probably be astonished at the difference.
The iPad Air 2 is available in models with 16, 64, or 128 gigabytes of storage — for $500, $600, or $700. (The latter two prices are $100 lower than before.) The model with a cellular connection costs $130 more.
There’s also, by the way, an iPad mini 3, but it didn’t get much love from Apple this time around. It gains the fingerprint reader, but that’s it; the rest of it is the same as last year’s version. Weird, and disappointing.
See also my first impressions of the Retina iMac 5K.
The other news
The news that will affect the most people, though, is that OS X Yosemite for the Mac is a free download starting today. Here’s my review. And that iOS 8.1 for iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches will be free to download Monday. It will bring Apple Pay to the iPhone 6 models and the new iPads, bring back the Camera Roll to these devices, and fix a lot of little buglets.
None of today’s news is heart stopping (although yours may skip a beat when you see the iMac). All of it is desirable. All of it keeps Apple’s stuff at the forefront of the latest technology.
And in the great religious war of Apple haters and fanboys, none of these announcements will turn down the heat one iota.