Just about all of the announcements from Thursday’s Apple event leaked out in advance, and the event felt somewhat subdued compared to last month’s iPhone 6 announcement. A phone call with Stephen Colbert and a torrent of dad jokes livened the mood somewhat, but the bulk of the event focused on hardware. Just in time for the holidays, here come the iPad Air 2, the iPad Mini 3, and a gorgeous new iMac with a Retina display. On the software side of things, OS X Yosemite arrives today as a free update, and iOS 8.1 — which will enable Apple Pay on the iPhone 6 and 6+ — is coming Monday.
Here’s a recap of the most important details from today’s announcement.
iOS 8.1 and Yosemite
Apple Pay out Monday
Apple Pay, the company’s NFC-enabled payment system, rolls out Monday, October 20th. Since its announcement last month, 500 more banks have said they will work with Apple Pay, Tim Cook said. “We believe Apple Pay is going to be huge,” he said.
iCloud photo library beta
Along with Apple Pay, iOS 8.1 is giving users access to a beta version of iCloud Photo Library, a feature it announced earlier this year. It’s a more robust replacement for the Photo Stream, storing photos from all your devices online. Along with iCloud Drive, it’s part of a renewed focus on cloud storage by Apple. Speaking of photos, 8.1 also brings back the Camera Roll, a feature that iOS 8 originally stripped out.
Yosemite arrives today
Yosemite, the latest version of OS X, is officially coming to the App Store today as a free update. Yosemite is a significant visual redesign of the OS X interface and several important apps, taking design cues from iOS: it’s simple, colorful, and *really* translucent. It’s also an attempt to make switching between iPhones, Macs, and any other Apple product quick and painless. iCloud Drive will sync files between devices, and a feature known as Handoff will let you start an activity — like reading something in Safari or working on a document — on one iOS or OS X device, then pick up another and keep working exactly where you left off.
iPad Air 2 gets thinner
iPad Air 2 is the thinnest iPad to date at 6.1 millimeters, or 18 percent thinner than the original iPad Air. The new A8X chip is 40 percent faster than its predecessor, and Apple says the device’s graphics are 2.5 times faster. The rear camera is 8 megapixels and significantly improved over its predecessor, able to shoot slow-motion video and time lapses for the first time. And the front camera has improved face detection and a “burst selfies” mode. iPad Air is also getting customers’ most-requested feature: TouchID for fingerprint access to your device and the increasing number of apps that take advantage of it. But while, you can use TouchID to make purchases online, you can’t use it in the real world — indicating the iPad Air does not have an NFC chip. The device starts at $499 for the 16GB, wifi-only version; $599 gets you 64GB, and $699 gets you 128GB. As usual, add $130 for LTE-enabled versions. Pre-orders start tomorrow, with devices shipping next week.
iPad mini 3 gets TouchID
The third generation of iPad mini is here, but unlike last year’s Retina upgrade, it’s not changing a whole lot. The only major visual difference is the addition of a TouchID sensor like the new iPad Air’s, and it’s still using last year’s A7 processor, while the rear camera is only 5 megapixels compared to the Air 2’s 8. Like the iPad Air, the iPad mini 3 is available in silver, space gray, and gold, and a base 16GB model will sell for $399. Pre-orders will start on Friday, and they’ll begin shipping next week. For anyone who doesn’t care about having the very latest tablet, Apple is also keeping both the original iPad mini and the iPad mini 2 (formerly the iPad mini with Retina display) and giving them a substantial price cut. That means you can buy an iPad mini 2 for $299 and up, and the original mini is only $249.
Retina iMac with more pixels than your next TV
Apple’s premium displays have come to the iMac. Apple’s all-in-one desktop boasts what Apple calls the Retina 5K display: a 27-inch inch screen with a resolution of 5120 by 2880, or 14.7 million pixels. That’s seven times as many as you would find in a high-definition television, the company says. Despite the added pixels, the iMac remains thin at 5 millimeters. “It is truly remarkable,” Phil Schiller said. But the beautiful display will cost you: $2,499 and includes a 1 terabyte Fusion drive and 8GB of memory.
Mac Mini gets faster and a Fusion drive
It’s been two years since we saw an update to Apple’s little desktop computer, the Mac mini. Today, it got the kind of specs bump you’d expect after so long: among other things, new 4th-generation Intel processors and two Thunderbolt 2 ports. The base model carries a 1.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, Intel HD Graphics 5000, a 500GB hard drive, and 4GB of memory, while the top of the line has a 2.8 GHz dual-core processor, Iris graphics, 8GB of memory, and a 1TB “fusion drive” buyers can customize beyond that. Phil Schiller calls it “the world’s most energy-efficient computer.” While the internals might be new, the design still looks a lot like its small, silver 2012 counterpart, and it seems to occupy the same position as a low-cost, low-profile alternative to the iMac. It’s going to start shipping today for a minimum of $499.
Still waiting on…
Still no ship date for the Apple Watch, though Tim Cook said again it will ship “early next year.” Meanwhile, developers will be able to start building apps for the device next month when Apple ships WatchKit, its development platform for Apple Watch.