Apple Unveils iPad Air 2 And iPad mini 3

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Apple Inc. (AAPL) unveiled new iPads and Macintosh computers in the second wave of Tim Cook’s biggest product push as chief executive officer, just ahead of the holiday shopping season.  The company today introduced the slimmer iPad Air 2 that measures 6.1 millimeters in width, as well as an iPad mini 3. The iPads have features including fingerprint security known as touch ID, with the iPad Air also sporting dual microphones for better audio. Apple said the iPad Air 2 is priced at $499 to $829, and the new iPad mini is $399 to $729.  Apple also showed a new 27-inch iMac with a retina display for better imagery. The computer costs $2,499 and ships today. The company also showed a new Mac mini, which starts at $499 and has faster processors.

“This is the strongest lineup of products that Apple has ever had,” Cook said at the event today.  Apple debuted the new products at its Cupertino, California-based headquarters after last month introducing the larger-screened iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, along with a smartwatch and a mobile-payments system. Cook is taking a two-pronged approach to boosting growth by beefing up Apple’s best sellers, the iPhone and iPad, while investing in new areas that further immerse users in the company’s digital ecosystem.  Cook needs to ignite new interest in iPads after sales of the device declined for two consecutive quarters. The iPad’s global market share slipped 6.1 percentage points during the second quarter as Samsung Electronics Co. and other smaller players nibbled at Apple’s lead, according to IDC.

“When you create a market like Apple did, all you can do is lose share over time,” Jean Philippe Bouchard, an analyst at IDC, said. “The low end of the market is just exploding.” The new iPad Air 2 includes Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint-recognition technology and other features incorporated into the new iPhones unveiled last month. The new iPad can access the new Apple Pay online payments enabled by Touch ID, but cannot pay for purchases at brick-and-mortar stores the way Apple’s new iPhones can. The iPad Air 2s start at $499 for 16 gigabytes, $599 for 64 gigabytes or $699 for 128 gigabytes. Apple cut the price of its 64 GB and 128 GB models by $100 each. Apple also introduced a new iPad Mini 3, selling from $399 to $599. Additionally, Apple retained its original iPad Air and iPad mini and mini 2, cutting the prices of each. Apple will begin taking orders for the new iPads Friday and said it will begin shipping by the end of next week.

Features of the new iPad Air 2:

  • Apple said two of the new iPads (6.1 millimeters each), stacked atop one another, are thinner than the original iPad.
  • The new iPad Air 2 screen has a new, nonreflective coating.
  • The new A8X processor is 12 times faster than the original iPad, according to Apple. It says graphics performance is 180 times faster, which Apple claims enables console-style games on the tablet.

Apple is hoping to boost sales of its tablet, which declined each of the past two quarters. The new, 27-inch iMacs run on Intel i5 or i7 quadcore microprocesors. Prices start at $2,499 and ship immediately. CEO Tim Cook began the event by announcing that the new Apple Pay smartphone payment system will launch Monday, October 20, coupled with an update to its iOS 8 operating system (8.1). The company then provided an extended review of the new features in its new Mac operating system, Yosemite. Apple announced the upgraded, free operating system is available for download Thursday. The new features, most of which were announced last summer, are designed to more tightly integrate the functionality of Apple’s devices so music, videos, photos and other files can be easily shared between Macs and mobile devices.

Other tidbits:

  • Apple revived its “Mac Mini,” a basic computer that needs a separate monitor. Those cost $499 apiece.
  • The Apple TV can now stream from other Apple devices without connecting to a local Wi-Fi network.
  • Apple says it will restore the “Camera Roll” feature to the photo library on its mobile devices. Users of its new iOS 8 mobile operating system had complained their photos were hard to find with the new operating system, released last month.
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