Today (October 16, 2014) was Apple's third major announcement of the year, after WWDC in June and the iPhone/Apple Watch event last month. This time, the focus was on the Mac and the iPad, with some exciting new products announced, not to mention the release for the long-awaited OS X 10.10 Yosemite, iWork updates for the Mac, and the scheduled release of iOS8.1 on Monday, October 20.
If you'd rather watch the video, you can now do so. Here's Apple's recording of today's announcements.
This newest version of the OS X operating system brings with it a lot of new features, from an enhanced Spotlight, to Handoff, to widgets in the re-designed Notification Center, and plenty more. We covered Yosemite's features on our WWDC summary, or you can check out Apple's official Yosemite page.
Apple announced that Yosemite is being released today, so by the time you are reading this, it is probably available to you. As has become the norm in the last few years, Yosemite will be completely free for all Mac users. If you plan to upgrade, you should have a look at this article for compatibility lists and details. Before you update, we strongly suggest you take a look at our list of features and bugs for VoiceOver users. If and when you update, please remember to back up your files before installing Yosemite!
Apple introduced two new iPads today: the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3. Both offer the same storage options as the recently released iPhone6 - 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB, with each storage increase adding $100 to the price. Both also come in the color choices started last year with the iPhone 5S: gold, space gray, and silver.
In keeping with the trend of adding iPhone6 features to their iPad line, Apple has finally introduced Touch ID. This will not only let users take advantage of substituting fingerprints for passcodes and passwords, but it lets them use Apple Pay in any app that supports it. You won't see iPads being used at cash registers, as they still have no NFC chip, but if an app has implemented the Apple Pay service, a user can simply touch the fingerprint reader built into the home button of their iPad to complete a purchase within the app.
The iPad Air 2 is 6.1mm thick, which is slightly thinner than the original iPad Air. It includes the following features:
- An anti-reflection coating that will cut reflections by 56%, making the screen much easier to see in bright light
- a ten-hour battery life
- 802-11AC wifi, and what seems to be the same LTE chip found in the iPhone6 line (cellular iPads only). This provides support for more LTE bands, and faster LTE speeds.
- the A8X CPU, offering 40% better performance than last year's iPad, plus better graphics
- a coprocessor and barometer for tracking your fitness (steps taken, stairs climbed, and so on)
- a vastly improved 8MP rear-facing camera, which supports burst mode, 120FPS slow-motion video, panorama shots, software image stabilization, and other improvements
- a slightly updated front-facing camera that can also handle burst mode and now lets in 80% more light, so your selfies or FaceTime calls will look even better.
The iPad Mini 3 is, essentially, the iPad Mini 2 with Touch ID and a new color option. It got very little mention during the announcement, and it appears to have not received the new processor, camera, or other features of the updated iPad Air (again, except that it now has Touch ID).
The iPad line is getting very crowded. Here's the plan moving forward:
- the iPad Air 2 will be the newest iPad, with the best specifications, available starting at $499
- the iPad Mini 3 will be the newest Mini, but is not as good (internally) as the full-sized iPad Air 2
- the iPad Air, from late 2013, will still be available, at $399
- the original iPad Mini (the one with no Retina Display) is still being sold, starting at $250, as is the 2013 iPad Mini, for a slightly higher price
The iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 are both available starting next week, but you can pre-order them now.
iOS8.1, Apple Pay, and Apple Watch
Touch ID in the iPad line, and Touch ID and NFC in the iPhone6 and 6 Plus, all exist to let you use the much-anticipated Apple Pay service. In iOS8, however, Apple Pay was nowhere to be found, and no stores officially supported it when it was announced in September.
Now, that has all changed: Apple Pay is rolling out starting Monday, October 20. iOS8.1 will come out the same day, enabling the service on your iPhone6 or 6 Plus. iOS8.1 will let you capture your credit or debit cards with your device's camera, store them in Passbook, and pay for purchases with just your fingerprint at participating stores and inside certain apps. iOS8.1 will also offer a list of bug fixes and small improvements, as do all minor iOS updates.
The Apple Watch, the wearable that will track your heart rate, show iOS notifications, support Apple Pay, and offer other handy features, got a mention. The watch itself is not shipping until sometime early in 2015, which is the same timeframe Apple gave us during its initial announcement of the device in September. Now, though, Apple is getting ready to release Watchkit in November. This software kit will let developers start working on apps for the Apple Watch, so that by the time the watch itself is ready to go, so are the apps that will run on it.
The iMac, Apple's all-in-one desktop, has been updated with an incredible new screen and faster internals. The screen for the 27-inch iMac has in astounding 5120 by 2880 pixels. Apple is calling this new display "Retina 5K", and it surpasses the ultra-high definition 4K technology that is still relatively new in the display industry. In fact, this new iMac has 67% more pixels than a 4K screen, and around seven times the pixels of an HD television. Apple showcased this new screen, touting its clarity and resolution--for instance, it can edit raw 4K video, or show a full-sized 17 megapixel image. Apple says the development team behind this marvel needed to invent some brand new technology to make this new iMac a reality, and apply techniques normally used in its Retina MacBook screens.
Of course, the internals of the computer needed to be updated to support this massive increase in resolution. The 27-inch iMac now comes standard with a 3.5GhZ quad core Core I5 processor, 45% faster graphics, Thunderbolt II ports, and a 1TB Fusion Drive. As with all Macs, you can add even better internals when you buy one, if you want to. Pricing starts at $2495, which Apple was careful to point out is less than the cost of many 4K monitors, despite being an entire computer plus a screen that is far superior to 4K.
This new iMac will start shipping today. The rest of the iMac line has yet to see any upgrades, and there was no mention of whether the 21-inch iMac will get the new screen and better components. For now, the 27-inch model is the only new one, and you can still buy the previous generation in 27-inch or 21-inch configurations.
The Mac Mini, which has always been Apple's cheapest Mac, got two updates today.
First, the internals got a boost: flash storage, a better processor and graphics card, 802.11AC wifi, and two Thunderbolt 2 ports.
The other announcement is great news for those looking to get a new Mac: the price has dropped. Just as the prices for MacBook Airs came down earlier this year, so now have those for the Mac Mini lineup. The cheapest Mini used to be $599; it is now $499, the same price as the 16GB iPad Air 2.
Yosemite, Apple Pay, iOS8.1, Apple Watch app development kit, new iPads, the world's highest-resolution display in the new iMac, and upgraded and cheaper Mac Minis. Overall, this announcement was a good one, though many people are surprised that the iPad Mini received so little in the way of updated components.
As to accessibility, there was not much. Low vision users may enjoy the amazingly good screen on the new iMac, but aside from that there is nothing we can find that will be of particular benefit to VoiceOver or Zoom users (except Apple Pay, which we've covered already). Of course, this event was mostly about the hardware, with recaps of Yosemite and Handoff thrown in, so we were not expecting accessibility-specific announcements.
How are you feeling about this one? Going to get a shiny new iPad Air 2? Excited that Apple Pay will bee here next week? Underwhelmed? Share your thoughts in the comments!