Apple recently held a media event at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, where it unveiled its latest iPad models: the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3. While the most obvious change made to the new iPad models was the implementation of the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, the iPad Air 2 was also upgraded with a beefed-up version of the A8 chip called the A8X and its chassis was made 18 percent thinner at 6.1 millimeters. The iPad Air 2’s Retina display was also outfitted with an anti-reflective coating and improved Wi-Fi and LTE wireless connections.
However, amid all the iPad hype, Apple also made several other important announcements. Here are four cool announcements about Apple’s other products and services that you may have missed.
One of the biggest announcements that Apple made at its iPad-focused event was related to its new mobile payments service. Apple revealed that iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus users would be able to start making purchases with Apple Pay as of October 20, when the iOS 8.1 update was released. As explained by Apple on its website, the system allows the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 Plus, and the upcoming Apple Watch to be used as a secure, contactless payment method via Near Field Communications (NFC) technology.
After entering their card information into the Passbook app, users can make purchases at participating merchants by simply holding their iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus near an NFC reader with their finger on the Touch ID sensor. It should be noted that, although the new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 come equipped with Touch ID, the tablets do not include an NFC chip and so cannot be used for making payments at brick-and-mortar stores. However, users can authorize in-app Apple Pay purchases with the new iPad models’ Touch ID sensors.
Besides announcing the rollout date for Apple Pay, CEO Tim Cook also revealed that over 500 new banks have signed on to support Apple Pay, along with Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Wells Fargo, and the other financial institutions that were previously revealed. New retailer partners were also added, including American Eagle Outfitters, Bloomingdale’s, Champs Sports, and many more.
“Our team has worked incredibly hard to make Apple Pay private and secure, with the simplicity of a single touch of your finger,” said Apple SVP of Internet software and services Eddy Cue. “The reaction to Apple Pay has been amazing. We continue to add more Apple Pay ready banks, credit card companies and merchants, and think our users will love paying with Apple Pay.”
Another cool non-iPad announcement that Apple made was related to its highly-anticipated smartwatch. Apple first confirmed the existence of its long-rumored wearable tech device at the iPhone launch event in September. At that time, Apple showcased a few different kinds of apps that were being developed internally and by the company’s partners.
Apple Watch apps highlighted at the September event included social media apps from Twitter and Facebook, check-in apps from Starwood Hotels and American Airlines, fitness apps from Apple and Nike, smart home apps from Honeywell and Lutron, navigation apps from Citymapper and BMW, and a Major League Baseball (MLB) app that showed real-time game scores. While the apps showcased at the September media event were impressive, obviously there will need to be many more apps developed for the Apple Watch platform in order for it to become a viable product.
Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off that process at the media event in October when he announced that the company will release WatchKit — the software development kit (SDK) for the Apple Watch — in November. “I’m pleased to tell you today that we have developed WatchKit, where many other developers can join this party,” said Cook. “We are rolling out WatchKit next month in time for our developers to really do some fantastic work before we begin shipping Apple Watch.” Cook also confirmed that the Apple Watch is still scheduled to be launched in “early 2015.”
New 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display
In case you missed it, iPads weren’t the only new hardware that Apple unveiled at its recent media event. The California-based company also unveiled a new 27-inch iMac with a stunning 5K (5,120-by-2,880) high-resolution display. Not only did Apple bring its Retina technology to the iMac product line for the first time, it also managed to do it while keeping the display remarkably thin, with a depth of only five millimeters at its edge.
Per Apple, the high-quality Retina 5K display has a total of 14.7 million pixels, or four times as many pixels as the standard 27-inch iMac display. As noted by Apple SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller, the company had to create its own custom timing controller just to handle the bandwidth required to drive the display. The standard 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K display costs $2,499 and includes a 3.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz, 8GB (two 4GB) of RAM, a 1TB Fusion Drive, and an AMD Radeon R9 M290X GPU.
“Thirty years after the first Mac changed the world, the new iMac with Retina 5K display running OS X Yosemite is the most insanely great Mac we have ever made,” said Schiller. “With a breathtaking 14.7 million pixel display, faster CPU and graphics, Fusion Drive, and Thunderbolt 2, it’s the most beautiful and powerful iMac ever.”
New Mac mini
Finally, Apple finished off its new hardware bonanza by unveiling a new version of the Mac mini desktop computer. The new Mac mini was upgraded with the latest integrated Intel HD Graphics 5000 and Intel Iris Graphics processors, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and a second Thunderbolt 2 port. Like of all Apple’s desktop computers, the new Mac mini also includes the latest desktop operating system, OS X Yosemite. While the three different standard Mac mini models range from $499 to $999, prices for build-to-order models can go higher based on the configuration options selected.
“It’s a great first Mac or addition to your home network, and the new Mac mini is a nice upgrade packed into an incredibly compact design,” noted Schiller. “With the latest CPU and graphics, faster Wi-Fi, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, OS X Yosemite, and starting at just $499, the new Mac mini is the best value ever.”
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