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Apple Announces Huge Improvements to the Watch, iPad, Apple TV and iPhone


Apple Announces Huge Improvements to the Watch, iPad, Apple TV and iPhone
Posted September 9th, 2015

This morning, Apple announced some groundbreaking new hardware and software improvements in four of its major product lines - the Apple Watch, the iPad, the Apple TV set-top box, and the iPhone. You can read this article to learn more, or you can ask Siri... but since Siri wasn't paying attention during the event, you're stuck with us.

So let's get started.

Apple Watch
There are some new color options for the Apple Watch Sport. You can now buy the anodized aluminum model of the Watch with a gold or rose gold (pinkish) colored casing. It is the same price as any other Sport model. There are also various new bands for some of the Apple Watch collections. The two new Apple Watch Sport colors can be paired with a sport band in lavender, "antique white," "stone," or midnight blue color. The silver Watch Sport can now be ordered with an orange or darker blue band. The space black regular Apple Watch (the stainless steel model) now has two-toned leather bands, available in black or "saddle brown." Although this band was already available with the Sport model, you can now order a regular Apple Watch with a black sport band. You can also order an Apple Watch Edition (the pricey, 18-karat gold model) with a midnight blue classic buckle band. There is another all-new color of sport band, and that is a special edition (PRODUCT) RED band, supporting the Red initiative. Lastly, Apple has teamed up with Hermès to create some new high-quality leather bands that you can purchase alongside the stainless steel Apple Watch, available in October, starting at $1100 for the Watch and the band. If you get one of these, it will come with some extra watch faces to fit with the Hermès style. You can view all available bands on Apple's website in the Apple Watch gallery.

Left to right: The new colors for the watches and bands, the Double Tour leather band from the Hermès collection. Photo credit: Apple

Apple also announced that watchOS 2, the software that powers the Apple Watch, will be available September 16th. Update to iOS 9 on your iPhone, then launch the Watch app on the phone to update the watch. You can read about all the incredible new features coming in watchOS 2, including Time Travel, third-party complications, native apps, and new wallpapers, here.

Although traditionally announced in October, Apple unveiled some all-new iPads today. Apple CEO Tim Cook described this as "the biggest news for the iPad... since the iPad." The highlight is the brand new iPad Pro, to be sold alongside the iPad Air and iPad mini. This new iPad's screen is 12.9 inches diagonally - 2732 x 2048 resolution - 5.6 million pixels. That's more pixels than the MacBook Pro with Retina display. iPad Pro features a new A9X chip, offering 2x faster storage and 2x the memory bandwidth of the previous processor. According to Senior Vice President of Marketing Phil Schiller, the new iPad can deliver "desktop level performance." Its CPU is faster than 80% of portable computers introduced in the last year, and the GPU is faster than 90% of those. The iPad Pro offers up to 10 hours of battery life. This is possible in part due to a variable refresh rate - this means that the iPad uses lower energy by refreshing pixels less often. The audio has also been drastically improved. It has a four speaker audio system - two on the top, two on the bottom. The volume can be up to 3x louder than the iPad Air 2. It has an 8MP iSight camera, like the iPad Air 2. As for wireless, you can get up to 150 Mbps LTE. 802.11ac Wi-Fi is also built-in.The bigger screen size also allows the iPad Pro to have a full size keyboard, with number keys above the letter keys, like a traditional computer keyboard. Apple has also designed its own keyboard accessory, exclusively for the iPad Pro. It's called the Smart Keyboard, as it takes design principles from the Smart Cover. However, the way it attaches is magnificent. It has a magnetic connector on the left side of iPad Pro to slide the keyboard into. The software keyboard will disappear when it's connected, so you have a full screen view. There is another brand new accessory: a stylus. It's called the Apple Pencil. Literally. You can remove the tip to reveal a Lightning connector. Plug this into your iPad Pro, and the iPad will recharge the stylus.

Left to right: The three sizes of iPads, the iPad Pro color options, and the new colors of Smart Covers. Photo credit: Apple

So how much is the new iPad Pro? If you do the math, you'd find that the iPad Pro's screen size is 78% - around four fifths - larger than the iPad Air 2. So should it be four fifths greater in price, putting it at around $899? Nope, it's actually starting at $799, for 32GB of storage (double that of the base model iPad Air 2). The next option up is 128GB of storage, for $949. There is also a Wi-Fi + Cellular model available with 128GB of storage, which would be $1,079. It comes in the same color options as before - silver, gold and space gray. The iPad Pro will be available in November. The Apple Pencil is $99. The Smart Keyboard is $169 and is available in charcoal gray. Both accessories are sold separately.

There is also a new iPad mini, the iPad mini 4. The iPad mini now has many of the same capabilities as larger screened iPads, all packed into its small form factor. It now has an 8MP iSight camera, catching up to the iPad Air line, compared to 5MP on the iPad mini 3. It now has dual microphones. It also has redesigned volume control buttons, identical to the iPad Air 2 - no more mute switch, and resigned volume buttons.
It also has the same advances in wireless technology. Its A8 processor brings 30% faster graphics and a 60% faster CPU.

The iPad mini 4 will be available for $399, replacing the iPad mini 3. The iPad mini 2 is now the entry-level iPad mini, starting at $269. The original iPad mini has been discontinued. There are also new colors available for the Smart Cover and Smart Case for the various iPads, as shown above. The covers are $59 and the cases are $79.

Apple TV
Both the software and the remote have been completely redesigned. The Apple TV now has a dedicated operating system called tvOS, built on the backbone of iOS. For starters, Siri is now coming to the Apple TV. When you talk to Siri, the Siri screen overlays the current screen so you don't lose your place. Siri comes in handy while playing a video. Tell her to skip ahead a certain amount of time. Say "what did they say?" and Siri will rewind 15 seconds and temporarily turn on captions in case you missed a line in the movie you're watching. Equally revolutionary is the fact that the Apple TV now has its own App Store - now you can play games and download a wide variety of other apps on your Apple TV. The 11 million registered developers can now create apps for the TV. Apple Music is also coming to the Apple TV. As for the Apple TV box itself, it has 64-bit A8 chip, compared to the previous Apple TV which was powered by the outdated A5 processor. It also has 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology. It's actually 10mm taller than earlier models. Now, on to the all-new remote with touch input for scrolling/navigating. The remote communicates through Bluetooth - no need to aim it directly at the TV set. The remote has built-in microphone for talking to Siri. The battery should last 3 months under normal use. It has a Lightning charger to recharge it when it runs out of juice. Also, the Siri remote is the only remote you need. The volume controls work on the actual TV's volume. You can also turn the receiver on or off.

Left to right: The new Apple TV and Siri Remote, a glance at the new software on the Apple TV: tvOS. Photo credit: Apple

You can get the new Apple TV with 32GB of on-board storage for $149. There is also a 64GB option for $199. It will be available next month (October). The existing Apple TV (3rd generation) is still available, for $69 as before.

Aside from the "S" in a square printed on the back, the all-new iPhone 6S looks identical to the iPhone 6. But don't let that fool you. It is jam-packed with improvements. There is a new "rose gold" color option alongside silver, gold, and space gray. It is more durable than ever with 7000 series aluminum and stronger cover glass. There is also a new technology embedded in the screen called 3D touch - not Force Touch like rumors predicted. Force Touch is found in the Apple Watch, and in the trackpads on the latest MacBooks. 3D touch is, however, similar to Force Touch. For example, you can 3D touch a home screen icon to see options for that app, like Safari, as shown below. Or tap on a picture or email to see a preview. iPhone 6S also has a taptic engine just like the Apple Watch and MacBooks with Force Touch trackpads. This allows for better vibration. For the geeks out there, just 1 oscillation is required to create the vibration effect versus 10 in a traditional vibration system.

The iPhone 6S also features an A9 processor. For the first time, the M9 motion co-processor is integrated into the A-series processor. The greater processing efficiency now allows "Hey Siri" to work without the iPhone being plugged in. iPhone 6S is the first device to feature 2nd generation Touch ID, offering twice as fast recognition of your fingerprints. It also has a 12MP iSight camera, the highest number of pixels ever in an iPhone. The iPhone can now shoot 4K videos - that's 8 million pixels per frame. At 60 frames per second, you can imagine how quickly that adds up. The FaceTime HD front-facing camera is now 5MP for the first time. Now the front facing camera has flash, too. It uses the Retina display to create what's called Retina flash. The display will light up 3x brighter than the normal maximum brightness when used for flash. There's also a stunning new technology called Live Photos. By default, when you take a picture, it captures 1.5 seconds before and after the shot. When you view the photo, 3D touch the picture to see the 3-second snippet to make your photos come alive.

Left to right: The new rose gold color option, an example of a menu accessible using 3D Touch. Photo credit: Apple

Other improvements include LTE Advanced - up to 300 Mbps cellular data speeds. You can now also get up to 866 Mbps over Wi-Fi - twice as fast as the iPhone 6. As for accessories, there are new charging docks with a metal finish to match the color of your iPhone. There are new colors for the leather and silicone cases and covers.

The iPhone 6S has the same pricing as the iPhone 6. The 4.7-inch screen iPhone 6S starts at $199, and the 5.5-inch screen iPhone 6S Plus starts at $299. The entry-level iPhone 6 has been discounted to $99, and the 6 Plus now starts at $199. The iPhone 5S is free. Storage options still start at 16GB. All of these prices are the subsidized prices that you can get when you sign up for a new two-year contract with your carrier, or if you are eligible for an upgrade. You can pre-order the iPhone 6S starting September 12th, and it will be available online and in stores starting September 25th.

A lot of carriers are pushing installment plans for phones these days over two-year contracts. If an installment plan is for you, then you might also consider Apple's own, new iPhone upgrade program. In Apple Retail Stores (currently U.S. only, but expanding soon), you can get a new iPhone every year for $32/month. You can choose a carrier, but the phone is unlocked, not tied to that carrier (the phone is unlocked), and there is no contract or commitment. This program also includes AppleCare+, Apple's extended warranty which allows you to replace an iPhone that was accidentally damaged for $99 if you have the latest model (or just $79 for older iPhones).

Other Announcements
Apple also announced that iOS 9 will be available on September 16th. Additionally, there are new, cheaper pricing options for iCloud storage. You still get 5GB of storage for free, but you can now get 50GB for just $0.99/month, 200GB for $2.99/month, or 1TB for $9.99/month.

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