At its press event in San Francisco, Apple unveiled updated versions of its iPad and iPad mini, new Mac Pro laptops and desktops, and its new OS X Mavericks. The full-size iPad has become thinner and lighter, and now sports a new model name -- the iPad Air.
The Air, with a 9.7-inch Retina display, weighs one pound, less than the 1.4 pounds of its predecessor, and, at 7.5 mm, is now 20 percent thinner. The bezel surrounding the screen is 43 percent narrower, so the screen encompasses virtually the entire surface. Apple describes it as the “lightest full-sized tablet in the world.”
The 7.9-inch iPad mini now has a retina display and processing power quadruple that of the original mini, and Apple said the screen was 35 percent larger than screens on other 7-inch tablets. Both iPads are built around the Apple-designed A7 64-bit chip. In the Air, the company said the power-efficient A7 allows the battery to be smaller, reducing overall volume by nearly a quarter.
Both devices feature two antennas with multiple-in-multiple-out (MIMO) technology, which provides twice the previous Wi-Fi performance at speeds up to 300 Mbps, and both have next-generation Facetime HD cameras with better low-light capture.
The iPad Air with Wi-Fi starts at $499 for the 16GB, and $629 for the model with both Wi-Fi and cellular. The iPad mini starts at $399 for the 16GB with Wi-Fi, and $529 for Wi-Fi with Cellular. The Air goes on sale November 1, and the mini in late November.
The company, which defined the tablet category and is still the market leader, has seen its shipments drop 14 percent in the second quarter, while its market share is now 32 percent compared to about 63 percent for Android-based tablets. A year ago, the iPad’s market share was 60 percent.
Apple also showed new 13-inch MacBook Pro laptops with Retina display and 15-inch MacBook Pros that are being offered at starting prices $200 lower than previous models. A new Mac Pro desktop model, available before the end of 2013, will not rely on a hard drive, but instead only on solid-state Flash storage. The updated OS X Mavericks is available as a free download immediately, and revised iWork and iLife suites of applications will come free for anyone buying a new Mac or iOS device.
While the new iPads may help stem the slide of the company’s tablets, Apple watchers expressed some disappointment that this was yet another event from the company with no major new product announcements.
On the side of lower expectations, there had been rumors, and wishes, that Apple would have completely revised its iPods with newer technology, or added the new Touch ID fingerprint sensor to the iPad, or released an iPhone with a larger screen to compete with the new large-screen “phablets” that are occupying the space between small tablet and smartphone.
On the higher side, Apple fans are waiting for the launch of the long-rumored iWatch, which could ignite a still moribund smartwatch category the way the company has done before in so many other categories. There have also been persistent rumors that the company is readying a radical new Apple TV, which co-founder Steve Jobs had been working on.