New iPads, iMacs, and Apple Pay: Nine Things We Learned From Apple

CEO Tim Cook at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., on Oct. 16 Photograph by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

On Thursday, Apple held its second product release event in six weeks. This time the news was mostly incremental. Here, in considerably less time than it will take you to rewatch the event, is what you need to know:

The iPad Air 2 is really skinny. Apple has gone to the time-tested strategy for updating a computer: It’s made it thinner. The new device is only 6.1 millimeters thick, thinner than the new iPhones by almost 1mm. It runs on a 64-bit chip, the A8X, which Apple says has 40 percent faster CPU (central processing unit) performance. The device also gets an 8-megapixel camera that can do time-lapse and slow-motion imaging for the first time.

There’s also a new iPad mini. It’s called the iPad mini 3.

The new tablets come in gold. They also come in silver and space gray, so you can match with your iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Preorders start on Friday. The new tablets cost the same as last year’s versions. For the iPad Air, that’s $500 to $700, depending on memory for Wi-Fi versions, with cellular versions coming with a $130 price premium. The iPad minis cost $400 to $600, with the same price bump for cell versions. Last year’s iPads will remain on sale with $100 price drops.

The new tablets can read fingerprints. A year after the iPhones got a fingerprint scanner, Apple’s tablets get it as well. This allows users to unlock their devices and log in to apps using their fingerprints. It also lets them use Apple Pay for online payments. The iPads can’t be used to make payments in physical stores, mercifully sparing everyone the experience of standing behind someone in the grocery store who insists on tapping his tablet against the cash register.

Apple Pay goes live on Monday. Apple’s payment system allows people to bump their phones to pay for items in the 220,000 stores that have NFC (near-field communication) readers, as well as pay for items in apps by using the fingerprint scanner on Apple’s newest mobile devices. Mobile payments have been possible for several years but haven’t caught on yet. Apple’s ability to get the credit card networks and several merchants walking in lockstep should help. Among the stores and services where Apple Pay will work next week: Staples, Walgreens, Whole Foods, Uber, OpenTable, and StubHub.

Developers can start working on Apple Watch apps next month. Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook remained vague about when the company’s smartwatch will go on sale, saying only that it will be early next year. But the company is releasing WatchKit, software that will let developers begin to work on apps for the devices.

The new iMac has a really nice screen. The newest version of the 27-inch iMac has a 5K retina display—that’s one more K than the new high-end televisions. At $2,500, it costs significantly more than the existing $1,800 27-inch iMacs. The company also dropped $100 from the price of its Mac mini.

The new Mac OS is now available. The main distinction of the new software, called Yosemite, which was shown off at Apple’s developer conference earlier this year, is that it makes Macs work more closely with Apple’s mobile devices. Users will be able to start a task on one device, then continue it on another one. Cook ended the event by talking about what he thinks is the main advantage of Apple’s product line: a whole range of devices that adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

Oct. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook unveils a new IPad at an event in Cupertino, California. (This is an excerpt from the event. Video courtesy of Apple Inc. Source: Bloomberg)

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