Apple announces the iPad Pro, product upgrades

On Wednesday, Apple made several major product announcements at a press conference. The most noteworthy announcement is the new iPad Pro. I’ve given my two cents on each major new announcement below. A summary of everything is available at TechCrunch.

Apple Watch

A few incremental upgrades were announced, including some new watch bands, colors, and so forth. While I guess the Watch is selling well, it still strikes me as a rather expensive accessory, given it can’t be used on its own (it requires an iPhone). The Apple Watch also still has to work against everyone being convinced that wearing watches is “old-fashioned” (thanks to smartphones), plus the existence of more entrenched, cheaper options: FitBit, my run-of-the-mill $25 Timex wristwatch, etc.

iPhone 6S and 6S Plus

The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are the latest versions of the iPhone line. The two phones are in the same sizes as the respective 6 and 6 Plus predecessors—4.7 inches for the 6S and 5.5 inches for the 6S Plus. The new phones are given modest spec bumps over its predecessors, a new color option (“rose gold”), and attention paid to the cameras—they can now record 4K video. The entry-level models also come with an unfortunate 16GB of storage, despite many comparable Android phones starting at 32GB and/or offering SD card storage options.

Fortunately, Apple’s also finally improved its iCloud cloud storage options: 50GB for $1/month, 200GB for $3/month, and 1TB for $10/month. The prices are more comparable to Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive, though iCloud is still fairly tied to Apple devices versus its rivals.

Prices are the same as the previous models, with the usual demotion of its earlier versions. The new base model is the 5S, with the 5C now dropped; it also makes the only 4-inch iPhone left in Apple’s lineup.

Apple’s also offering a new phone payment plan. The “Apple Upgrade Plan” (starting at $32/month, available via the Apple Store) allows subscribers to upgrade to a new iPhone when a new model comes out each year. The phones are unlocked (for use on any carrier), and AppleCare is included with the plan. For those wanting the newest model each year, it might be worthwhile. It also competes with various carriers dropping contract priced phones in favor of similar installment plans.

The new phones are available in late September. For iPhone fans, the now-cheaper models offering bigger-sized screens should be popular.

Apple TV

The Apple TV’s gotten long overdue upgrades. Similar to Amazon Fire and several higher-end models of the Roku, the Apple TV now comes with its own dedicated app store, various verbal commands through its remote, and some games. Apple also has spun off the Apple TV’s OS as “tvOS,” though still obviously based on iOS. With the upgrades comes an inflated price: the 32GB Apple TV is available for $149, while the 64GB model is at $199. The new Apple TV ships in October.

Apple TV fans should like the upgrades, but for those without a streaming box, the Apple TV might not look as attractive as the Roku, Chromecast, or Amazon Fire, or even a Blu-Ray player.

iPad Pro

The biggest Apple news was the newest iPad model: the giant-sized iPad Pro. This 12.9 inch model comes with a lot more horsepower over the normal sized iPad models: 10-hour battery life; an A9X chip that’s supposedly 1.8 times as powerful as the predecessor A8; an 8MP camera; four speakers for audio; and weighs about as much as the original model iPad (1.57 lbs/0.71 kg). The entry-level 32GB model costs $799, while a 64GB model goes for $949, and a cellular-equipped 128GB model costs $1,079.

Along with the above, Apple’s offering two new accessories: the Apple Pencil and an iPad keyboard. The Pencil is a stylus that costs $99, while the keyboard costs $169. As TechCrunch noted, the two items are basically similar to Microsoft’s Surface.

Obviously, Apple wants the new Pro table to shore up sagging tablet sales and better compete in the professional sector. Never mind tablet sales are sagging because tablets aren’t like smartphones. Tablets are devices people will only replace once they wear out or break, and new models don’t offer a radically different enough experience to justify frequent upgrades. As for the professional side of things, the Pro and its Pencil accessory might be appealing for those such as artists or graphic designers.

Otherwise, I feel the same way about the iPad Pro as the Surface: a “real” laptop computer would be the better buy for $800… such as Apple’s own MacBook Air. Starting at $899 for the base 11″ model, the Air would be a cheaper buy than the Pro plus the Surface-like keyboard cover (totaling $968).

iPad Mini 4

Finally, Apple introduced a new iPad model, the “iPad Mini 4.” Replacing the iPad Mini 3, this model has the same specs as the iPad Air 2, in the Mini’s size. The iPad Mini 4 starts at $399. The iPad Mini 2 is still being offered as the entry-level iPad, now at the lower starting price of $269.

The iPad Mini 4 is probably worth buying for those that want the latest iPad specs, but want a smaller-size iPad. However, the Mini 2 is probably still not a bad buy, albeit growing a bit older specswise. It’s also much cheaper than any other iPad, and Touch ID isn’t exactly a compelling reason to shell out an extra $130.

That sums things up. Do you have an interest in any of the new Apple products announced?

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