Earlier this week, Tim Cook led Apple's latest keynote and announced product upgrades across the board. New additions here and spec upgrades there are prompting users around the globe to update their holiday shopping lists and hope for steep discounts on Black Friday. In-between what were many foreseeable announcements, Apple also threw in a few surprises.
Here are the big ones:
The new new iPad. In what might have been the biggest surprise, Apple announced it is phasing out the new iPad (released only a few months ago) and replacing it with a newer one (due out next month). Same look. Same price. Less issues. In simplest terms, they fixed all the complaints. There is now more LTE support (including Sprint in the US and local providers in the UK), a faster processor, faster WiFi and some better camera features. Oh and with the help of a new power adapter, quicker charging too. No major changes, but it does help to know you are getting your money’s worth and that the company you are buying from really listens to users’ input.
The iPad mini. Users want small. Technology has always been about making devices smaller; even the iPhone 5, with its bigger screen, has smaller components and a smaller weight. And now your iPad can be smaller too. Just as powerful as the current $399 model, the iPad mini has more features (Siri and LTE just to list a few) and a lower price (starts at $329). At over $250, many users might not make the jump away from their Kindle Fire HD or Nexus 7, but for users considering Apple and for users who want small, I wish them short lines in the store and quick initial shipments.
13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Powerful. Beautiful. Small. Expensive. Four words to perfectly describe the newest addition to Apple's killer line of laptops. It perfectly complements its 15" big brother. With a screen that dominates every other laptop (except for the 15” version released a few months ago) this machine is beautiful. And with specs that are great for any laptop, it'll be great for anyone who wants to multitask, edit pictures or play video games all night. If I could afford it, it would already be in my shopping cart.
Mac mini. In keeping with Apple's theme of minis, they upgraded their everyday desktop computer. It's not their most well known product, but anybody trying to replace an older computer who wants to switch to a Mac, here is their gateway drug. It's just as powerful as any of the other entry-level machines out there, and it has an adapter that can be used with any nice monitor (or TV) you might already own. Plug in a keyboard and mouse (or buy them from Apple), and you are good to go. It’s simple, small and just as powerful as any of their laptops available at twice the price.
And my favorite announcement...
The 27" (and 21") iMac. Ultrasleek and ultrapowerful. And at points only 5mm thick (and at others over 20" long). This machine is ridiculous. Shipping in December (November for the 21"), this machine has already made it to the top of my holiday list. And I have a version that's only two years old! Apple took their last model (which was very powerful for an all-in-one computer), cut the size and upped the specs. Simply put, it’s an ideal announcement. How exactly the edges are 5mm is beyond me (and don't worry -as soon as they are on display in Grand Central, ill find out), but until then just "wow". For those intensive users (and big time gamers), here’s a machine capable of it all. I bet it even runs Windows smoothly.
Finally, the Fusion Drive. Available as an upgrade on the Mac mini and iMac, this is Apple's take on a hybrid drive, but bigger in specs, not physical size. Although details are still slim, the Fusion Drive has 128GB of solid state storage and up to 3TB of typical hard drive storage. Coming from someone who made the switch to solid state drive (SSD) a few months ago and has only looked back to wonder why it took so long to do so, this sounds like exactly what I want in my computer: storage space to make my apps run fast and tons of space to store my music and files. But Apple says they've taken it one step further.
In a typical hybrid drive, the solid state storage is used as a cache - a temporary quick-to-access spot to store copies of what you are running/accessing often. Apple's software beyond their hybrid drive eliminates this need for redundancy. The files and applications you need and access a lot are automatically shifted in the background to solid state. And this will dynamically change over time. Promises of boot speeds and access speeds that near that of full SSD solutions means the potential for what will seem like over 3TB of solid state storage. This will either be one big gimmick or one huge spec jump. We all know what I'm hoping for when I put one in my iMac configuration on my holiday list.