Apple’s October 2014 Event Wrap Up — Holy Pixels, Batman! Edition

Apple’s October event was teased by saying “it’s been way too long”. I’m still not really sure if that was a dig at how long it’s been since the iPad was last updated, or how long it’s been since the last Apple event, but maybe there’s a third option that was only unveiled on stage at the last possible. More on this later, but for now, this is the summary of everything Apple announced.

Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off proceedings after a promo video showing off the incredible, insane launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. After commenting on an unspecified number of iPhone 6 pre-orders in China, it was straight into a recap of Apple news we’ve already heard about previously: Apple Pay and Apple Watching headlining things here. From the first few minutes, it seemed as though the event was shaping up to be more measured and carefully-paced compared to their October event.

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iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite

Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi stepped on stage to talk about iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. There was a slightly cringe-worthy (or hilarious, depending on how you look at it) Continuity skit between Federighi and Stephen Colbert, were Federighi demoed Yosemite’s ability to make phone calls, but again, there was nothing we hadn’t heard about before.

OS X Yosemite comes out today, free in the Mac App Store, and iOS 8.1 will be out Tuesday with Apple Pay, Handoff, and Continuity (the latter two in conjunction with Yosemite). Apple also showed off an update to the iWork suite, available for both Mac OS X and iOS today, and also free.

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iPad Air 2

With the software updates all out of the way, Phil stepped on stage to introduce the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3.

The iPad Air 2 is thinner, at 6.1mm, than its predecessors. Two iPad Air 2 devices stacked on top of each other are thinner than the original iPad, and the percentages say it’s 18% thinner than the first iPad Air, which was in turn 20% thinner than the fourth-generation iPad. There’s no air gap between the glass and the display, and it also comes with a anti-reflective coating which should make using the device in direct sunlight a little more tolerable. The iPad Air 2 comes with an A8X SoC, which translates to a 40% faster CPU and GPU performance 2.5 times that of the previous iPad Air.

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The cameras in the iPad Air 2 have also been upgraded to an 8 megapixel shooter on the back and a FaceTime HD camera on the front, both of which seem very similar specs-wise to the cameras on the iPhone 6, as presumably both devices use the same image processor. It’s thanks to the same image processor that the iPad Air 2 also gets the same software features of the iPhone 6, including slow-motion video capture, single-shot HDR, and “burst selfies” — all of which add up to the fact that while Apple can’t stop you from looking foolish when taking photos with your iPad, but they can ensure photos are at least worth taking with their tablet.

Apple seem to have killed off the mute switch in the iPad Air 2, but they’ve added Touch ID. The iPad Air 2 comes in the same peculiar capacities as the iPhone 6: 16, 64, and 128GB, and the same colour options (Space Grey, Silver, and Gold). Pre-orders open tomorrow, shipping by the end of next week, and pricing starts at $619 for the Wi-Fi only version, or $779 for the one with Wi-Fi and 4G.

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iPad mini 3

Apple’s iPad mini 3 also saw an update, but the only notable differences here are the addition of Touch ID and the same colour/capacity options as the new iPad Air 2. Other than that, the iPad mini 3 has exactly the same processor, display, battery life, everything, as the previous model. Pricing starts at $499 for the Wi-Fi only, 16GB model, going to $659 if you want one with Wi-Fi and 4G. Like the iPad Air 2, pre-orders for the iPad mini 3 open tomorrow, shipping next week.

Apple are keeping the older models around: the iPad Air is now $499 and $659 for the 16GB Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi and 4G models, respectively (down from $598 and $749). Meanwhile, the iPad mini 2 is now comparatively a bargain at $369 and $529 for the 16GB Wi-Fi and Wi-FI and 4G models, respectively (down from $479 and $629).

(As an aside, Apple also demoed two apps which look amazing. Pixelmator for iPad makes you forget all about Photoshop Touch as an image editor, and Replay puts together fantastic montages of all the video you took but never bothered to edit into an actual video. Replay is available for free on the App Store right now, while Pixelmator comes out sometime next month.)

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iMac with Retina 5K display

We’ve been talking about it for a while now, but earlier this morning Apple finally delivered the goods in the form of the iMac with Retina 5K display. On the exterior, it looks exactly the same as the current 27-inch iMac, but on the inside, everything’s changed. There’s a 5K panel running at an astonishing 5120×2880, packing some 14.7 million pixels to make it the world’s highest resolution display. Those quick on the back of the envelope will notice that’s 7 times more pixels than Full HD, and 67% more pixels than a “normal” 4K display. (For those wondering, it’s slightly less, PPI wise, than Apple’s MacBook Pro with Retina display. 218 PPI on the new iMac versus 220 PPI on the 15-inch and 227 PPI on the 13-inch.)

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Apple SVP of Hardware Engineering Dan Riccio made an appearance in an Apple promo video to tell us about the custom timing controller they had to create to make the display possible, along with the other technology packed into the panel: a compensation film (not that there’s much to compensate for here), an oxide-based TFT, highly-efficient LEDs, and something called organic passivation to ensure the pixels stay separate from one another.

On top of all that, the new iMac with Retina 5K display also comes with 45% faster GPU performance (but with 300% more pixels), Thunderbolt 2, and a Fusion drive as standard. It’s also incredibly well-priced for the tech it packs, starting at $2,999 for a 3.5GHz quad-core i5 with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB Fusion drive. It’s shipping today, and joins the rest of the iMac lineup as a separate model.

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Mac mini

The last machine Apple updated, and perhaps the one they were mentioning when they teased the event by talking about “it’s been way too long”, was the good ol’ Mac mini. Before today, it was 723 days since the previous update to Apple’s smallest Mac, but today’s updated proved they still care about the machine. That said, the Mac mini update was fairly low-key — Schiller flew right by the update, whizzing past a couple of slides telling us about 4th-generation Intel processors, PCI-e flash storage, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and not one, but two Thunderbolt 2 ports.

Like the iMac, the new Mac mini now comes in an entry-level version with a 1.4GHz processor at just $619, with a 2.6GHz and 2.8GHz model also available for $869 and $1,249, respectively.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, pretty much wrapped up Apple’s October 2014 event. Apple CEO Tim Cook teased the Apple Watch with every opportunity he got, with Craig Federighi also joining in on one occasion. Final untucked/tucked-in shirt count, according to John Gruber: 4-3, in favour of Team Untucked.

Photos via The Verge and Apple.

Notable Replies

  1. The iPad Mini update is a huge disappointment for me. I've been holding out all year for the update and what they're effectively asking for is an extra $130 for TouchID and a bit of gold paint. I'll be holding off another 12 months with my ailing iPad 3 because I just can't bring myself to buy last years technology and I really want a Mini.

    The iMac looks impressive! I'm looking forward to reading the real world testing of it. If this thing can putt along as good as every other iMac then it'll be a winner, even at that price tag. Interesting to watch the video about the technology behind it and I wish Apple spent more time on that stuff for us nerds. I am wondering how well it will respond to being calibrated by professionals but again real world testing will reveal all.

    Have you all upgraded to Yosemite yet? I've been running the public beta. By and large it's been ok. My only issue is that Safari stalls on loading pages every now and then. I've seen this issue in the past so lets hope they fix it again shortly.

  2. Mullo says:

    Anyone know what time preorders will open for the Air 2 ?

  3. Some brief thoughts on the event:

    Yeah, the iPad mini update kinda sucked. But on the plus side, if you don't want to pay for $100 for Touch ID, you can get some super cheap refurbed units off the Apple Online Store at the moment. Pretty decent selection of colour and capacity too, at time of writing. As a first-gen iPad mini owner, I can't see the point in upgrading (especially seeing as my iPad is only used for a bit of reading before bed).

    The iMac is super impressive, both in terms of specs and price. But I won't personally be buying one for two reasons: I can't plug my PC into it, unlike standalone 4K displays, which kind of ties into one of the problems with iMacs and all-in-ones, and that's upgrades.

    A few years down the track, when you go to upgrade your computer, you'll also be chucking out a display that is still top-of-the-line, all because the internals are out of date. It's an interesting problem, because historically this hasn't been an issue for Apple or any other all-in-one manufacturer before — but now that they're putting displays with 7x the resolution of Full HD into them, it kind of is. It's great that they've managed to get a 5K display off the ground (which should hopefully improve consumer adoption more than, say, consumer TV sets), but I'm a little apprehensive at it being an all-in-one solution.

    Personally, I'll hanging out for a standalone, 4K/60Hz/IPS panel for less than $1000, because I'll be able to use them with my PC and my Retina MBP. I'm told early 2015 is when the magic happens :smile:

    Dude, gold. Gold all the way.

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