Hey everybody! Apple just announced a big pile of stuff. Here’s what they had to say:
This is an all-new iPad that blurs the line between tablet and notebook computer. It’s got a big screen, but it’s extremely slim, with a weight similar to the original iPad. It’s twice as fast as the iPad Air 2, the previous top of the line, and has a speaker in not just in one corner, but every corner. Also new are the optional “Smart Keyboard” which doubles as a folding cover, and the “Pencil”, which is a high-precision stylus; these can’t (yet) be used with other iPad or iPhone models. Interested? You’ll have to wait until November, and then get out your credit card: models run from $799 to $1079, with the Smart Keyboard at $169 and the Pencil at $99.
If you’re wondering whether you should get an iPad Pro or a MacBook (or MacBook Air), most of your decision will come down to whether you want to use OS X (Mac) apps, or iOS apps. In general, Mac apps are more powerful and flexible, while iOS apps are simpler and more “touchable.”. If you have more questions, ask me! (But don’t ask me what I think of the “Thin. Light. Epic.” marketing verbage on their website. Apple, I expect better from you.)
The iPad mini 4 replaces the iPad mini 3, at the same price range of $399 to $529, belatedly improving its performance to the level of the iPad Air 2, plus it is slimmer and lighter, with better cameras. The iPad product line and naming remains as confusing as ever, with two minis (7.9″), two Airs (10.4″), and now the Pro (12.9″), totaling 61 different configurations.
Apple introduced the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, available for preorder on September 12, and in stores on September 25. They are visually similar to their predecessors (unless you elect for a new Rose Gold color), and are slightly thicker and heavier, owing to a stronger body and screen (which may mean your existing case won’t fit). New features, first introduced with the Apple Watch, include “3D Touch” (a.k.a. Force Touch) in which you can firmly press the screen as a separate gesture than a tap, and receive physical feedback. The new models are faster than the previous ones, and have more responsive Touch ID. The cameras are also improved and, in more esoteric features, can now take ultra HD videos, as well as “Live Photos” in which any given photo can also be seen as superbrief video. However, the 6s and 6s Plus don’t have improved battery life (although see below re how iOS 9 is supposed to improve battery). The new models start at $649 unlocked, or $199 carrier-subsidized; the previous iPhone 6 and 6 Plus remain available at a lower price, and the iPhone 5s is also still available at a still lower price.
If you’ve already got an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, the 6s models probably aren’t a must-have unless you really want the latest and greatest. If you’ve got a 5s, it’s probably worth considering an upgrade; if you’ve got a 5 or earlier, the performance improvements are great enough that I’d recommend upgrading.
To make these sorts of decisions easier in the future, Apple has followed the lead of the mobile carriers, and now offers, for around $6 per month, the ability to pay off your phone over 24 months, but trade it in any time after 12 months if you purchase a new phone. The phone you get is not locked to a carrier, and comes with AppleCare+, which lets you replace the phone for $99 if you accidentally damage it and provides a second year of warranty coverage. Sounds like a pretty good deal, actually.
Apple introduced a next-generation Apple TV. Formerly, the Apple TV was a somewhat boring box that plugged into your TV and gave it the ability to play from a few streaming services and your iTunes library. Now, it’s all that, but more interesting because it’s also an app and gaming machine, with its own app store. New content will become available when providers (e.g. Amazon) and developers create apps, just like on an iPhone or iPad. A new, beefier (meaning, from my perspective, less loseable) remote control features a touchpad, and you can also use gaming controllers made by other companies. The new Apple TV starts at $149.
There are now more body and band colors across the Watch line, and if you were holding out because you were waiting for an Hermès edition, your dream has come true, as there is now an Hermès-designed band and digital watch face, starting at $1,100.
iOS 9 and watchOS 2
The latest versions of iOS and watchOS drop on September 16, and we’ll have a separate newsletter about their new capabilities. It’s supposed to improve battery life by an hour, which is great news if true. Our advice is that you wait (at least) a couple of weeks before updating so any bugs can get shaken out.
More on T-Mobile
We got a lot of feedback from our last newsletter about T-Mobile, mostly positive, though we received a few complaints of where coverage was simply inadequate in various parts of the US and Canada. In addition, my cousin (also named Ivan, of the fabulous restaurant Ivan Ramen) relayed to me a horror story in which T-Mobile’s reps told him he could use the Wi-Fi calling feature to make calls from overseas at no cost, without informing him how to ensure that he definitely wasn’t using the cellular network. He came home to a $500 bill (which they offered, ultimately, to reduce by half). To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, you can disable cellular service by turning on airplane mode, then turning Wi-Fi and Bluetooth back on. When set up this you can still use T-Mobile’s Wi-Fi calling feature (under Settings -> Phone) if it is enabled and available.