Lots of important people from Apple (and one from Microsoft to talk about Office, if you can believe that) took the stage today to talk about new Apple hardware we’ll be seeing very soon. In addition to the clockwork fall release of a new slate of iPhones, we’re also getting new looks for the Apple Watch (and a brand name designer partnership) along with two long-rumored additions to the Apple family — a jumbo-sized iPad and an Apple TV refresh. None of it is going to change your life, but if you’re part of the Apple faithful, all of it’s going to change your wallet, so let’s get into what you can expect.
Apple Watch Gets New Colors, and New Watch Bands
Apple led off with the Apple Watch, and there’s two things you need to know about — a system update and new looks. WatchOS 2, which was first detailed during Apple WWDC 2015 in June, will bring native apps to the Apple Watch, including Facebook Messenger and GoPro out of the gate. The latter might be handy if you’re an Apple Watch Sport owner and want to use it as a remote control and viewer for your GoPro; Facebook Messenger we’re less sold on. Apps like AirStrip One were talked up as direct links to doctors, which will allow patients to use more advanced home testing kits and upload data to doctors using their Watch, although this seems particularly useful only because the Apple Watch is the ideal device for busy doctors.
More eye-catching are the new looks the Apple Watch is getting for the fall. This is going to shock you, but rose gold figures prominently. Apple Watch Sport will get a new rose gold color along with a new gold color, along with a number of new colors for the Watch Sport band. There will also be a (PRODUCT)RED model of the Apple Watch Sport, which combines a regular aluminum case with a red band, with some proceeds going to AIDS research. You can also now pair the stainless steel space black Apple Watch with a black Sport band for $550.
More exciting is the new Hermès collection for Apple Watch, as Apple finally gets on board the designer wearable train. There are single-wrap, double-wrap, and cuff-style hand-stitched leather bands available for both sizes of the Apple Watch with the exception of the double-wrap, which is only for the smaller 38 mm model. We’re not sure about the cuff-style bracelet, but prepare for the worst, because the pricing on the other two is rough — $1,100 for the single-wrap and $1,250 for the double-wrap. The cuff appears to be an addition to the single-wrap, so expect that to be the most expensive option.
iPad Pro is 13″ of Awesomeness, but Don’t Call It a Stylus
The iPad Pro is Apple’s version of the Microsoft Surface, although that doesn’t mean you’ll be seeing Mac OS — this is still an iOS device. The 12.9″ tablet features a 2732 x 2048 resolution display that features a custom timing controller for pixel speed, like the one found in the 5K iMac. For the iPad Pro, that means that the tablet can intelligently slow down refresh rate while you’re doing less intense things like checking email, turning up the speed for videos or gaming — the upshot is energy efficiency and better battery life, which Apple puts at about 10 hours.
The iPad Pro is powered by a new A9X processor designed just for this device. This is said to be up to 1.8 times faster than the A8X in the iPad Air 2. Apple says this processor gives the iPad Pro desktop-level power, but color us skeptical unless we’re talking about a really low-end desktop (Apple didn’t specify).
Despite the increase in screen size, the tablet remains as thin and light as you’d expect from an Apple device, coming in at 6.9 mm thick and 1.54 pounds.
The iPad Pro has an 8 MP rear camera and an unspecified HD front-facing camera. It will also add 150 Mbps LTE connectivity and dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, so on paper, connectivity speed shouldn’t be an issue. Instead of one lackluster speaker, the iPad Pro will have an array of four speakers, but we suspect you’ll still want to look for a good pair of headphones or external speakers. And, like with the rest of the iOS line, you’ll also find Touch ID functionality.
Two accessories will be available with the iPad Pro — a stylus and a keyboard dock. The stylus is called the Apple Pencil. It’s a stylus, borrowing many Wacom features like pressure sensitivity and the ability to simultaneously input commands using the stylus and your fingers. It can be charged using a Lightning connector concealed on the back end. The Smart Keyboard uses a new magnetic smart connector on the side of the tablet, which allows for the transmission of data and power. The keyboard uses the same kind of keys as the new 12″ MacBook, which was not generally well-received. Key preferences aside, it’s much the same as the Microsoft Surface keyboard covers and can double as a stand for the iPad Pro, which lacks the built-in kickstand of Microsoft’s tablet.
The iPad Pro will be available in November in silver, gold, and space gray. It will cost $800 for the 32 GB Wi-Fi model, $950 for the 128 GB Wi-Fi model, and $1,080 for the 128 GB LTE model. The Apple Pencil, somewhat irritatingly, will not be included with the tablet — it’ll cost an extra $100. The smart keyboard will cost $170. Meanwhile, Apple has shrunk down the iPad Air 2 to Mini size, giving it the iPad Mini 4 name and a $400 price tag.