Apple event announcement round-up: iPad mini, new iPad and more

Apple have announced a smaller version of their tablet PC offering, which is to be known as the ‘iPad mini’.

The new device features specifications similar to the iPad 2, but in a smaller casing, which Jonathan Ive refers to in the product video as more ‘concentrated’. This is mostly because Apple have chosen to reduce the width of the bezel in order to make it easy to hold in one hand, rather than just scaling it down from the larger size. The screen is a non-Retina display, running at the same 1024 x 768 resolution, but it has a slightly increased pixel-per-inch count due to it being squeezed into a 7.9″ frame. Apple is keen to market one of the benefits of this design choice, namely that any applications in the App Store will work straight away, without needing to be rewritten to accommodate the smaller screen.

Aside from the size of the device, there are few other notable features. The iPad mini uses the A5 processor found in the iPad 2, and just like the iPhone 5, uses the new Lightning connector. Compared with the iPad 2, the iPad mini gains a FaceTime HD camera and allows full 1080p video recording, and supports 4G networks in the UK, according to Apple’s useful LTE guide.

Today’s surprise, however, was the announcement of a new iPad, just a few short months after the introduction of the last generation back in March. While there had been rumours of a Lightning connector update to bring it into synchronisation with the rest of the Apple range, few had expected that a new A6X processor would also make its debut today.

The new device has been updated to bring 4G support in the UK, and an upgraded FaceTime HD camera too, to further bring it in line with the iPhone 5 and iPad mini.

Apple also announced a all-new iMac today, which seems incredibly thin when compared with previous models:

A lot of this reduction has been achieved by removing the optical drive, which I believe is a sensible option. Apple have refused to accept the growing demand for Blu ray players, as they’d rather customers use iTunes to download content from them. As most software comes via the internet, including larger packages such as Adobe Photoshop CS6, the optical drive can go for months without being used on a single occasion – just as floppy drives once were.

The new screen is claimed to have 75% less reflection, which is achieved via a process called ‘full lamination’ to eliminate a 2-mm gap between the LCD and the glass. This new manufacturing process was introduced on the iPhone 5 first – an interesting example of where mobile design is now inspiring the desktop.

Apple also announced a new 13 inch MacBook with Retina display today, running at 2560 x 1600 at 227 pixels per inch, to complement the 15 inch version introduced earlier this year. It’s still possible to buy non-Retina MacBooks too.

Lastly, after a massive 461 day wait, Apple have finally introduced a new Mac Mini, bringing the base-model price down to just under £500. Just like the iMac, it has all new processors and new storage options including what’s being marketed as a Fusion Drive – which combines a 1TB hard drive with 128GB of flash storage.

Considering the marketing slogan on last week’s media invite, ‘we’ve got a little more to show you’ – it turned out Apple actually had quite a lot to reveal. I’ve no doubt the iPad mini will be a commercial success in the run up to Christmas, although many third generation iPad owners will be disgruntled to have learnt today that their devices have prematurely ceased to be at the ‘cutting edge’.

‘iPad mini’ event announced

Apple have invited members of the press and development community to a media event on Tuesday 23rd October, where the company is widely expected to announce a smaller version of the iPad in time for the lucrative Christmas market.

The tagline of the colourful invite – “We’ve got a little more to show you” – seems to suggest a smaller version of something, and that something will of course be their current tablet offering.

Although Apple have typically not responded quickly and directly to demand in the past, many customers are starting to buy smaller tablets such as the Amazon Kindle Fire and Google’s Nexus 7 – and the company’s hold on the market is at real risk. If it acts decisively now, it can stop the rot; the more it waits, the much less chance it’ll have of introducing new customers (and retaining old ones) into the whole ecosystem.

The ‘iPad mini’ is reported to have a 7.85 inch screen, with the same 1024 x 768 non-Retina display found in the iPad 2, simply scaled down. This would mean that apps wouldn’t need to be rewritten for the new device. There’s debate about whether the ‘iPad mini’ will have cellular data access – it’s possible Apple will leave it out on purpose, to force users to spend more money on an iPhone or iPad for this functionality.

There are also rumours that the current 9.7 inch iPad will be updated with a Lightning connector and 4G, although I don’t expect to see this until next March as Apple stores will be busy enough over the coming months.

The event starts at 6PM UK time and I’ll be updating the blog with all the important announcements as soon as it’s finished.

Apple WWDC keynote announcements

Today’s keynote presentation at the WWDC in San Francisco has brought a huge number of announcements, addressing both Apple’s hardware and software range.

As expected, iOS 6 was launched at the event, with several new innovations.

Apple has a whole new Maps app, with a new 3D flyover feature for large cities – providing far greater detail than a satellite image. The new Maps app also supports ‘turn by turn’ navigation, as seen on traditional satellite navigation devices. Whether Google Maps will be downloadable from the App Store will be very interesting to see.

FaceTime will now be permitted over mobile networks – video calling is something that 3G networks were originally marketed for, before the explosion of the mobile web.

Siri has been greatly expanded in iOS 6, and is now being introduced to the new iPad for the first time. It’s now possible to tweet and post Facebook updates and launch applications directly with the tool.

Shared Photo Streams allow users to share photos easily from the Photos app. If the other user is using iCloud, they are delivered automatically.

A new Passbook app allows barcodes and coupons to be stored safely in one place, rather than having to locate them amongst several hundred emails at the ticket barrier, or having to print them out unnecessarily. This could be really useful for theme parks such as Thorpe Park, which uses a bar code system to grant access to the attraction. The app uses geolocation to determine when the user is close, and can pop up a notification on the home screen.

The Phone app, which has been almost untouched since the first release of the iPhone, is now being updated in iOS 6. There’s a new ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature, allowing users to schedule a ‘Quiet Hours’ period where all notifications are suppressed. Anyone who has been woken by a call or text in the middle of the night (almost everyone) will welcome this feature. It’s possible to define a ‘Favourites’ list who are allowed to call during this period.

Support for the original iPad has been dropped with this release, although the older 3GS will be offered the upgrade. This is because Apple is still selling the 3GS in its stores, while the first iPad has been discontinued. iOS 6 will be released this autumn, almost certainly around the time of a new iPhone.

On the hardware side, the MacBook Air is being updated with faster Intel processors and a new 512GB solid state drive option. It’ll now come with USB3 ports, in addition to Thunderbolt.

There’s an all-new MacBook Pro with a 15″ 2880×1800 Retina class display, while the current generation has been granted faster processors and graphics. Interestingly, there’s no optical drive in the new version. It appears Apple isn’t interested in supporting Blu ray on the Mac, though that’s understandable (if not excusable) as they’d rather customers purchase HD content through iTunes instead.

Mac OS X Mountain Lion will be made available next month in the App Store for just £13.99, and free for any customers who purchase a new Mac from today. Siri’s voice recognition feature will be included, though it won’t be able to process any requests such as creating calendar events. The other features, such as Notification Center have already previously been announced.

It’s interesting to take a step back and examine just how wide Apple’s portfolio is now. We’re in for a great year of new releases – now we’re just waiting on solid news of the new iPhone.

Apple media event: new iPad, iOS 5.1 and updated Apple TV

Just as expected, Apple have today released a new version of their tablet PC offering, simply marketed as the ‘new iPad’.

The device has a new 2048 x 1536 pixel display, doubling the resolution of the iPad 2’s 1024 x 768 pixel screen in both directions. This simple scaling means that applications won’t need any layout adjustments, although they will of course need to be updated with higher resolution imagery.

In order to run all those pixels, the new iPad features a new quad-core A5X processor. Image capture will also be improved with the new 5MP camera with auto-exposure and auto-focus, which can record in 1080p.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the iPad will now support 4G LTE mobile networks. Many commentators had suggested, quite sensibly, that as LTE coverage is extremely limited (indeed, there are no commercial providers currently in the UK), that Apple would wait for another day before adding this feature. However, when taken in the context that the company is aggressively marketing a “post-PC” world, creating the demand for these networks which will allow us to much more easily move away from fixed Internet links makes sense. Perhaps most excitingly, technology introduced on the iPad often makes a progression to the iPhone later in the same year, and it’d be nice to think it sets a precedent for a LTE iPhone in 2012.

The new iPad is slightly thicker and slightly heavier than the previous model, although the battery life remains the same. Pricing will also remain the same, starting at £399 for the 16GB, WiFi version up to £649 for the 64GB, 4G and WiFi version.

Apple have announced the availbility of iOS 5.1 for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, which should be downloadable from today. I’ll be covering the new features in this release in a separate post.

Finally, Apple also announced an updated Apple TV which now supports 1080p output with a new interface. It’ll be available from the 16th March for £99.

Today’s media event brings an updated iPad with tangible new features, and as a result it’s likely that the new device will be a commercial success.

Apple announces iPad 3 media event

Apple have today announced a media event in San Francisco on the 7th March, where the next generation iPad will almost certainly be launched.

The invite appears to show a higher resolution display, which is the most anticipated feature for the new device. The text also alludes to this upgrade. Interestingly, there is no home button – though this could be simply that the iPad in the photograph is being used in landscape mode. There aren’t any clues about whether the new tablet will have a faster processor, longer battery life, or increased memory and storage.

The event begins at 6pm GMT and I’ll be covering the announcements here as soon as it finishes.

iPad 3 to get Retina display?

When iPad 2 was launched, many were surprised that the tablet didn’t sport the new high display resolution which had debuted on the iPhone 4 in summer the previous year. In what therefore seems like a logical step for the next revision of Apple’s tablet, CNET reports that Retina-class QXGA (2048×1536) panel production has now started. This builds on a discovery of two types of icons in the SDK more than a year ago.

I expect to see the new display being launched as a key marketing message with the next generation device in January. Although the iPad is among the best for reading colour newspapers, it can be uncomfortable to read long passages of text when compared with super sharp ‘electronic ink’ devices such as the Amazon Kindle. Improving the display would establish the iPad as the premium eReader for all types of content, and provide publishers with a motivation to increase the availability of content on the Apple Store, particularly in the Newsstand section, which still has disappointingly few titles.

iPad 2 announced

The iPad 2 has been officially announced and will be available in the UK on the 25th March.

Many of the features of the new device have arrived exactly as expected. It has a new dual-core A5 chip, a front facing camera for FaceTime, and a new thinner, lighter design. It’s also available in a choice of white and black.

Interestingly though, there is no change to the resolution of the display – something most people were expecting ever since the launch of the Retina display on the iPhone 4 last summer.

What’s completely new here is the ‘Smart Cover’, a multipurpose magnetic cover which is designed to protect the iPad 2’s screen, and act as a vertical or horizontal stand. When the cover is lifted off the screen the device wakes, and sleeps as soon as it is replaced.

All round, it is a incremental update from last year’s model. Having the same display and battery life means it’s not a compelling upgrade from the original device, and we can’t be sure it deserved the ‘come see what 2011 will be the year of’ slogan on the press conference advert, but no doubt the iPad 2 will continue to define the tablet market.

Do you already own the iPad? Will you be buying iPad 2?

What to expect from iPad 2

Now that we’ve finally heard the news that Apple is launching iPad 2 on the 2nd of March, what should we start to expect from the new device?

There’s been plenty of speculation about the screen on the new device. If it follows in the steps of the iPhone 4, it will have a Retina display and the resolution will be quadrupled. Any other resolution would lead to huge compatibility headaches. Can Apple pull this off on such a small device without depleting the battery life? If it can, the iPad 2 will be almost impossible to beat in terms of screen quality.

A front facing camera, and hence FaceTime support is almost certain, along with better specifications all round. Expect the iPad to feature more RAM, more flash memory storage, and a dual core CPU.

Will the new iPad be any lighter? It’s hard to see how it could be, with all the extra tech on board. But then it’s hard to see how Apple could be happy to release something that’s heavier, especially when considering the mobile use of the device.

Thank goodness we only have to wait one more week to find out!

iOS 4.3 and iPad 2 to arrive simultaneously?

This blog has been very quiet lately with news of iOS 4.3 and iPad 2. The proposed release date of 14th February has been and gone, and we’ve all been left with very little to go on.

At the moment this can only lead to one conclusion: if iPad 2 is arriving soon, then a new device will be needing new software, so perhaps iOS 4.3 will be the base install on these tablets.

Perhaps then Apple is gearing up for some big announcements soon.

Maybe that thought alone is enough to keep us happy as we wait a little longer.