Yesterday, Apple accidentally leaked the specs and design for their two new iPads, the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3, before today's event.
After what seemed like another 3000 amazing dad jokes from Craig Federighi, including one totally adorably phone call with the one and only Stephen Colbert, Apple made it's first announcement. OS X 10.10 Yosemite would be available for download today, and that it would be free. Yosemite was first unveiled back in June's WWDC 2014 event, and it not only served as a total visual refresh of OS X to complement the more recent iOS visual overhaul, it brought forward a bunch of new things, most notably, continuity.
The second announcement was that iOS 8.1 would be available for download this coming Monday, and after the absolute nightmare that was iOS 8.0.1 that bricked any iPhone 6/6+ user that was unfortunate enough to have downloaded it, 8.1 looks to bring a whole slew of improvements to the operating system.
Also rolling out on Monday is the first stage in Apple Pay, Apple's NFC based payment system. The company has partnered with 500+ banks since it's initial announcement last month.
The biggest news of the event, however, wasn't a recap of the software we saw last month at the #AppleLive event, but rather it was the announcement of the new iPad Air 2, and the iPad Mini 3. Both devices have the Touch ID sensor that was first seen last year in the iPhone 5S, and now come in the champagne gold colour as well. The major difference now is that the two no longer stand equal. With last year's model, you could buy either the Air or the Mini, and not feel like you were settling for something lesser than what the other offered. It didn't matter what screen size you bought - you were getting the latest and greatest from Apple. Now, the Air outstrips the Mini in every conceivable way, from the inclusion of the A8 processor to a thinner design. The Mini, however, remains the exact same, without even getting a spec bump to last year's A7 chip, and has the same thickness. It's essentially a non-upgrade, and more expensive than it's near identical twin, the iPad Mini 2.
And this is where the first of Apple's many problems comes from - a total lack of focus. The designs of the iPhones and iPads are completely different, and from a company that prides itself on it's uniformity and continuity of design, that's simply unnacceptable. The new iPhones have tapered glass that goes edge to edge and rounded sides, but the iPads still have the chamfered edges seen back on the iPhone 5 over two years ago.
And the worst part about all of this is that there are now FIVE iPads to choose from. Five. That's a play straight from the book of Samsung, with tablets from every generation and size imaginable creating a nightmarish situation when it comes to choice. And these iPads, with the exception of the Air 2, are all basically the same 'S' updates of one another. Sure, they're better, faster, and thinner, but they're all still largely the same as before.
In a move unlike Apple, and more Samsung-esque in Nature, (which is weird given Samsung's recent efforts to make people buy their latest phones and not the $0 on contract Galaxy S3 from two years ago), Apple is still selling their older models. If there's one thing they should borrow from Google it's that once they move onto the newest hardware, from the Nexus 4 to the Nexus 5 to the Nexus 6, they should stop selling the previous generation, instead focusing on bringing people up to the newest hardware that the company is offering.
The problem's Apple is trying to solve in this refresh is a problem that no one has, that their iPads and iPhones are too thick. With the iPhone 6 and 6+, they reduced the footprint of the phone, but left an unsightly camera bulge which is atypical of Apple, and sacrificed the structural integrity of the device overall. Sure, the original iPad is thicker than two iPad Air 2s stacked one on top of another, but that doesn't matter to most users. Users want a device that will lost long, and that requires a larger batter. Most users would be more than happy with a slightly thicker device if it meant that it could do more for longer periods of time. Thinness does not necessarily mean innovation.
"Sure, they're better, faster, and thinner, but they're all still largely the same as before."
On top of all the iPad mania, Apple also announced a 27" 5K Retina iMac. It has a a 5120x2880 display, which contains 67% more pixels than a regular 4K display.
Personally, I find this hilarious, especially since Apple has yet to optimize their Mac Pro to work properly with 4K displays, let alone dual screen setups. Even then, when it does barely work, everything is absolutely tiny in 4K, and even tinier in 5K, as seen in this image tweeted by The Verge's Nilay Patel.
The 5K Retina iMac will start at $2,499, and will be a great buy for anyone with that kind of dispoable cash, but for the time being I'd reccommend you wait unless you you can no longer see individual pixels and can no longer tell screen from reality. The weirdest part about this particular refresh is that the iMac cinema display with Thunderbolt, first released three years ago in 2011, didn't see an update. Even if you wanted to use that with Apple's newer hardware, you won't be able to as it has Thunderbolt 1, and doesn't support Thunderbolt 2 which is needed for 4K.
I'm not entirely sure what the event tagline, "It's been way too long," means either., other than possibly, "It's been way too long since we last made you spend a boatload of money on a product we may or may not completely refresh 11 months from now." And once again, there was no mention of either an Apple TV (although the refresh Mac Mini could be Apple's solution for that for the time being) or a Retina MacBook Air.
All in all, you could call this Apple's laziest hardware refresh event in a long time, and you wouldn't be wrong. All of their products seem incredibly disjointed, and despite having massive Steve Jobs quotes outside the event venue, the company seems to lack his laser like focus. Apple lacks the brand consistency that it used to have right across the board. It's slowly unifying the software design experience across OS X and iOS, but the hardware remains as different as ever. From a company that used to be as tight as Apple, that's a little worrying.