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Apple debuts iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3: Thinner, faster, gold, and with Touch ID

Caitlin McGarry | Oct. 17, 2014
The newest additions to the iPad lineup are incremental upgrades from their predecessors.

Apple has dramatically overhauled its iPad lineup in the last two years with the ultra-thin iPad Air and super-small iPad mini. So where could the company go from there? The iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 revealed at Thursday's media event are even slimmer than before and look more like the iPhone with a new gold hueand Touch ID.

The improved iPads aren't game-changers by any means, which may upset analysts who have pointed to declining iPad sales as a sign that Apple needs to do more to rejuvenate its lineup. The company sold 13.3 million units in the third quarter, a 9 percent decline from 14.6 million sold in the same quarter last year. But iPads are still big business: Apple CEO Tim Cook announced Thursday that the company has sold more than 225 million iPads around the world since launching its first tablet four years ago. iPads outsell PCs every quarter.

So the big question of the day:

"What do you do when you make the best tablet in the world?" Apple CEO Tim Cook asked. "How do you make it better?"

Two iPad Air 2s stacked on top of eacher are still thinner than an original iPad.

Slim it down, speed it up
First, you shave it down to 6.1 millimeters, 18 percent thinner than the first-gen iPad Air. If you stack two of the new iPad Airs on top of each other, they're still thinner than the original iPad. The iPad Air 2 also has anti-reflective coating, which reduces glare by 56 percent.

"Can you even see it?" Cook said, holding up the super-slim new tablet. (You can.)

Then you add a new chip. The A8X chip developed for the iPad Air 2 is a variation of the A8 chip created for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, making the new tablet's graphics 40 percent faster. Its Wi-Fi connectivity is also faster, thanks to the inclusion of the latest 802.11ac technology. The second-gen iPad Air has the same M8 motion co-processor baked into the new iPhones, which is used for tracking activity and even has a barometer for measuring elevation (because hiking is exercise, too).

The new iPad also has improvements for photographers. The new 8-megapixel iSight camera can shoot photos in Burst mode (even selfies), take panoramas, has an improved FaceTime HD camera, and records 1080p videos.

The company also showed off the iPad mini 3, which also gets a Touch ID upgrade and new gold gloss. The iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 are optimized foronline shopping with Apple Pay, though can't be used for in-store purchases, because they lack the necessary NFC technology.


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