Wednesday November 19, 2014 8:31 am PST by Mitchel Broussard
The previously announced SteelSeries Stratus XL has officially launched today on the Apple Store. Following in the footsteps of the original Stratus controller, the beefed-up Stratus XL provides a larger frame that gives it some parity to console controllers in terms of relative size and button layout.
The Stratus XL connects to an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch using a wireless Bluetooth connection, and the large design fits all of the expected control inputs: two joysticks, a pressure-sensitive directional pad, four action buttons, and four shoulder buttons that include two analog trigger buttons.
Our sister site TouchArcade got a hands-on with the controller at E3 this past summer, and found the new device favorable over the diminutive size of the original Stratus. They noted, "Instead of curling your hands around the tiny SteelSeries Stratus, holding the SteelSeries Stratus XL is more similar to having an Xbox 360 or Xbox One controller in your hands."
The Stratus XL uses AA batteries instead of a rechargeable battery pack. SteelSeries says the batteries should last for 40+ hours of playtime, and a switch on the back of the device should help users prevent heavy drainage of the batteries when not in use.
The SteelSeries Stratus XL can be purchased now from the Apple Store for $69.95, which is about $10 over the price tag of the PS4 DualShock 4 and the Xbox One Wireless Controller. The Stratus XL will be available for direct purchase from the SteelSeries official website, and for hands-on demos at select Apple Stores, on December 6.
Monday November 3, 2014 1:40 pm PST by Juli Clover
Apple may be planning to discontinue its iPad mini lineup in order to focus its efforts on the upcoming larger-screened "iPad Pro," according to a somewhat questionable rumor from Taiwan's Economic Daily News [Google Translate] (via GforGames). The site believes Apple will cease updating the 7.9-inch iPad mini next year, making the new iPad mini 3, released in October, the last tablet in the series.
A preference towards larger screen sizes, the introduction of the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, declining iPad sales, and "fierce competition" in the tablet market are said to have led to Apple's alleged decision to discontinue the tablet.
It was a bit of a surprise when Apple announced a major update to the iPad Air in October, introducing an upgraded A8X processor, Touch ID, slimmer form factor, improved camera, and more in the iPad Air 2, while the iPad mini 3 gained no new features aside from Touch ID support. Rumors have suggested that the relatively minor update was due to the iPad mini's lack of popularity compared to the 9.7-inch iPad Air.
Apple has been known to pull resources away from products that are not selling well. For example, Apple has been investing fewer resources in the iPod touch, a device that no longer receives regular updates. The fifth-generation iPod touch was released in 2012 and while the device received a major update at that time, only a few changes have been made since then, tweaking storage capacities and prices. It's possible the iPad mini could go the way of the iPod touch -- remaining in the product lineup but receiving few updates.
Economic Daily News, much like Taiwanese news site Digitimes, appears to have some solid supply chain sources, but lack of context and ever-changing production plans have resulted in some serious rumor misses. For example, the site said that the iPad mini 3 would be 30 percent slimmer when it launched, and suggested the larger iPhone 6 Plus would not be called an iPhone. Some accurate information has come from Economic Daily News, however, including several correct rumors pointing towards Apple Watch sizing and release dates.
Apple's "iPad Pro," which is said to be replacing the iPad mini as a companion to the iPad Air, is rumored to have a screen size between 12.2 and 12.9 inches. It's said to be slightly thicker than the iPad Air 2, coming in at around 7mm, and it may have stereo speakers and an ultra high-definition display. A release date for the iPad Pro remains unclear, as Apple was said to be targeting an early 2015 launch but pushed back production in order to focus on the iPhone 6 Plus.
Wednesday October 29, 2014 9:03 am PDT by Kelly Hodgkins
Apple had the consumer in mind when it added a multi-carrier SIM card to its new iPads, said Apple vice president of iPhone, iPod and iOS product marketing Greg Joswiak in a recent Re/code interview (via Fierce Wireless). But that motivation does not mean the Apple SIM will be making its way to the iPhone any time soon, as Joswiak noted most consumers go directly to their carriers to buy iPhones, while the iPad more often is sold through Apple's retail channels.
"It's about the customer experience," he said during an appearance here at Re/code's Code/Mobile conference. "We ultimately don't know who you are going to use as the carrier, [and] we want to make it as easy as possible."
Joswiak said Apple has not discussed putting the Apple SIM into iPhones, but said that because of the way most customers buy an iPhone--through a carrier directly--the Apple SIM is not as well suited. "I don't think you're going to go to the Verizon store and say, 'Can you hook me up with AT&T?,'" he said.
With most iPhone customers committed to their carriers for a significant period of time, either through contracts subsidizing the phone cost or through payment plans, multi-carrier SIM cards make less sense for iPhones.
Apple's new universal SIM in theory allows customers to activate with one carrier and then switch to another carrier as needed, but there are some limitations. The Apple SIM is currently only compatible with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and UK carrier EE. Verizon confirmed that is not adopting Apple's new SIM, instead requiring customers to activate with a Verizon-specific SIM.
In addition, while AT&T is listed as a compatible carrier, the provider is not fully supporting all the features of the SIM. Apple and AT&T have confirmed the carrier is not allowing its customers to switch once the Apple SIM has been activated on AT&T's network, instead opting to lock the SIM to its network following activation. Customers who activate service on AT&T will thus have to purchase a new SIM if they want to use their tablet with another carrier.
Apple introduced the new iPad Air 2 and Retina iPad mini 3 earlier this month with sales beginning last week. Both tablets feature a universal SIM, Touch ID, and storage options of 16, 64 and 128GB. The iPad Air 2 also includes a new A8X processor, antireflective display and 2GB of RAM. The iPad Air 2 retails at a starting price of $499, while the iPad mini 3 costs $399 for the base model.
Monday October 27, 2014 8:32 am PDT by Eric Slivka
With the iPad Air 2, one of Apple's main selling points has been the improved display, which includes a new bonded construction that eliminates the air gap between the display and the cover glass, as well as a new antireflective coating to reduce glare in situations with high ambient light.
Ray Soneira of DisplayMate Technologies has now put the new display to the test, finding that the antireflective coating is indeed a significant improvement for the iPad and a major step above competing tablets, but in overall performance competitors are still doing better than the iPad. Apple receives only minimal credit for the bonded display, as it is mainly catching up with competitors on that aspect.
A major innovation for the iPad Air 2 (that is not fully appreciated) is an anti-reflection coating on the cover glass that reduces ambient light reflections by about 3:1 over most other Tablets and Smartphones (including the previous iPads), and about 2:1 over all of the very best competing Tablets and Smartphones (including the new iPhone 6). [...]
However, other than the new anti-reflection coating and bonded cover glass, the display on the iPad Air 2 is essentially unchanged and identical in performance to the iPad 4 introduced in 2012, and is actually slightly lower in performance than the original iPad Air (for example 8% lower Brightness and 16% lower display Power Efficiency) – most likely the result of an obsession with producing a thinner Tablet forcing compromises in the LCD backlight.
With competitors such as Samsung, Amazon, and Microsoft offering better color accuracy, viewing angles, and power efficiency, Soneira finds the improvements in the iPad Air 2 insufficient to move the device to the top of his tablet display rankings, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab S retains its number one position.
Moving on to the iPad mini 3, Soneira unsurprisingly finds that the display is unchanged from the one used in the previous generation, unsurprising given that Apple kept the specs of the iPad mini identical with the exception of the Touch ID home button and a gold color option. Soneira notes the unchanged display is a "major disappointment", as the iPad mini 2's display has been rated poorly for color gamut and accuracy.
In 2013 the mini was given a Retina display, but remained with a reduced 62 percent Color Gamut – the only current iPad or iPhone without a full Color Gamut. Now, in 2014 the new iPad mini 3 still only has a 62 percent Color Gamut, plus it was denied the new enhanced anti-reflection coating and bonded cover glass of the iPad Air 2.
Soneira again points to competitors offering higher-quality displays on their tablets, concluding that the iPad mini 3 is "embarrassingly mediocre and way overpriced" considering its $399 starting price tag and significantly poorer display performance compared to both competitors and the iPad Air 2.
Full details on Soneira's testing of the new displays are available in his extensive report.
Friday October 24, 2014 11:43 am PDT by Juli Clover
After tearing down the iPad Air 2 earlier this week, iFixit has now moved on to the iPad mini 3, which also received a minor update during Apple's October 16 iPad event. Unlike the iPad Air 2, the iPad mini 3 saw few internal improvements, gaining a new gold color option and a Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
As expected, iFixit's teardown reveals many of the same parts that were used in first Retina iPad mini, now called the iPad mini 2. It continues to use the same 7.9-inch display, A7 processor with M7 coprocessor, 5-megapixel camera, and 802.11n Wi-Fi.
There is one new addition, which is directly related to Touch ID and the iPad mini 3's ability to support in-app Apple Pay payments. Like the iPad Air 2, the iPad mini 3 includes a 65V10 NFC controller manufactured by NXP.
NFC Controller in blue
There is no accompanying NFC antenna to allow the tablet to make NFC-based payments within stores, but there has been strong speculation suggesting the NFC chip is where Apple Pay's "Secure Element" is located. According to Apple, the Secure Element is a dedicated chip that stores encrypted Device Account Numbers, which replace credit card numbers for security reasons.
Though the iPad mini 3 and the iPad Air 2 are not able to make payments within stores, they can make Apple Pay payments within participating apps and thus utilize both the Secure Element and Device Account Numbers.
NXP's own site details the use of a specific integrated circuit designed for handling and storing secure data on its website, stating the technology has been integrated into its NFC controller chips. While the 65V10 is not mentioned by name, its appearance in both the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 suggests that it is indeed being used for its security function rather than its NFC function.
Aside from the inclusion of the 65V10 NFC chip, which is located in a spot on the logic board that was previously left blank, there are few other notable features about the iPad mini 3. iFixit did find that the tablet has new home button cabling to support Touch ID and home button brackets that are securely affixed by hot glue, which makes removing the home button a much more difficult task.
Like the Touch ID cable in the iPhone 5s, the location of the Touch ID cable in the iPad mini 3 makes screen repairs very difficult, as the cable is easy to sever when opening up the display. Due to the glue and the precarious position of the Touch ID cable, the iPad mini 3 earned a repairability score of 2 out of 10 from iFixit.
Apple's iPad mini 3 is currently available in both retail stores and from Apple's online store, with prices that start at $399.
Wednesday October 22, 2014 1:28 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Apple's new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 have begun hitting retail stores, as we reported earlier, and the tablets are now available for in-store pickup for a limited number of retail locations that have received shipments. It appears that in-store availability is limited to Wi-Fi only tablets at this time.
Many stores on the east coast of the United States are showing wide availability of both tablets as stores receive shipments and unpack boxes. Availability on the west coast is still limited as it is earlier in the day and stores are not yet prepared to begin retail sales.
Apple store employees appear to be unaware that stores are receiving stock today, as several phone calls placed by MacRumors resulted in responses suggesting the tablets would not arrive in stores until later in the week or early next week.
The iPad Air 2 is still showing shipping estimates of two to four days when ordered online, and some rumors have suggested that supplies are limited, which explains the tablet's quiet in-store release. At announcement, Apple declined to state when the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 would be available in retail stores.
Apple's iPad mini 3, meanwhile, appears to be available in greater supply, displaying shipping estimates of 24 hours. iPad mini 3 pricing starts at $399 for the entry-level model, while iPad Air 2 pricing starts at $499.
While the iPad mini 3 received only Touch ID and a gold color option, the iPad Air 2 has seen significant updates including a thinner design, a new "gapless" display, an anti-reflective coating, 2GB of RAM, an A8X processor, and an upgraded 8-megapixel camera.
Wednesday October 22, 2014 8:18 am PDT by Kelly Hodgkins
Following the launch of pre-orders last Friday, Apple's new iPad Air 2 and Retina iPad mini 3 models are now making their way into customers' hands and onto retail store shelves. According to The Inquirer and reports from MacRumors readers, pre-orders are now being delivered, and the tablets are now available for purchase online and in store.
Customers in launch countries of the UK and Australia started receiving their tablets today and have already posted unboxing videos. Unlike the iPhone 6 which featured a plain white box, customers report the box for the iPad Air 2 is similar to the original iPad Air with a color representation of the iPad on the cover.
Apple's online store also is still accepting orders with delivery dates of 2 to 4 days for most iPad Air 2 models. In-store pickup for the Air 2 is not available yet for online shoppers, but we have heard from multiple sources that Wi-Fi models are arriving at at least some of Apple's own retail stores for sale beginning today. Based on online ordering, iPad mini 3 supplies are more abundant, with most Wi-Fi models currently available within 24 hours and cellular models shipping in 1-3 days.
Apple announced the iPad Air 2 last week, highlighting the device's new A8X processor, Touch ID sensor and improved camera. Early benchmarks suggest the iPad Air 2 is up to 55 percent faster than the iPhone 6 and 68 percent faster than last year's iPad Air. The first round of reviews of the Air 2 point out benefits such as a thinner profile and vibrant display, while also noting a slight decrease in battery life compared to the previous generation.
While the Air 2 has received fairly strong reviews, the iPad mini 3 has been less well received with most reviews noting the device's similarity to the iPad mini 2. The iPad mini 3 ships with the same processor and camera options as its predecessor, with the only notable improvements being a Touch ID fingerprint sensor and a new gold option.
The iPad Air 2 is available with a starting price of $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model, with equivalent cellular models available for $130 more. The iPad mini 3 starts at $399 and is available in Wi-Fi-only and cellular configurations.
Monday October 20, 2014 2:58 pm PDT by Richard Padilla
Apple's iPad sales are down for the third straight quarter according to the company's earnings for its fourth fiscal quarter of 2014, selling a total of 12.3 iPads which is down from 14.1 million units in the year-ago quarter. The company has sold 68 million iPads in 2014 and has sold 237.5 million iPads total. The news comes after the company announced its new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 last week at its special media event.
Earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook commented that the drop in iPad sales over the past two quarters was just a "speed bump" for Apple. In the company's third-quarter earnings call, Cook highlighted overall sales of more than 225 million iPads since the device launched in 2010 and suggested the tablet market as a whole was still "in its infancy." The CEO also stated at the time that "significant innovation could be brought to the iPad" ahead of this year's new iPad releases.
The new iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 will go on sale this week, although the company focused primarily on the former at its event. The iPad Air features a faster A8X processor, a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, a profile that is just 6.1 mm thick, and a new gapless laminated display that produces sharper images. Meanwhile, the iPad Mini 3 includes a few changes aside from the Touch ID home button and a new gold color option.
Apple is also said to be preparing to launch a new 12.9-inch iPad Pro early next year, although some reports have claimed that mass production of the larger tablet has been put on hold to shift resources towards iPhone 6 plus production. The display of the larger tablet will reportedly near ultra high-definition quality and will likely ship with the faster A8X processor.
Friday October 17, 2014 9:06 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple has begun accepting online pre-orders for the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 in the United States and several other countries around the world. Rumors have suggested that initial supplies of the iPad Air 2 might be somewhat constrained, so prospective buyers should make their purchases as soon as possible. All models are currently showing shipping estimates of 2-4 business days in the U.S. store.
AT&T is also accepting pre-orders on cellular models of the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 with shipping estimates of 6-10 business days.
Announced on October 16, Apple’s second-generation iPad Air offers several significant improvements over the original iPad Air, including a thinner design, an A8X chip, Touch ID, 802.11ac, support for LTE Advanced, an improved 8-megapixel camera with an f/2.4 aperture, and an anti-reflective screen coating that cuts down on glare.
The iPad mini 3 offers the same internals as the iPad mini 2 (aka the iPad mini with Retina display), but it does come with Touch ID and a new gold color option.
Available in white/silver, white/gold, and black/space gray, the iPad Air 2 is available in 16, 64, and 128GB configurations, with the Wi-Fi only models priced at $499, $599, and $699, respectively. Wi-Fi + Cellular models carry a $130 premium over Wi-Fi models and are priced at $629/$729/$829 for 16/64/128GB capacities.
The iPad mini 3 is also available in white/silver, white/gold, and black/space gray, and it also comes in 16, 64, and 128GB configurations. The corresponding Wi-Fi only models are priced at $399, $499, and $599, while the Wi-Fi + Cellular models are priced at $529, $629, and $729 for 16, 64, and 128GB configurations.
Both models can be pre-ordered immediately from Apple's online store. The company has not yet provided information on when the iPad mini 3 and the iPad Air 2 will be available in stores, giving an availability date of "later next week."
Friday October 17, 2014 5:13 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple has taken its online store down to prepare for the launch of iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 pre-orders. When Apple announced the two new tablets, it said pre-orders would be available starting on October 17, although the company did not specify when exactly pre-orders would start.
Given the short amount of time between the announcement of the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 and the start of pre-orders, it is unclear whether other retailers and carriers will be prepared to offer iPad pre-orders.
Apple's iPad Air 2, which includes several upgrades like Touch ID, an A8X chip, an improved camera, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and an anti-reflective screen, is available in 16, 64, and 128GB capacities. Pricing in the United States starts at $499 for the entry-level 16GB Wi-Fi only model and goes as high as $849 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular 128GB model.
The iPad mini 3, which has been updated with Touch ID and a new gold color option, is also available in 16, 64, and 128GB configurations. Pricing for the iPad mini 3 begins at $399 for the Wi-Fi only 16GB model and goes as high as $729 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular 128GB model.
Apple has not announced when the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 will be in stores or when the two tablets will begin shipping out to customers, giving only an availability date of "later next week."
Thursday October 16, 2014 1:24 pm PDT by Eric Slivka
Historically, users purchasing cellular versions of iPads have had to choose their carrier at the time of purchase, with Apple shipping a device specifically configured for use on that carrier. But with the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, Apple is launching a new "Apple SIM" included with devices purchased in the United States and United Kingdom.
For U.S. users in particular, the Apple SIM allows users to easily move among AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint by taking advantage of short-term data plans as needed. And with EE participating in the UK, even access while abroad is simplified. And of course the system should work equally well for UK customers traveling abroad to the United States.
The new Apple SIM is preinstalled on iPad Air 2 with Wi-Fi + Cellular models. The Apple SIM gives you the flexibility to choose from a variety of short-term plans from select carriers in the U.S. and UK right on your iPad. So whenever you need it, you can choose the plan that works best for you — with no long-term commitments. And when you travel, you may also be able to choose a data plan from a local carrier for the duration of your trip.
Apple notes in an explanatory pop up on its iPad Air 2 store page that Verizon is not a participating carrier and Verizon customers will need to visit Verizon stores to activate cellular service on their devices.
Thursday October 16, 2014 1:09 pm PDT by Richard Padilla
Apple has posted the full video of today's iPad and Mac event on its website. The video should also be made available later this afternoon on the Apple Keynotes podcast, which can be found on the iTunes Store. [Podcast link: Keynotes, Keynotes in HD, Keynotes in 1080p HD]
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