Apple's new iPads sport modest upgrades but short on 'wow'

Thu Oct 16, 2014 3:54pm EDT
 
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By Christina Farr

CUPERTINO Calif. (Reuters) - Apple Inc's (AAPL.O: Quote) faster, slimmer iPads come with modest improvements, such as a fingerprint sensor, but some analysts say it offers few other features to wow consumers ahead of a holiday shopping season expected to be swamped by mobile devices.

At a launch event on Thursday, Chief Executive Tim Cook called Apple's new line-up, which includes a new iMac computer with a "5K retina" or high-end display, the company's best ever. But analysts say Apple may struggle to arouse the same passion for its tablets as in past years among consumers faced with an abundance of hand-held, touch-screen devices.

"I've got to be honest and say, the only impressive thing was the 5K retina display on the iMac," said Gartner analyst Van Baker, who attended the show at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California. "The other things we saw (included) just iterative improvements on the iPad."

Marketing chief Phil Schiller called the larger tablet the world's slimmest and described several new features such as an anti-reflective screen. He also confirmed the inclusion of the "Touch ID" sensor, already available on the latest iPhones.

Pre-orders start Friday for the larger iPad Air 2, priced at $499 and up, with shipping beginning next week. The smaller iPad mini 3 will be about $100 cheaper.

The new iMac, which sports the new "Yosemite" operating system, will go for $2,499.

Tablet sales are set to rise only 11 percent this year, according to tech research firm Gartner, compared to 55 percent last year, even as smartphone sales continue to soar and personal computer sales are waning.

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Phil Schiller, Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing speaks during a presentation at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California October 16, 2014.  REUTERS/Robert Galbraith