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The September 2015 Apple Event Highlights

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Whilst it might seem a little superfluous to harp on about announcements that have been rumoured to the point of presumed authenticity for months now, any Apple event is big news in the tech community, because there really is no other company like Apple. Of course there will always be the detractors, but most of us can surely at least appreciate how the Californian tech giants have revolutionised the synergy between technology and design. So when CEO Tim Cook and co took to the stage earlier today (September 9) at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco for this year's September keynote speech, I for one was eager to see what they had in store for us, and whilst there were no major surprises this time, there was more than enough for any self respecting tech monkey to get their teeth into.

An even bigger iPad

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The headline announcement of the event was definitely the long-rumoured iPad Pro, which includes a gigantic 12.9-inch (almost laptop sized), 2732 x 2048, 5.6 million pixel screen, which is the largest and most detailed of any iOS device. The screen's resolution is 2732 x 2048 -- a total of 5.6 million pixels. It's large enough to include a full-size on-screen software keyboard and has variable refresh rate, which means if the images on screen aren't moving quickly, it can easily save power. Available from November, the iPad Pro will come in the following iterations: 32GB with wifi: $799 128GB with wifi: $949 128GB with wifi and 4G: $1079.

The long-rumoured iPad Pro includes a gigantic 12.9-inch (almost laptop sized), 2732 x 2048, 5.6 million pixel screen

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The Pro includes an A9X 64-bit chip, which has double the memory bandwidth of the older A8X, and double the storage performance. The CPU is reportedly faster than 80% of portable PCs, with graphics capabilities 90% above those same devices. It includes four speakers, and is only slightly thicker than the iPad Air 2 (6.9mm compared to 6.1mm) and is almost exactly the same weight (just over one-and-a-half pounds). On the side of the iPad Pro are three new circles, which represent a new way to connect the tablet to other devices. To showcase this, Apple revealed the Smart Keyboard, a peripheral specifically built for the iPad Pro that can be linked to the tablet by simply touching the two devices together. Another accessory specific to the iPad Pro, the Apple Pencil, was revealed, with the Pro able to detect the difference between the Pencil and the finger, as well as how hard you press on the screen and at which angle you hold the Pencil. The Smart Keyboard retails at $169, and the Pencil at $99.

Apple has also dropped the prices of its older iPad models

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In a related announcement, Apple has also dropped the prices of its older iPad models. The entry level iPad is now the iPad Mini 2, starting at $269 rather than $300. Also in the Mini family is the iPad Mini 4, at $399. The iPad Air and iPad Air 2 are now $399 and $499 respectively. Whether or not these price drops will come into effect in the UK remains to be seen, but in the past most announcements have been universal so I have high hopes.

New Apple TV to focus on gaming

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The new Apple TV model is being positioned as much as a gaming platform as a convenient way to watch Netflix and scroll through family photos. The new device features enhanced Siri integration, a new UI, and a new remote that also plays games. It even runs on a brand new operating system called tvOS, which is based on iOS, so it's pretty clear that they're not messing around here with a device many have seen as the bastard child of the Apple family. Siri commands let you search Apple TV using subjects, genre, actors, and more using your voice in a similar manner to the Xbox One and Kinect. This is set to be far more advanced though. In fact, you can even be as specific as asking Siri for a specific TV episode featuring a notable guest star (for example). Swiping down on the remote while watching a film also allows you to jump between scenes and read the synopsis. The iPhone and iPad can also be used as controllers for Apple TV. Tim Cook said: “Our vision for TV is simple and perhaps a little provocative. We believe the future of television is apps,” referring to how the innovative advancements of mobile have overtaken the static, unchanging nature of television.

The new Apple TV features enhanced Siri integration, a new UI and OS, and a new remote that also plays games

What really took me by surprise, however, was how much effort Apple made in positioning Apple TV as a gaming machine, with Guitar Hero Live, Crossy Road (with a system specific multiplayer mode), and Disney Infinity 3.0 all listed as coming to the device. Cross-play features also allow you to continue game progress from your iPad or iPhone to your Apple TV. Rock Band creator Harmonix also revealed its next game, Beat Sports, a musical mini-game made for Apple TV. The 32GB Apple TV model will be available for $149, or for 64GB it'll run you $199. It will be available from October.

New iPhones introduce 3D touch

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It will come as a surprise to nobody at all that Apple also used the event to officially reveal the iPhone 6S, and the larger iPhone 6S Plus phones. The 6S features a 4.7-inch retina display and starts at $199, while the 6S Plus features a 5.5-inch retina display and starts at $299. They'll both be available from September 25t, with pre-orders starting September 12. Both models come in four metal finishes, (silver, gold, space grey, and rose gold) and are powered by Apple's 3rd generation 64-bit A9 chip with an M9 motion coprocessor built in. A 2nd generation Touch ID sensor allows up to 2x faster fingerprint identification than older iPhone models.

Apple have officially revealed the iPhone 6S, and the larger iPhone 6S Plus phones, both of which will be released in the US on September 25

So far, so standard, but what's really gave me a tech boner about the new iPhones was the announcements of the 4K video recording feature and the revolutionary new “3D Touch,” which adds new gestures that let you easily access commonly used functions. You can also “Peek” at content without fully launching the app or link itself, so glancing at calendars, maps, or emails and texts becomes more streamlined and instantaneous. There's also an all-new 12MP iSight Camera that also allows for 50% more pixels than before, and a 5MP FaceTime HD camera that includes retina flash, while a larger sensor makes it easier to take wider panoramic photos. A new “Live Photo” feature also means the phone is actually recording the few seconds before and after every photo is taken, so tapping on a still photo you've taken will momentarily animate it! Just like magic.

The new phones add 4K video recording and the revolutionary new “3D Touch” feature, which adds new gestures that let you easily access commonly used functions

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The iPhone Upgrade Program was also revealed, though unfortunately, it's only coming to US Apple stores, at least for the time being. The new initiative allows users to upgrade their devices yearly (unlocked devices at that) with a $32 monthly fee that also includes Apple Care+. In all, it's actually a pretty great deal! Apple is also reducing the prices of older models, so now, on a two-year contract, the iPhone 5S will be free, the iPhone 6 starts at $99 and the 6 Plus at $199. With an iPhone now within almost everyone's price ranges, it begs the question; how will Google react?

Everything else

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Whilst most of the event focused on the big ticket items, a suite of new Apple Watch models was also revealed, including gold and rose-gold finished watch faces. These new watch models will be available starting today, and the second version of the watch OS will be available September 16. Finally, Apple has created an app that makes it easier for Android users to switch to Apple. The app found in the Google Play store helps Android users move their information over to an iPhone without losing their information. It might have been a small announcement, but in my eyes, it's a bit of a game changer, because one of the primary reasons my friends and relatives give about refusing to switch platforms is because they think they'll be losing all of their data. So. Your move Google.

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Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer, musician and unapologetic Apple fanboy from Kidderminster in the UK.

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