Apple unveils new iPads, Macs, announces Apple Pay launch date

Last Updated Oct 17, 2014 7:15 AM EDT

Apple on Thursday unveiled the new iPad Mini 3 and iPad Air 2, touting the latter as the "world's thinnest tablet" as the company tries to reverse lackluster demand for tablet computers.

At the event in Cupertino, California, the company also introduced updated operating software and announced that its new mobile payments system, Apple Pay, will launch on Monday.

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior VP of worldwide marketing, said the 6.1-millimeter thick iPad Air 2 features a new anti-reflective coating - a first for a tablet. The iPad Air 2 also features a better camera and faster processor, featuring a new-generation A8X chip.

Schiller said that for the first time on an iPad, you can take time lapse and slo-motion video.

Apple also unveiled a slightly updated iPad Mini 3, which comes in silver, space gray and gold.

As CNET reports, the new Mini features a fourth-generation Intel Core processor as well as upgraded Wi-Fi and graphic abilities.

"The Mac Mini hadn't been refreshed for two years," said CNET.com senior writer Shara Tibken. "The device is Apple's most affordable computer, and it has a cult following."

Both the Mini and Air incorporate a Touch ID fingerprint sensor for security, a feature that's been available on iPhones since last year.

Apple said the new iPad Air 2 will sell for $499 and up, and the smaller iPad Mini 3 will start at $399. Pre-orders begin on Friday.

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Phil Schiller, Apple Senior VP, speaks at a presentation of the new iPad at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Oct. 16, 2014.

Robert Galbraith / Reuters

Meanwhile, CEO Tim Cook said 500 banks and many of the largest retailers in the world have agreed to support the Apple Pay digital payment system, which is also available on the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Apple Pay was first announced at the iPhone 6 launch event Sept. 9.

Cook said the new iPhones, which hit the market Sept. 19, were the fastest-selling in Apple's history.

"It's been an incredible year and tremendously busy already," he said. "This is the strongest lineup of products Apple has ever had."

The event featured a speaker-phone cameo by comedian Stephen Colbert, touting Apple's security features.

Craig Federighi, senior VP of Mac Software Engineering, also showed off the new features of iOS 8 and the updated Mac operating system, Yosemite, calling them the "most advanced operating system on the planet."

"What really sets iOS apart is the incredible technologies it puts in the hands of our developers," Federighi said.

Federighi also touted "Continuity" features, which allow users to "start on one device and pick up on another." He illustrated the point by showing the photos he favorited on his iPhone and having them show up automatically on his iPad.

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The new iPad Air 2 (R) and iPad Mini 3 are displayed during an Apple special event on October 16, 2014 in Cupertino, California. Apple unveiled the new iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 tablets and a Mac with 5K retina display.
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Updates to the Mac computer line were unveiled as well. Schiller announced that the high-resolution Retina 5K display is coming to the iMac, saying Apple has built an "iMac with the most incredible display we've ever made."

Although Apple is normally intensely secretive about its new products -- even imposing a $50 million penalty on vendors who leak information -- a number of details about the new iPads had been widely reported. On Wednesday, Apple prematurely posted photos of the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 on the iTunes website, then quickly took them down.

Thursday's presentation came a little over a month after Apple introduced its new, larger, thinner iPhone 6 and big-screen iPhone 6 Plus, along with its first wearable, the Apple Watch, at a high-profile media event. The new iPhones quickly set a sales record with more than 10 million units snapped up over the first weekend. The Apple Watch won't be available till early next year.

The technology giant had a lot riding on sales of the new iPhones, which drive most of the company's profits and account for more than half of its revenue. By contrast, sales of iPads have not been as strong. Apple said it sold 13.3 million iPads last quarter, down from the previous year and below Wall Street estimates.

Sales through the first half of the year reflected a 13 percent drop from the same period last year.

Since the iPad's release in 2010, more than 225 million have been sold. But unlike mobile phones, which millions of people rush to upgrade every two years, iPads have not changed as significantly and many owners seem content to stick with the models they already have.

"The industry kind of set its expectations wrong about iPads," Gartner analyst Van Baker told CNET. "Everyone assumed the tablet was kind of like the phone, so the upgrade cycle would be like the phone. That's not true."

Furthermore, increased competition from the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Microsoft Surface, Google Nexus and other tablets has bitten into Apple's market share. While the iPad remains number one, it's seen its dominance slip from 68 percent of the tablet market at beginning of 2012, to about 27 percent last quarter, according to industry analytics firm IDC.

However, Apple's Cook said in July that he remains "bullish" about the future of the iPad, CNET reported. "We still feel the category as a whole is in its early days, and there's still significant innovation that can be brought to the iPad, and we can do that," he said.

Apple may be seeking to broaden the iPad's functionality by incorporating Apple Pay technology which will allow users to make purchases from their device more seamlessly through apps for online shopping.

In the iPhones, the system uses short-distance wireless technology called NFC, or near-field communication, to transmit secure payments to participating retailers. Apple has teamed with financial industry heavyweights including American Express ( AXP), Mastercard (MA) and Visa (V) and says Apple Pay will work at more than 220,000 retailers nationwide, including Walgreens, McDonald's, Disney, Target, Subway, Whole Foods and other major chains.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com