When it comes to the future of paying for goods, Apple’s latest iPads and computers can’t seem to decide whether Touch ID or Face ID will win out.
At an event on Tuesday in New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Cupertino, Calif., company revealed its latest generation of iPads and Macs, one of which loses fingerprint authentication while the other adds it.
Apple’s newest iPad Pro represents the biggest change to the device since it launched eight years ago, the company said. It shaves off 5.9 mm, making it roughly 15 percent thinner, and offers more screen real estate by minimizing the bezels. But, like on its flagship iPhone, the redesign also ditches the home button. Instead, users swipe to conjure Control Center settings or previously used apps.
The new edge-to-edge display also effectively removes fingerprint-powered Touch ID from the tablets, in favor of facial recognition to unlock Apple Pay or the device itself.
It’s a tricky change, considering the growing adoption of iPads in enterprise scenarios, like logistics and retail environments. Face ID is designed to work better the more a person uses it — but it’s not clear how it will fare in stores, where employees tend to grab whatever company-owned devices are available.
New support for USB-C and monitors (up to 5K) offer some benefits. Employees can charge their iPhones around the store or dock the tablet and use it as a workstation. Designers and other creative types may appreciate the all-new ability to charge the Apple Pencil by magnetically connecting it to the tablet.
The 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $799, and the 12.9-inch model starts at $999.
With its latest crop of computers, Apple’s design philosophy suddenly takes a different turn.
Apple’s refreshed MacBook Air features a 13-inch Retina display with a number of improvements covering resolution, processors, solid-state drives for storage, battery life and keyboard, as well as a T2 security chip, FaceTime HD camera and recycled aluminum materials.
The laptop also found the iPad Pro’s missing Touch ID sensor. MacBook Air owners gain a new ability to unlock the computer and authenticate Apple Pay transactions by placing a finger on the hardware.
The move looks like Apple’s admission that Face ID may be fine for mobile devices, but when productivity’s at stake on full-fledged computers, it’s not quite ready for prime time. Things like reading glasses, sunglasses and heavy makeup have been known to vex the system, prompting a new setting called Alternate Appearance in iOS 12, which is also available today.
Of course, that’s not how the company talks about the feature or the new laptop. Instead, the device introduction focuses on the main feature of the MacBook Air — its weight class.
“When Steve pulled that MacBook Air out of that envelope, it was clear things would never be the same,” chief executive officer Tim Cook said onstage. “The MacBook Air’s incredibly thin design not only influenced the Mac line…it changed the industry.”
Indeed, the 2.75-pound laptop is super thin, at 15 millimeters. And somehow, it packs more hardware, including the new Touch ID sensor, as well as the addition of three microphones. The latter should offer better audio quality for calls, macOS Mojave’s group FaceTime chats and Siri voice recognition. It also brings better graphics to the table, with a resolution of more than 4 million pixels and 48 percent more color than the previous generation and its latest processors.
Available in gold, space gray and silver, the MacBook Air starts at $1,199 and pre-orders begin today, for shipping on Nov. 7.
Other announcements include the MacBook Pro’s new option for Radeon Pro Vega graphics, which should please gamers, design creatives and video pros interested in faster performance.
The Mac Mini also received its first update in four years. Decked out in space gray, the new Mini offers up to 64 GB of storage, 6-core processors for five times the performance, flash storage and more memory, plus four Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB-A ports, an HDMI port and an Ethernet port. It starts at $799 and is available to order immediately on Apple’s web site and on Nov. 7 in stores.
Tuesday also marks the release of the latest major mobile and computer software updates. IOS 12.1 offers eSim support and real-time depth of field control for cameras — also known as background blur. And both iOS 12 and MacOS 10.14.1 Mojave feature group FaceTime calls and new emoji.