Apple unveils iPad Pro, new iPhones, revamps Apple TV

Apple unveiled its largest-ever iPad, upgraded iPhones, and a new Apple TV set-top box at a glitzy event in San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium Wednesday.

“Today, we have the biggest news in iPad since the iPad,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook, unveiling the iPad Pro. “This is the most capable and powerful iPad we have ever created.”

The iPad Pro has a 12.9-inch screen, significantly larger than the 9.7-inch screen on the iPad Air 2.

TV shows and movies are more cinematic on the larger screen, added Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing. "Watching movies now is incredible."

The large-screen iPad also features a new A9X chip, which is 1.8-times faster than the iPad Air 2’s A8X processor, according to Schiller. In processing terms, the iPad Pro is faster than 80 percent of the portable PCs that shipped in the last 12 months, he added.

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    Aimed at enterprises and creative professionals, Apple also unveiled Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil accessories for the iPad Pro. Highlighting the iPad Pro’s target markets, Microsoft Office and Adobe software were demoed on the new tablet, along with a medical imaging app.

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    “This is the most advanced iPad we have made by a longshot,” said Schiller.

    Available in November, pricing for the iPad Pro starts at $799. Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard are priced at $99 and $169, respectively.

    As expected, Apple also revamped its Apple TV set-top box with a new interface and remote.

    "Our vision for TV is simple and perhaps a little provocative. We believe the future of television is apps," said Cook.

    Running a new operating system, called tvOS, game apps are now available on the set-top box. "The app store is just as easy to use as it is on the iPhone," said Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet software and services. Cue also noted that Apple Music is available on the set-top box. "We have also brought Apple Music to the big screen," he added.

    Powered by a 64-bit A8 chip, the device also comes with a new Siri-enabled remote, which has a glass touch surface and connects via Bluetooth.

    "Siri will search iTunes, Netflix, HBO and Showtime," said Cue. "We will be adding more over time."

    Available in late October, pricing for the new Apple TV starts at $149 for a device with 32GB of flash storage. A 64GB version is priced at $199.

    Apple also upgraded its iPhone lineup Wednesday, unveiling its iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. The new phones feature enhanced 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras, up from 8 megapixels on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The phones' front-facing cameras have also been enhanced from 1.2 megapixels to 5 megapixels.

    Clearly with an eye on the massive popularity of selfies, the new phones' retina displays can  function as a backlit flash. "It will light up 3 times brighter when you need it as a flash," said Schiller.

    Other new camera features include 4K video, something which is already offered by smartphone rival Samsung. "When you shoot your video you get a higher degree of detail - in every frame there are 8 million pixels," Schiller added.

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    The new phones also support a new gesture control feature called 3D Touch. The technology was demonstrated by Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, who used it to open a message on his phone. "Now, I can apply just a little bit of pressure, dive in, take a look, let go and I am out of the message," he said.

    3D Touch, which builds on the Force Touch technology that first appeared on the Apple Watch, is also used to access a new iPhone technology called Live Photos. The technology captures a second and a half of footage before and after a photo is taken. When pressure is applied to the photo using 3D Touch, Live Photos effectively brings the images to life, according to Schiller. "We extend the capture moment, just before and after you take it," he said. "It's a beautiful experience, unlike any other way of interacting with photos."

    At least one analyst cited 3D Touch as a welcome addition to the iPhone arsenal. "The new iPhones have enough new features to make them an interesting upgrade for those who always have to have the latest device from Apple, with 3D Touch the biggest new feature," wrote Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, in a note released on Wednesday. "3D Touch itself should make navigation and interaction much quicker and easier, but it will mean something of a learning curve for users, because there won't be any visual cues indicating what a 3D Touch might do, a problem the Apple Watch suffers from as well."

    The phones run iOS 9, the latest version of Apple's iPhone operating system. iOS 9 enhancements include new iPad multitasking, support for public transit systems and schedules in Maps and a News app that collects stories that users want to read based on topics they are interested in. "The news app is amazing for reading news on your phone," said Schiller.

    Pricing for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus starts at $199 and $299, respectively. The phones will be available Sept. 25, with pre-orders starting Sept. 12.

    The new iOS 9 operating system will be available as a free software update Sept. 16.

    In addition to iOS 9, Apple announced watchOS 2, the first Apple Watch software upgrade, on Wednesday, as well as new bands and cases for the wearable device. The gadget maker has also forged a partnership with luxury brand Hermes, which is offering leather bands for Apple Watch.

    Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers