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Apple presses deeper with new iPhones and more
[SAN FRANCISCO] There were new iPhones of course. But Apple also moved into the living room with an upgraded streaming TV box and unveiled an iPad Pro aimed at reviving the flagging tablet market.
At Wednesday's media event in San Francisco, Apple introduced two updated iPhones, aiming to build on the success of its large-screen handsets introduced late last year that have dominated the high-end smartphone market.
The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus have the same overall dimensions as the last version, with new technologies under the hood.
"They look familiar, but we have changed everything about these iPhones," chief executive Tim Cook said.
One of the key new features is called "3D touch," which responds to pressure exerted on the screen to allow users to look inside messages and applications.
'PEEK AND POP'
By responding to sensing pressure, the phones enable new "peek and pop" abilities to allow users to dip in and out of content without losing their place. "Press lightly to peek at a photo, email, web page or other content, and press a little deeper to pop into the content itself," Apple said in a statement.
The new iPhones will use the upcoming iOS 9 operating system, which supports new features such as 3D touch.
The 6S has the 4.7-inch display of its predecessor and the 6S Plus - which updates one of the more popular handsets in the "phablet category" - has the same 5.5-inch screen.
But the devices have more powerful processors that allow for improved graphics, harder glass and a new aluminum body. Pricing will be kept at the same levels as the earlier versions.
For those buying without carrier subsidies, Apple will sell the devices on a 24-month installment plan at US$27 per month for the US$650 iPhone 6S and US$31 for the 6S Plus, making the price nearly US$750.
Apple will take pre-orders starting Saturday and deliver the phones on September 25 in the US, Britain, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Puerto Rico and Singapore.
The new iPad Pro has the power and capabilities to replace a laptop computer, Apple said.
Mr Cook called the device "the biggest news in iPad since the iPad." The new tablet with a 12.9-inch display also includes a detachable keyboard and stylus, sold separately.
The device features "desktop-class performance" and operates faster than 80 percent of portable PCs that shipped in the last 12 months, said Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller.
"It is thin and light enough to work all day and be taken everywhere," Mr Schiller said of the new iPad, to be available in November starting at US$799.
The iPad Pro includes a stylus called Apple Pencil designed for high-precision illustration and 3D design applications. Apple Pencil will be sold for US$99 more and the keyboard for US$169.
Avi Greengart at the research firm Current Analysis tweeted that the new tablets "are aimed directly at enterprises. That's a long sales cycle, but could finally stop (the tablet market's) sales slide."
UPGRADED TV BOX
The upgraded streaming Apple TV device includes voice search, touchscreen remote control and an app store in a challenge to Google, Amazon and video game console titans.
Apple TV was overhauled as people increasingly stream films and television shows on-demand online and turn to mobile applications for entertainment.
"Our vision for TV is simple, and perhaps a little provocative," Mr Cook said.
"We believe the future of television is apps." Apple released a software kit for outside developers, and showed off early versions of Apple TV applications already being crafted by show streaming services Netflix and Hulu, as well as HBO.
Game makers are already working on applications, as are home-sharing service Airbnb and real estate-focused service Zillow, according to Apple executive Eddie Cue.
ASK FOR SOMETHING FUNNY
The new Siri virtual assistant software built into Apple TV will allow for natural language searches for shows - for example, by asking for something funny or a certain actor by name.
The new Apple TV will launch in late October at a starting price of US$149.
Apple TV has lagged rivals with similar devices.
According to the research firm Parks Associates, Roku leads the US market with a 37 per cent market share, to 19 per cent for Google Chromecast and 17 percent for Apple TV. Amazon's Fire TV devices have 14 per cent.
Apple also said the operating system for its Apple Watch, watchOS 2, would be made available as a free update September 16.
The company offered no sales figures but Mr Cook said customers "love using Apple Watch," and that user satisfaction "is an incredible 97 per cent."
The latest iteration of the Watch, created with French fashion house Hermes, features a hand-stiched leather band and starts at US$1,100.