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Apple takes wraps off redesigned iPad Mini, dropping the bezels and adding bigger screen

New iPhones and Apple Watch 7 also get stage time in the company’s launch event.

Apple Inc. unveiled a revamped iPad mini with an iPad Pro-like design, thinner bezels and a larger display, alongside a faster entry-level model.

The new iPad mini moves Touch ID to the home button on the top, matching the iPad Air from last year. It’s also 40% faster than the previous version, Apple said at a launch event Tuesday. And it gains a larger, 8.3-inch screen. The new entry-level model, meanwhile, now has an A13 processor, an upgrade from the A12 on the previous version. That will result in 20% faster performance, the company said.

Apple’s iPad line saw a resurgence during the pandemic as people worked, played games and studied at home. The company generated $7.4 billion in iPad sales in the third quarter, or 9% of total revenue.

The entry-level model has the same design as the eighth-generation model launched last year, but doubles the base storage to at least 64 gigabytes. The new iPad mini also adds USB-C charging, the same port as the iPad Pro and iPad Air — in addition to 5G support for the first time.

The new entry-level model includes an improved front-facing camera with a 12-megapixel sensor and Center Stage, a feature that automatically shifts the camera’s position digitally to follow around a user during video calls. The standard iPad screen also has True Tone, which adjusts tones based on the surrounding environment.

The iPad mini gains a 12-megapixel camera on the back and an LED flash for taking pictures in low light, in addition to the same 12-pixel camera on the front as the entry-level model. The iPad mini also will get stereo speakers for improved sound, Apple said. The entry-level model includes support for the original Apple Pencil from 2015, while the new iPad mini supports the second-generation version from 2018.

The new entry version continues to sell for $329, while Apple offers it for $299 to schools. The iPad mini will cost $499. Apple is also rolling out iPadOS 15 software this month with expanded support for widgets on the home screen.

A revamped iPad Pro with wireless charging support is expected in 2022.

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The new iPhone 13 features a similar design to last year’s models, seeking to focus on 5G capabilities and new features like camera and processor enhancements.

The new models — iPhone 13, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max — look similar to the iPhone 12, but include a smaller display cutout at the top of the screen, faster chips and upgraded camera systems. The screen sizes remain 5.4 inches, 6.1 inches and 6.7 inches, depending on whether a user chooses the mini, standard or Pro Max models.

The new versions will run iOS 15, an update launching this month with improvements to home screen widgets, new features in the Maps and Messages apps, updated privacy controls, and enhancements to the web browser, FaceTime, Wallet app and health tracking.

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The upgraded Apple Watch adds larger displays, new watch faces and an updated user interface. Apple didn’t provide a specific release date.

The new version, known as the Apple Watch Series 7, marks the first time the company has enlarged the watch display since the Series 4 three years ago. The new model won’t launch until “later this fall,” Apple said, likely due to previously reported production delays.

The watch has become an increasingly important part of Apple’s portfolio. Though the product got off to a slow start half a decade ago, it has now essentially become the smartwatch industry itself, surpassing an estimated 100 million in lifetime unit sales earlier this year. In the third fiscal quarter, Apple’s wearables and accessories division, driven primarily by the Apple Watch, generated $8.8 billion in revenue.

The new screens are 20% larger than on the Apple Watch Series 6, Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams said when announcing the devices. The borders around the display are also 40% thinner, he said. The design itself is similar to the previous versions, including rounded edges. The new screen is 70% brighter and more crack-resistant, Apple said.

To take advantage of the larger screen area, Apple showed multiple new watch faces, including one that can show two large complications — the industry term for snippets of data like weather, calendar appointments or health information — instead of one at a time like on the previous versions. It also showed new Contour and World Time faces.

Apple has also upgraded charging, saying the device will now juice up 33% faster with a new USB-C driven charger.

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg

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