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3 most important announcements from the Apple Event

3 most important announcements from the Apple Event
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

After a year of hype and buildup, Apple's iPad event has come and gone. While there weren't any major surprises, it was certainly packed with new hardware, software and services, along with the usual self-congratulation and some surprising jokes from Apple at itself.

I don't have space here for everything Apple covered, but you can revisit my live blog of the event for a blow-by-blow account.

Instead, I'm going to focus on the three big things Apple announced that are going to be landing soon. These are things that you might be thinking about getting during the upcoming holidays - or might change how you pay for items as you're shopping.

Let's kick things off with the announcement everyone turned up to hear: New iPads.

iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3

Since the original iPad launched, it's been the tablet to beat. The name "iPad" is so tied to tablets that NFL announcers have to be retrained because they keep referring to Microsoft's Surface tablets - now mandatory for coaches and players on the field - as "iPads."

So, do the latest iPads - the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3 - measure up to this high standard? Well, yes and no.

The iPad Air 2 is a nice step up from the original iPad Air. Apple made a big deal about how thin it is. At 6.1 mm, it's thinner than a pencil. In fact, take a look at this photo of two new iPad Air 2s stacked up against an original iPad:

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 10.44.31 AM

Despite its size, the Air 2 packs in a 64-bit A8X processor that's 40% faster than the last-generation A7, 802.11ac Wi-Fi that 2.8 times faster than older versions, an 8-megapixel iSight camera and up to 128 gigabytes of storage space.

Then there's the screen, which is laminated. That means the glass, touch sensor and LCD display are bonded into a single unit. It not only thinner, it should be clearer and make touch control more accurate.

Like the iPhone, the Air 2 also packs a Touch ID fingerprint sensor and comes in three colors: Silver, Space Grey and Gold.

Pricing for the Air 2 is $499 for 16GB, $599 for 64GB and $699 for 128GB. Meanwhile, pricing for the cellular-enabled models will be set at $629, $729 and $829, respectively. Apple will continue to offer the original iPad Air starting at $399.

Click here to see how the Air 2 stacks up to its Android, Amazon and Microsoft competitors.

Pre-orders for the iPad Air 2 will begin on October 17, and Apple says units will begin to ship a week later.

On a less flattering note, there's the iPad mini 3. It didn't get many upgrades over the iPad mini 2; it's still running an older A7 processor and uses the same 5MP iSight camera.

What it did get is TouchID, all three case color options and larger storage options. Still, a word to the wise - if you have an iPhone 6 Plus, skip the mini 3. Click here to see how the iPad mini 3 stacks up to its predecessors and competitors.

Surprisingly, Apple isn't stopping production on any previous iPad models. They just dropped in price, which is great news for people wanting an iPad on the cheap.

For the sake of reference, here's starting pricing for the whole iPad lineup:

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.07.43 AM

The iPad mini starts at $249, the iPad mini 2 at $299, the iPad mini 3 at $399. The iPad Air is $399 and the new iPad Air 2 starts at $499.

Speaking of money, Apple wants to have a hand in that, too.

Apple Pay

Over the years, several companies have tried to make a "digital wallet" that stores your cards and makes it easy - and secure - to pay anywhere. None of them have caught on - even Google Wallet fizzled - but Apple might finally have a winner.

So far Apple has partnered with Visa, MasterCard and American Express, 500+ banks and hundreds of restaurants and retailers like Macy's, McDonald's, Walgreen's, Subway and Disney, just to name very few.

To use Apple Pay, you take a photo of your credit cards - or just use the one on file with iTunes. When you're at a participating establishment, you can wave your phone over the register or tap it and then swipe your finger over the TouchID sensor. Your iPhone or Apple Watch's built-in near-field communication system does the rest.

It's simple and - according to Apple, Google and other companies that use NFC - totally secure. NFC has plenty of hardware-based security built in that hackers shouldn't be able to crack.

Apple is taking a small cut of each transaction, which is why you get to use Apple Pay for free - assuming you have an iPhone 6, 6 Plus or iPhone 5, 5c or 5s with an Apple Watch. It will arrive on your phone automatically on October 20 with the iOS 8.1 update.

iMac with Retina display

Apple's all-in-one desktop computer, the iMac, already had a Retina display, but the newest 27-inch model has a Retina 5K display. At 14.7 million pixels, that gives the new iMac the highest-resolution display in the world.

To put that in perspective, that's more than a cutting-edge 4K TV and 7 times more pixels than a full HD display. Even then the 27-inch display is only 5mm thick at the edge - which is actually thinner than the iPad Air.

Check it out:

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.13.29 AM

Aside from the new display, the rest of the computer is typical high-end hardware. There's a 3.5 GHz quad-core Intel i5 processor you can upgrade to a 4 GHz i7.

There's 8GB of RAM standard, a 1 terabyte Fusion Drive, 2 Thunderbolt ports and for graphics it has AMD's Radeon R9 M290X, which you can upgrade to a M295X.

It's a serious piece of hardware and it's priced like it at $2,499 as a starting price. That's a bit much for the regular consumer, but for that kind of screen and power, it's actually a good deal.

The remainder of the iMac lineup has not been updated, with the 21-inch model still starting at $1,099 and the 27-inch iMac without a Retina 5K display starting at $1,799.

As I said earlier, Apple announced several more products, including an upgraded Mac mini, the latest versions of OS X, iOS and plenty more. Click here to read the full play-by-play of the announcement.

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