Apple has finally responded to Microsoft’s free Windows 10 giveaway with a new version of iOS and a professional tablet with extras that include an add-on keyboard and smart pencil.
The operating system (OS) supports multi-tasking – enabling users to interact with two apps at the same time – and offers an update to the company’s Siri voice-based personal assistant software. The OS is the first to be made available through a public beta programme, something that Microsoft has done for years with Windows.
Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice-president of software engineering, said: "With iOS 9 we focused on strengthening the foundation of iOS with a deep focus on quality and, with the help of more than one million users who participated in our first ever public beta programme, we’re excited to release the best version of iOS yet."
Apple has also extended its Apple Pay mobile payment service, which now includes a Discover feature, merchant rewards programmes and participating store-issued credit and debit cards. Shoppers will be able to manage their cards in the Wallet app, Apple said.
From a security perspective, Apple said it has strengthened the passcode that protect devices; and improved two-factor authentication by building it directly into iOS, making it harder for others to gain unauthorised access to the user’s Apple ID. The OS will be available as a free download on September 16 2015.
Along with iOS 9, Apple introduced the iPad Pro, a 12.9" tablet powered by 64-bit A9X chip, which Apple claimed has enough power to rival most portable PCs. The larger iPad Pro is thin and light and provides all-day battery life, Apple said.
The iPad Pro costs $799 for the 32GB model with Wi-Fi and $1,079 for the Wi-Fi + Cellular 128GB model.
Complimentary add-ons include a $169 Smart Keyboard, which connects to the iPad Pro’s Smart Connector port; and a $99 Apple Pencil, which Apple said measures both pressure and tilt for a “fast and fluid drawing experience”. Apps supporting the Pencil include Mail, Notes, Procreate and Office 365 for iPad.
For comparison, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with 128 GB SSD is sold as a bundle on the Microsoft store, and includes a keyboard, two years' warranty and an Office 365 subscription for $1,068. Microsoft has partnered with Dell and HP, who will begin reselling the Surface Pro and offer related support services.
But Apple's most likely competition will be its own MacBook Air product line. Amazon is selling a 13.3" Core i5 MacBook Air with 128 SSD for $899, putting it just $100 pricier that than the 32GB iPad Pro.
Next generation iPhone
There is also a new iPhone range: The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, which Apple said now offers 3D Touch. This is a feature which senses force to enable new ways to access features.
The two smartphones are powered by the A9 chip, Apple’s third-generation 64-bit chip, which Apple claims is 70% faster in CPU performance than the A8. Apple also claims the two devices offer improved energy efficiency and battery life. There is 4K video support from the smartphones’ camera with a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, plus optical image stabilisation.