TIME

Here’s What’s Coming in PlayStation 4 System Software Version 2.0

Sony

Sony lays out a slew of new features in its upcoming overhaul of the PlayStation 4's dashboard.

Companies usually save their big guns for major number turnovers, because that’s what we’ve come to expect after a lot of this-point-that integer creep (unless you’re Apple, anyway, at which point you shift from subsets of the number 10 to big cats to surfer hangouts to national parks).

Sony has a name for its upcoming major PlayStation 4 operating system overhaul. It’s called “Masamune,” after a widely acclaimed Japanese late 13th/early 14th century swordsmith. And yes, that is a little audacious, but then the update sounds fairly ambitious.

Version 2.0 will bring Themes, a dedicated YouTube app and something Sony calls “Share Play”: a way to play local co-op with friends on other systems, which sounds just like ordinary co-op, and is, except that you need only a single copy of the game between the two of you. The idea seems less about saving people money than creating quick-help scenarios, say you’re stuck and need a hand, or want someone to actually take over your controller and drive. Call it “Help Play.”

But we’ve known about that stuff since August. Yesterday, Sony announced a bunch of additional features, one of which involves rejiggering the way your console handles content in the menu, another that shows you “players you may know,” the option to listen to your music while playing a game (off a USB device, with support for MP3, MP4, M4A and 3GP formats), new voice commands, some new live broadcasting channels and filters, and the option to change the dash’s background color (weirdly absent at launch, so more of a catching-up thing ).

Of them all, I’m most intrigued by the content area change. Here’s Sony’s bulleted breakout:

PS4’s Content Area, which shows the latest games and apps a PS4 owner has used, has been redesigned to help make it easier to quickly find and access content. It now shows 15 of a player’s most used apps or games, and additional items will be added to a player’s Library. The Library on PS4 has improved filter and sort functions to help organize contented by type (game / app / TV & video), name (a – z or z – a), recently used, or install date.

That’s the one I’m most excited about, if I’m parsing what Sony’s saying correctly and it’s going to shorten the left-right scroll sprawl. I don’t mind the way content stacks now in one super-long line that grows with each new game you play, but I’d say I’ve visited the tail end of that line maybe a handful of times since the system launched. Not seeing stuff you’re not sure you need, or only rarely use, is roughly analogous to it not being there.

We’re still in the dark on Masamune’s release date, but it’s supposed to drop “later this fall,” technically giving Sony until December 21.

TIME Gadgets

5 Gadgets That Will Help You Sleep Better

If you wish you could get a better night’s sleep, you’re not alone. Sleep experts say adults should try to get seven to eight hours per night.

Of course, not all of us do – according to Gallup, 26% of us get six hours of sleep a night and another 14% get five hours or less. And it affects how well we can concentrate during the day, how well we can remember things and puts us at greater risk for automobile accidents. Is it any wonder that the U.S. Center for Disease Control has called insufficient sleep a public health epidemic?

Serious sleep problems still require the services of a trained doctor. But for smaller issues – off-sync sleep schedules, difficulty waking up and challenges falling asleep – modern technology may be able to help. Here are five of Techlicious’s picks for the best sleep gadgets available.

Misfit Beddit

misfit-beddit-on-bed-510px
Misfit

The Misfit Beddit is one of the easiest ways to turn your existing bed into a “smart” bed. It’s a thin sensor pad that lays flat under your sheets to measure your movement throughout the night. It tracks the stages of sleep, sleep duration, wake times, heartrate and snoring (by monitoring ambient sound), sending this data to your smartphone via Bluetooth. The included app can play soothing sounds to help you sleep at night, and can be programmed to wake you up when you’re in your lightest stage of sleep in the morning. This helps make sure you’re refreshed when you get out of bed, not groggy.

The Misfit Beddit is available in your choice of black and white color. The accompanying app is currently Apple iOS only, though Misfit promises Android support is coming soon. You can currently pick one up through Amazon.com for $149.99.

Withings Aura

withings-aura-woman-in-bed-510px
Withings

Like the Misfit Beddit, the Withings Aura includes a small in-bed sensor pad that tracks sleep stages, duration, number of wake ups and more, and can be programmed to wake you up during a cycle of light sleep. But the Aura also includes a bedside device that’s designed to give off a gentle glow of light that helps you wake up and get to sleep by promoting healthy levels of the sleep hormone melatonin. It also measures sound and light pollution in your room so you can see how these factors are impacting your sleep. And because it’s likely to take up a lot of space on your bedside table, the light also doubles as a clock with speakers and a USB port for charging your phone.

These added features don’t come cheap, however. The Withings Aura will set you back $299.95 on Amazon, more than twice the price of the Beddit. The accompanying app is currently only for Apple iOS; an Android version is “coming soon.”

LifeTrak Brite R450

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LifeTrak

Between the Fitbit, Misfit Flash, Jawbone UP and Basis, there’s no shortage of wearables out there that can track sleep. But the new LifeTrak Brite R450 stands out in the crowd. It includes the expected sleep tracking features (including smart wake-up based on real-time data) and adds a light sensor. That way, you can know whether your body needs more (or less) natural light to promote sound sleep. You get a ton of exercise monitoring features too, including step counting, calories burned, heart rate and distance. The Brite R450 can even get incoming SMS and call notifications from your phone via a Bluetooth connection.

The LifeTrak Brite is currently available for pre-order for $129.99 through lifetrakusa.com and is expected to ship in two to three weeks. The device is available in your choice of three color schemes including white/orchid, black/freesia (yellow) and black/platinum. The included tracking app is compatible with both iOS and Android devices.

ResMed S+

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ResMed

The ResMed S+ is a contactless sleep sensor. Rather than slipping under your sheets, it instead measures in-bed movement at your bedside. The S+ also keeps tabs on your breathing, ambient light and noise, and temperature to make recommendations that might improve your sleep (e.g., “sleep on your left side”). Data about sleep cycles, duration and wake-ups are synced to your iOS or Android device by Bluetooth; the included app will then score your sleep on a 0 to 100 scale so you can see how you compare to others. Another cool feature: The ResMed S+ can also play soothing sounds that are synchronized to your breathing to help you get to sleep quicker.

The S+ by ResMed is currently available for sale through the company’s mysplus.com website. It’s currently being sold for “3 monthly payments of $49.95” ($149.85 in total) with a 30-day money back guarantee. The S+ app is compatible with any Apple device running iOS 8 and with the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4.

SleepRate

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SleepRate

SleepRate itself isn’t a gadget: It’s billed as a sleep improvement kit. The system requires you to wear a chest-mounted Polar H7 Heart Rate Monitor (uncomfortable, but included), as it uses heart-rate data to track sleep stages, duration, wake times and quality. This information is then used to create a custom-tailored four- to eight-week treatment plan licensed from Stanford University to adjust your sleep times, calibrate your biological clock and find the right conditions for the perfect night’s sleep.

The SleepRate Sleep Improvement Kit is currently available on Amazon.com for $99.95. The included app is currently iOS only.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Video Games

8 Takeaways From the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One September Sales

Some of the more interesting points plucked from NPD's September video game sales figures.

Continuing a long upward-downward trend that’s defined much of 2014, combined sales of video game hardware like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were up significantly year-on-year for September, while physical software sales were down, reports NPD.

Let’s step through the pullouts.

The Xbox One didn’t outsell the PlayStation 4 after all

Did anyone think it would? They did: Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter predicted earlier this week that the Xbox One would outsell the PlayStation 4 in September.

“We expect Xbox One sales to exceed those of the PS4 for only the second month since launch,” Pachter said, according to VentureBeat.

And yet Sony claims the PS4 “won the month of September, nearly tripling August sales” (it credits the limited-edition white Destiny PS4 bundle as a major factor).

Remember that we don’t know by how much the PS4 outsold the Xbox One (perhaps it was photo finish), and to be fair, analyst predictions are never guarantees.

New physical software sales are plummeting…

New physical software sales took another dive in September, dropping 36%, says NPD.

Save for May, which was basically “Mario Kart 8 month,” new physical software sales have been slightly to dramatically down every month through September. Bear in mind that NPD’s figures don’t take into account used retail game sales or digital software sales, and focus strictly on classic video game demographics (that is, not smartphones, tablets, other mobile devices or microconsoles and so forth).

…but new hardware sales have skyrocketed

Hardware sales were up 136% for September, year-on-year, says NPD. The lowest year-on-year month for hardware was January, just 17%, which makes sense because January 2013 was a five-week reporting period (whereas this year was just four), plus January’s the sales hangover after the holiday splurge.

Generally speaking, year-on-year hardware sales percent increases have been in the high double and occasionally low triple figures. Considered against the declining new physical software figure, and given that you can buy just about anything on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One digitally, well, let’s hope someone reputable’s conducting insightful surveys, so we can get a better sense for what the correlations are, and whether software sales are in fact up.

Destiny broke at least one record

Destiny was the top-selling video game for September, whether considered as a standalone SKU or against other multi-SKU competitors. NPD calls it “the most successful launch of the year so far,” then adds that “an even more prestigious feat was the fact that Destiny had the best launch month of all-time for any new IP in video game software.”

Traditional sports games ruled the roost

While Destiny took the top sales slot, Madden NFL 15, FIFA 15 and NHL 15 (all thee with cross-generation versions) each placed in the top 10. On current-gen consoles, Sony says those three game sold the most on the PS4.

Super Smash Bros. can still do big business for Nintendo

September was all about the 3DS, from Nintendo’s vantage anyway. Even if the game was only available for the last two days of the month, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS easily placed in the top 10, competing with multi-platform SKUs to snatch the fourth slot, beating Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, NHL 15, Minecraft, The Sims 4, Disney Infinity 2.0 and Diablo III.

Nintendo’s pocket-brawler sold 705,000 units in all, with over 135,000 of those as digital downloads. The game bolstered 3DS sales, too, helping Nintendo to 140,000 units, a 55% increase over August sales.

Where’s the Wii U in all of this?

Up 50% in unit sales over August, says Nintendo, helped along by sales of it Zelda brawler Hyrule Warriors (190,000 units), and sustained sales of racer Mario Kart 8 (60,000 units, for a lifetime total of nearly 1.2 million units).

Pay no attention to the noise

Sony’s September sales breakdown has a bunch of stuff in it that you might call “infometrics,” not to be confused with the science of informetrics (note the “r”). Infometrics is a buzzword I used to hear a decade or so ago from “data intelligence” companies trying to up-sell their analysis services. It’s basically a fancy neologistic way of saying “look, some numbers!”

So we have Sony’s claim, for instance, about “social sharing” amounting to 450,000 hours of live gameplay. Trouble is, we have no idea what that number actually means or what to stack it against in the press release. It sounds impressive–nearly half a million hours of stream sharing!–but consider that game streamer Twitch alone does something like 15 billion minutes a month, or 250 million hours, total.

On the other hand, this is interesting and tangible: Sony says Destiny is the most-played PS4 game, with “total gameplay hours” five times higher than the next-most-played game.

TIME Video Games

The 5 iPhone Games You Should Play This Week

Give these games a shot

Looking for a new iPhone game for your commute to work or lunch break at school? TIME rounded up some recent favorites that are worth a try.

  • War of Ages

    App Store

    It’s hardly a surprise that War of Ages is in the top 100 apps in the App Store. For those of us who played games like Age of Empires in the late 90s and early 2000’s, everything from the similar title, to building a nation, to developing a reliable army makes War of Ages feel like a throwback to these original strategy games. But War of Ages allows you to play online against millions of players, which adds a fascinating dimension to the classic medieval strategy genre.

    War of Ages is available free in the App Store.

  • Goat Simulator

    App Store

    When Goat Simulator was announced earlier this year, it was given web-wide attention due to its premise: a surreal Grand Theft Auto-type game involving a goat. Some believed it was an absurdist work of art; others called it a glitch-ridden disaster. Either way, Goat Simulator allows players to control a third person goat and explore the animal’s world, slingshotting the goat from object to object using its extremely elastic tongue while destroying everything in its path.

    Goat Simulator is available for $4.99 in the App Store.

     

  • Banner Saga

    App Store

    While many game developers have started using the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus’ larger screen sizes as a way to explore three dimensions, Banner Saga still delivers a stunning 2D landscape. Players choose their own characters and can follow any number of paths in this role-playing game that feels more like a Norse epic than a game one might plan on a phone. The art itself looks a lot like a detailed cartoon, which seems all the more appropriate when you take your Vikings into battle or sneak through a dark forest to avoid being seen by an enemy patrol.

    Banner Saga is available for $9.99 in the App Store

  • Daddy Long Legs

    App Store

    Daddy Long Legs is as hypnotic as it is simple. The premise sounds almost like a bad joke: successfully tap your screen to guide a hairy black cube with two gigantic legs down a track. Every time the cube falls, it splatters on the ground and the player starts over. For the cube, the road is endless. The only limit is how many hours a player is willing to spend trying to beat a shamefully low high score.

    But Daddy Long Legs also inadvertently delivers a disturbingly poignant message to its players: sometimes baby steps and persistence and a little luck yield greater results than big strides.

    Daddy Long Legs is available free in the App Store.

  • Jack B. Nimble

    App Store

    The first thing one notices about Jack B. Nimble is that it looks almost exactly like an original Game Boy game. With hints of Mario and Sonic and obvious traces of Indiana Jones, Jack B. Nimble is an endearingly old-fashioned monochrome game that lends a dash of eeriness to this hand-held style game. But Jack B. Nimble moves at a decidedly faster pace than its predecessors, and developers didn’t forget that players would be using a tool far more powerful than an old-school Game Boy. Somehow it’s as much at home on the iPhone than it would have been on a Christmas wish list in 1992.

    Jack B. Nimble is available for $1.99 in the App Store.

TIME Gadgets

The Revolutionary New iPad Feature Apple Didn’t Talk About

Apple Inc. Announces The New iPad Air 2 And iPad Mini 3
A member of the media displays an Apple Inc. iPad Mini 3, left, and iPad Air 2 for a photograph after a product announcement in Cupertino, California, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

It could foretell a future where consumers have unprecedented choice over their mobile carrier

Apple unveiled a pair of new iPads during a somewhat subdued event Thursday at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters. At first, it seemed there was nothing groundbreaking about the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 — these were somewhat boring, iterative improvements like thinner bodies, faster processors and the inclusion of Touch ID. But one feature of the iPad Air 2 that Apple didn’t even talk about on stage represents a change that could foretell a future where consumers have unprecedented choice over their mobile carrier.

The WiFi + Cellular models of the iPad Air 2, as revealed only on Apple’s website after Thursday’s event, comes with something called an “Apple SIM.” SIM cards are small, rectangular devices used by many mobile carriers to identify customers on their networks. If your mobile carrier uses SIM cards, you can switch your service to another device simply by popping the card out of your old device and putting it in your new one. It’s also possible in many cases to bring your old device to a new mobile carrier by getting rid of your old SIM and replacing it with a card supplied by your new carrier — a common practice among travelers, who have to hop from carrier to carrier as they cross from one company’s territory into another’s.

What the new Apple SIM changes is that iPad Air 2 owners who want to bring their device from their current mobile carrier to a new one no longer have to get a SIM card from their new carrier. Instead, switching carriers is as simple as selecting the new company from a menu option on their iPad, provided the carrier is one that currently supports Apple SIM — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and European carrier EE, for starters.

“The Apple SIM gives you the flexibility to choose from a variety of short-term plans from select carriers in the U.S. and U.K. right on your iPad,” Apple wrote on its website for the iPad Air 2. “So whenever you need it, you can choose the plan that works best for you — with no long-term commitments.”

That sounds pretty nice for iPad owners, but what about iPhones? For now, Apple SIM is only found in iPads with wireless data capabilities, which serve a much different function than phones. But it’s not hard to imagine a future where Apple puts its Apple SIM in every iPhone on the market, making it that much easier to change your wireless carrier on the fly. As Quartz noted Friday:

A more compelling, user-friendly scenario might see your phone number and crucial services—messaging, voicemail, etc.—tied to your Apple SIM, and a vibrant marketplace where carriers compete for your business. This is already sort of what Apple is about to offer for the iPad.

Imagine booting up your iPhone for the first time and seeing four competing offers for your business from different operators—with short or no contract duration.

That sounds really nice, but it’s still far from reality. Some mobile carriers may be happy to experiment with the Apple SIM for tablets like the iPad, but their contractual chokeholds on cellphone owners are far too lucrative for them to loosen up easily — and, notably, America’s biggest mobile carrier, Verizon Wireless, is absent from the Apple SIM iPad plan (though, for historical and technical reasons, Verizon was slow to embrace SIM cards at all). Apple did not immediately respond to a question regarding whether it will put the Apple SIM in iPhones.

The future of how you pick and choose from mobile carriers will ultimately depend on how far Apple is willing to go to break up the status quo. If the tech giant truly does want to rid the world of the two-year contract, it’ll need the carriers’ cooperation, even if reluctantly given, to do so. Apple has power here: It could conceivably threaten to pull the iPhone from any carriers that don’t play ball with Apple-SIMs-in-iPhones, using its devices’ popularity with consumers as a means of squashing dissent. But Apple’s theoretical plan here can also be beaten: If the carriers band together in refusing the idea, it would go nowhere fast.

TIME technology

FBI Director Implies Action Against Apple and Google Over Encryption

FBI Director James Comey testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation" on Capitol Hill in Washington
FBI Director James Comey testifies at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation" on Capitol Hill in Washington May 21, 2014. Kevin Lamarque—Reuters

The law enforcement chief made it clear, however, that he was speaking only for his own agency and not others

FBI Director James B. Comey has expressed exasperation at the advanced data encryption technologies that companies like Apple and Google say they will offer their customers, and implied that the government might attempt regulations to ensure a way around them.

“Perhaps it’s time to suggest that the post-Snowden pendulum has swung too far in one direction — in a direction of fear and mistrust,” Comey told the Brookings Institution in a speech Thursday. Comey also spoke of the need for a “regulatory or legislative fix” to hold all communications companies to the same standard, “so that those of us in law enforcement, national security and public safety can continue to do the job you have entrusted us to do, in the way you would want us to.”

But in response to questions from reporters and Brookings experts, the FBI director made it clear that he was only talking on behalf of his own organization and thus could not speak for the NSA or other intelligence agencies, reports the New York Times.

This is not the first time that Comey has spoken out against Apple and Google’s move to give users complete control over data encryption, but the implications of legislative action against these companies is a step forward in government efforts to thwart it.

While Apple and Google have not commented on Comey’s latest remarks, technology companies have previously said that the move toward personal data encryption will not slow down, and will in fact probably be stepped up.

“I’d be fundamentally surprised if anybody takes the foot of the pedal of building encryption into their products,” Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch told the Times. He added that encryption was a “key business objective” for technology companies.

TIME Education

How the iPad Helped Bring Down the Los Angeles Schools Chief

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy speaks at a news conference in Los Angeles on April 11, 2014.
John Deasy resigned as superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District on Oct. 16, 2014. Lucy Nicholson—Reuters

John Deasy resigned after a bungled effort to give an Apple tablet to every student in the district

For all that an iPad might be able to offer a growing mind, the device is missing a component many students would consider essential for coursework: a keyboard. A failure to recognize the importance of that omission is just one of many things that went wrong when the head of the Los Angeles public schools embarked on a plan in 2013 to get iPads in the hands of all 650,000 students in the system.

Two months after abandoning the heavily-publicized effort, John Deasy, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, stepped down Thursday. The school board reportedly sent him packing with $60,000 in severance pay and appointed an 82-year-old former superintendent to run the second largest school district in the country in his place.

Deasy’s tenure had been troubled for some time. Test scores and graduation rates went up under his leadership, but his aggressive push for more teacher accountability rankled the teacher’s union. And recent municipal elections left him with fewer allies on the school board. Beyond the political backdrop, however, Deasy’s downfall can be traced, in part, to his devotion to the cult of Cupertino.

When Deasy promised to give every public school student under his care an iPad, it earned him hopeful, glowing praise. The iPad proposal seemed like a forward-thinking, even glamorous, way to transcend the socioeconomic barriers to academic achievement.

As critics have since pointed out, however, iPads are more expensive than many tablets from other manufacturers that are used by school districts. They also lack keyboards and other components many students find useful—like drives and USB ports—that are available on laptops. When some iPads were distributed to students during an early phase of the LAUSD program, some hacked the devices — which the district had said were meant solely for academic work — to enable more general use. And when the program began, some schools did not yet have proper wifi infrastructure that would allow all their students to be online at the same.

As more school districts adopt digital technology, Apple is pushing hard to become the go-to vendor for the products they need to make it happen. Deasy lent a hand to this effort, appearing in a 2012 Apple promotional video touting the iPad’s potential as an educational tool. In July, the company announced it had sold 13 million iPads for educational use worldwide.

But to critics, Deasy’s enthusiasm for Apple crossed a line when it was revealed earlier this year that he had been in close contact with Apple and Pearson, which makes software that was to be installed on hundreds of thousands of LAUSD iPads, long before the companies secured LAUSD contracts as part of an effort that was to cost the district more than $1 billion. The relationships between Deasy, one of his a deputies and executives at the companies were revealed in e-mails released to local media outlets. In one 2012 email before Apple was awarded an initial $30 million contract to provide iPads to LAUSD students, Deasy wrote to the CEO of Pearson, “I had an excellent meeting with Tim at Apple last Friday,” referring to Apple CEO Tim Cook. “The meeting went very well and he was fully committed to being a partner.”

Deasy recused himself from the formal bidding process because he owned Apple stock and has said communication with potential vendors is common and not wrong. The L.A. district attorney’s public integrity division investigated and found no criminal charges were warranted. Still, critics said the whole episode left the impression that LAUSD was biased in favor of awarding a contract to Apple, leaving bids from competing technology companies at a disadvantage.

This summer, under intense pressure over the Apple and Pearson deals, Deasy suspended LAUSD’s contract with Apple and said the district would restart its bidding process. In a memo to the school board, Deasy said the decision to halt LAUSD’s contract with Apple would “enable us to take advantage of an ever-changing marketplace and technology advances.”

It proved to be too little, too late, for a hard-charging education reformer with a soft spot for shiny tech.

Read next: Apple Unveils Its Thinnest iPad Ever

TIME Social Media

Twitter Introduces New Way to Listen to Audio

Now you can listen and scroll at the same time

Twitter has created a new way for users to play audio inside tweets, announcing Thursday that they have teamed up with Soundcloud to bring a full catalogue of music and other recordings to Twitter.

Embedding audio inside tweets is nothing new, but this freshly developed audio card allows a user to additionally “dock” a music card inside the app while continuing to scroll through the timeline while listening simultaneously.

David Guetta and Chance the Rapper have already taken advantage of the new cards:

This isn’t Twitter’s first attempt at re-imagining how tweets make use of sound — the company killed its #Music app in March, after it failed to draw listeners away from more dominant music streaming services like Spotify.

TIME Gadgets

Hands-On With Apple’s New iPad Air 2, iPad Mini 3 and Retina iMac

Apple's iPad just got a whole lot thinner

There were three big dates on Apple’s calendar this year. The first was June’s WWDC, where it presented iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, the second was a surprise event last month that presented us with the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and the Apple Watch. Thursday marked the third, and Apple got out the big guns in the run up to the holiday shopping tablet rush – the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3.

We went hands-on with the two new tablets to find out what’s new.

The first thing you notice when picking up the iPad Air 2 is that it’s a lot slimmer and lighter than previous models. The iPad Air was last year’s best-designed tablet, but Apple has improved on it by carving 1.4mm from the already slender slate. It feels like a tablet you can hold for hours without getting tired, and it’s perfectly balanced whether you’re in portrait or landscape mode.

Battery life is always a worry with slim tablets because they have less room for, well, batteries — but Apple promises that the Air 2 will have the same 10-hour stamina of its predecessor, a claim we couldn’t verify during our limited hands-on time Thursday.

It’s not just the body that’s had a tweak. The screen has also had a major upgrade, but not the one many observers thought was coming. The resolution remains the same, and that’s no bad thing – the iPad Air is plenty sharp. What Apple has done is fuse the different components of the screen together, eliminating all air gaps. So what, you might ask? Well, aside from helping reduce the thickness of the overall body, that process also means the screen is less reflective. Coupled with an anti-reflective coating, Apple claims that the iPad Air 2 is the least reflective tablet in the world. That’s good news if you like using your tablet outdoors, and it also makes images look like they’re almost painted onto the glass.

All these, however, are iterative improvements — there’s nothing radically innovative on the new iPad. One new feature for the iPads is Touch ID, a feature Apple introduced on the iPhone 5S that lets you access your phone with your thumbprint rather than a four-digit passcode. On an iPhone, Touch ID is fantastic, and within a few days of use you wonder how you ever lived without it. We’re not convinced it’s quite as compelling on a tablet, though. You don’t unlock tablets with as much regularity and they’re not at constant risk of loss or theft like your phone, which is always out and about with you.

But Apple hasn’t included Touch ID on the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 for the sake of unlocking them with ease — this is a big retail play. Touch ID is integral to Apple Pay, which is in part a slick and easy way to buy products online with the touch of a finger. Judging from how many more apps we buy since Touch ID purchasing was introduced to the App Store, we think this could eliminate multiple drop-off points in the buying process. No wonder retailers are clamoring to get on board – these tablets are the highest-tech shopping carts around.


The iPad Air 2 also got a new processor. This isn’t like the slightly tweaked iPhone 5S chip we saw on the iPad Air. Instead, Apple has designed it specifically for the iPad Air 2, and Apple claims some staggering performance improvements – up to 40% better CPU speeds and 2.5 times the graphical grunt. That’s big news if you edit photos or videos on your tablet or if you’re a mobile gamer.

To take advantage of the extra power, Apple has also upgraded the iPad Air 2’s iSight camera. It’s now an 8-megapixel affair, but the real benefits come from additional software features. You get all the tricks that iPhone users have enjoyed for a while. There’s time-lapse, burst shooting and the impressive slo-mo video capture.

The iPad mini 3 is less interesting than its bigger cousin — It’s essentially last year’s tablet with the inclusion of Touch ID.

Both of Apple’s new iPads look and feel great on first play. They will likely remain the tablets to beat in terms of quality and usability, but Apple had another surprising announcement. The iMac, Apple’s all-in-one desktop, got a refresh. It looks the same in terms of design, but the highest-end model now packs an incredibly sharp 27-inch 5K Retina display. The sharpness is immense — it will make graphic designers froth at the mouth with anticipation.

The new iPads are available to preorder now in 16/64/128GB models for $499/$599/$699 respectively for Wi-Fi only. Add $130 on top if you have a hankering for 4G connectivity. The Retina iMac will run you $2,499.

For Trusted Reviews’ full hands-on with the iPad Air 2 and Apple’s other new products, visit Trusted Reviews.

TIME Gadgets

See Apple’s Latest iPad Enhancements

The iPad Air 2 is the thinnest tablet around

Apple hosted another gadget unveiling Thursday, to much fanfare. The company’s new iPad is thinner and faster, and for the first time Apple is opening up its operating system to third party developers.

The iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini will now be available in gold. iPad products will have improved screens, camera functions, and more storage space, and are thinner than ever before (the iPad Air 2 will be 18% thinner than the old iPad, making it the thinnest tablet around).

OS X Yosemite is also available to start downloading for free today. Here are all the highlights from Apple’s latest reveal.

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