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Thinner, lighter iPad raises bar for upscale tablets

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New iPad Air (left) has identical proportions to the iPad Mini with Retina display (right). New iPad Air (left) has identical proportions to the iPad Mini with Retina display (right).
New gold color scheme heightens iPhone 5s' inherent elegance. New gold color scheme heightens iPhone 5s' inherent elegance.
Polycarbonate-clad iPhone 5c caters to youthful smart phone buyers. Polycarbonate-clad iPhone 5c caters to youthful smart phone buyers.
Apple's stylish cases can match or contrast an iPhone 5c's colorful back. Apple's stylish cases can match or contrast an iPhone 5c's colorful back.

What can you say about the new iPad Air that every technology pundit on the planet hasn't already said?  You doubtlessly know that the new Air is 20 percent thinner and 28 percent lighter than the fourth generation iPad -- with 43 percent narrower bezel borders.

Likewise, I'm sure you've heard that it only weighs a pound, yet has the same ultra-sharp, 9.7-inch Retina display and signature 10-hour battery life.

How did Apple accomplish this? By incorporating a super-powerful, energy-efficient Apple-designed A7 chip and 64-bit architecture. That's only the beginning, of course, but it's a helluva start. The new iPad's blazing performance is also helped by a M7 motion coprocessor that gathers data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass for even greater efficiency.

Also new is Multiple-In-Multiple-Out (MIMO) technology, bringing twice the Wi-Fi performance at a blazingly fast data rate up to 300 Mbps and expanded 4G LTE coverage to accommodate just about every carrier worldwide. The tablet's next generation FaceTime HD camera provides better low-light performance and scores of subtle enhancements.

Standard software includes the iLife suite of creative apps, including iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand, and the iWork suite of productivity apps, including Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. When you add over 475,000 apps available from the App Store, it's clear the iPad Air will pose a stiff challenge for the heap of Android- and Windows 8-powered tablets vying for holiday gift-giving dollars this year.

The iPad Air with Wi-Fi starts at $499 for the 16GB model. Add $100 for 32GB. Add another $100 for 64GB and another to 128GB, the max. Models with cellular plus Wi-Fi start at $629. Again, it's $100 per 32GB bump to get a 4G LTE iPad Air all the way to 128GB. Carriers include AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon.

New custom-designed polyurethane Smart Covers for iPad Air start at $39 and are available in a range of vibrant colors, including blue, green, pink, yellow, black and red. Smart Cases start at $79.

Yes, there's not much to add to what's already been said about the new iPad Air. Nevertheless, if you've been thinking about getting a tablet or your current iPad is older than last year's model, you owe it to yourself to go to a store and hold one in your hand. Odds are you'll tell the clerk to ring it up.

For more information, visit Apple.com/iPad.

Forward-thinking 5s and more affordable 5c widen iPhone's appeal

Apple refers to the new iPhone 5s as "the most forward-thinking iPhone yet," but what exactly does that mean? Well, for one, the device sports hardware that far exceeds what all but the most extreme currently-available apps need.

Techies call it "headroom." It's like the notion that human beings only use 10% of their brains. The new iPhone 5s has power to spare, which means it can handle just about any task without breaking a sweat.

To begin, the 5s employs something no other smart phone currently does: 64-bit architecture, for blazing fast performance. Apple's all-new A7 chip features twice the CPU and graphics performance of the iPhone 5, yet delivers great battery life.

Apple also teams the A7 with a new M7 motion coprocessor. The latter gathers data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass to offload work and increase power efficiency.

The new 5s still has the precision-crafted design introduced with the iPhone 5, including an anodized aluminum body with diamond cut chamfered edges, a stunning 4-inch Retina display and glass inlays. Brand new, however, is Touch ID, an innovative way to unlock your phone with just the touch of a finger.

Built into the home button, Touch ID uses a laser-cut sapphire crystal, together with the capacitive touch sensor, to take a high-resolution image of your fingerprint and somehow provide accurate readings from any angle.

The new phone also has a new 8-megapixel camera with a larger f/2.2 aperture and an improved sensor for better sensitivity and low-light performance. The camera provides up to two-times faster auto-focus, faster photo capture, better image and video stabilization, and improved dynamic range. Also new is True Tone flash, which variably adjusts color and intensity for over 1,000 combinations, Burst Mode, and Slo-Mo video with 120 fps.

On the software side, the 5s includes iOS 7, iPhoto, iMovie, Pages, Numbers and Keynote and is compatible with to more that 900,000 iPhone apps in the Apple Store.

The new iPhone 5s is available in gold, silver, or gray, complemented by Apple-designed premium leather cases in six rich colors (beige, black, blue, brown, yellow and red). All have soft, color-matched microfiber lining. Prices for the cases start at $39.

Prices for the phone itself start at $199 for the 16GB model, when accompanied by the signing of a new, two-year service agreement. 32GB and 64GB models are also available. The iPhone 5s is sold at Apple's retail stores, and through AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and select Apple Authorized Resellers. For more information, visit Apple.com/iphone-5s.

For those seeking more affordable iPhone ownership, Apple has also introduced the iPhone 5c. Available in five vibrant colors (blue, green, pink, yellow and white), the 5c has specs similar to the original iPhone 5, including a beautiful 4-inch Retina display, blazing fast A6 chip, 8-megapixel iSight camera, and all-day battery life.

The iPhone 5c runs iOS 7 and features an all-new hard-coated polycarbonate body with a steel reinforced frame for a solid, sturdy feel. The steel frame also doubles as the iPhone 5c's multiband antenna.

Prices for the iPhone 5c start at $99 for the 16GB model, when accompanied by the signing of a new, two-year service agreement. A 32GB version is also available for $199, subject to the same terms and conditions.

The phone is available from the Apple Online Store and retail stores, plus AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, or select Apple authorized resellers. iPhone 5c cases have a suggested retail price of $29. For more information, visit Apple.com/iphone-5c.

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