Technology

Apple unveils new iPad Air ahead of holiday shopping season

CUPERTINO, Calif. -- Apple Inc. unveiled a new iPad Thursday in the second wave of Tim Cook's biggest product push as chief executive officer and just ahead of the holiday shopping season.

The company introduced the slimmer iPad Air 2 that measures 6.1 millimeters in width. The gadget has features including fingerprint security known as touch ID, dual microphones for better audio, as well as the ability to do slow-motion videos. Apple said the iPad Air 2 is the world's thinnest tablet.

"Can you even see it?" Cook said, adding that the company has cumulatively sold 225 million iPads since the tablet's 2010 debut.

Apple debuted the new product at its Cupertino, California-based headquarters after last month introducing the larger-screened iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, along with a smartwatch and a mobile-payments system. Cook is taking a two-pronged approach to boosting growth by beefing up Apple's best sellers, the iPhone and iPad, while investing in new areas that further immerse users in the company's digital ecosystem.

Cook needs to ignite new interest in iPads after sales of the device declined for two consecutive quarters. The iPad's global market share slipped 6.1 percentage points during the second quarter as Samsung Electronics Co. and other smaller players nibbled at Apple's lead, according to IDC.

"When you create a market like Apple did, all you can do is lose share over time," Jean Philippe Bouchard, an analyst at IDC, said. "The low end of the market is just exploding."

An updated iPad on store shelves is also crucial in advance of the holiday shopping season, which is typically Apple's most lucrative quarter. Consumer spending on electronics is projected to increase 2.5 percent to $33.8 billion, the highest level since the Consumer Electronics Asso

ciation began tracking it in 1994. The top items on tech wish lists, according to the association's annual Holiday Purchase Pattern Study, are tablets. The last iPad was revealed last October.

In the fiscal third quarter, iPad sales declined 9 percent to 13.3 million units from a year earlier, with revenue falling 8 percent to $5.89 billion. Fourth-quarter results, which cover July through September, will be released on Oct. 20.

Apple's new iPhones, meanwhile, sold more than 10 million units during their debut weekend. The phones are reaching an additional 36 countries this month, including China, India and South Korea, and are on track to be in more than 115 countries by year's end, Apple said in a statement.

Cook said at the event Thursday that the past few weeks have been the company's "biggest iPhone launch ever." He added that pre-orders of the smartphone in China have set a record, without disclosing numbers.

Apple experienced snafus following the debut of the new iPhones, including complaints about how some of the handsets were bending and a new version of its iOS 8 mobile operating software that caused people to lose cellular service. At the event Thursday, Apple Senior Vice President Craig Federighi said almost half of the company's customers are now using the latest version of the software.

Cook added that Apple will roll out Apple Pay, the new mobile-payments system, on Oct. 20. He said an additional 500 banks have signed up to support the service.

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