The good news that was buried in the iPad Air 2 (and iPad mini 3) announcement was that the cellular models would ship with a carrier-independent SIM card. This meant that users could decide which carrier to activate without being locked in. Unfortunately, the reality isn't quite as straightforward. As we wrote earlier, Verizon still requires their own SIM. But now we're learning that AT&T will "lock" the Apple SIM to AT&T's network the first time you activate it.
The recent blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy broke the mold for superhero movies. The characters, while part of Marvel's stable, were not traditional heroes like Thor, Iron Man, or Captain America, and the lead actor hadn't carried a film before. Even two of the lead actors, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, were just voices for a wisecracking raccoon and a tree with a limited vocabulary ("I am Groot!")
Recently, Apple expanded their beta programs for iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, making it easier for non-developers to gain access (legitimately) to pre-release software. Now they're making it easier for developers to do the same with their apps. I've used Testflight before as a way to share unreleased and beta versions of apps with colleagues and customers, but you were limited to 100 devices and the process could be a pain.
The good news is Apple Pay makes it easier and safer to pay than ever before. That's a also the bad news. Now that Apple makes it so easy to pay for things, you'll be tempted to pick up the tab more often! So how does it work? First, you'll need iOS 8.1 and new hardware, such as the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, or in early 2015, an Apple Watch. You can also pay using Apple Pay within apps on the iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 3, but not in stores as those devices do not have the necessary NFC (Near Field Communication) hardware.
I just heard from MacTech folks that they're making special pricing available to our readers! The below link will get iPhone Life readers an EXTRA $100 off the registration price when they register. In other words, the pre-registration pricing ($1299) will end this weekend. The below link locks in the rate at $1199 during that time. Then it goes up by $200. http://www.mactech.com/conference/sponsored-discount?rid=iPhoneLife
Apple promised iOS 8.1 would be out this week and it is. The update uses only 126 MB but adds features like Apple Pay for the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, as well as iCloud Photo Library and integrated SMS messaging for iPad and Mac computers. Those are the new features, but of course there are bug fixes and reliability enhancements.
Apple didn't release a smart home device this year, but instead unleashed HomeKit, an SDK to help third parties do what they do best... make home automation equipment that, now, can be based on Apple's standards. Several vendors have stepped up to the plate, which is good because it's hard to find one vendor that has everything a smart home owner would need.
The enhancements to the iPad Air and iPad mini were expected and appreciated, but they still come with Apple's premium price. Apple has managed to make the iPad family the top selling tablet, but it's still priced higher than typical Android devices. If you have embraced the Apple ecosystem of apps, music, contacts, ebooks and more, those Android units just don't fit the bill.
When speculating about the iPhone 6, I postulated that Apple could do something revolutionary and make a single LTE model that worked with multiple carriers. It didn't happen, but when I purchased my (second) iPhone 6 from Radio Shack, the clerk and I discussed how the technology is already there with LTE and SIM cards, and it would make inventory so much easier. Instead of stocking AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint models, stores could just stock the single SKU. It didn't happen with the iPhone 6, but today Apple did it with the iPad Air 2!
If you're like me, if Apple announced it, you gotta have it. In my case, it's for professional reasons. As an app developer, and writer for iPhone Life, I need to have access to the latest gear. But I also enjoy technology and don't like waiting! So, starting October 17, you can try to pre-order the items just announced today, but even that isn't a guarantee. I was online at 3 a.m. the day the iPhone 6 was supposed to be orderable, but it took a half hour to finally buy one.