Apple announces iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3: Faster, thinner designs; Touch ID included

Apple let slip that it had two new iPads to unveil a little sooner than it would've liked, but still had a few tablet-related surprises up its sleeve.

Image: Apple live stream

Apple had a surprise (two, in fact) up its sleeve for Thursday's event, but let slip a little earlier than it would've liked.

At an event at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, California, the technology giant revealed — technically for the second time this week — the iPad Air 2, and the iPad mini 3.

Why for the second time? Because on Wednesday it accidentally published a new user guide which leaked details of the two new full-sized and shrunk-down tablets.

Starting with the full-sized but super thin iPad Air 2, it sports an improved 9.7-inch Retina display. It also lands with an anti-reflective coating, making it about 56 percent less reflective to outdoor conditions.

According to Apple's marketing chief Phil Schiller, it's 18 percent thinner than its predecessor at just 6.1 millimeters — and thinner than a pencil.

"It's the world's thinnest tablet," Schiller said.

It also lands with an improved 64-bit A8X processor for those intensive large-display apps. Graphics are now 180 times faster than the original tablet, Schiller said. The new A8X chip also includes an M8 processor, which supplies walking, running, and climb data.

The rear-facing camera has been improved, now able to take 8-megapixel photos and 1080p video, and the front-facing FaceTime camera has a 1.2-megapixel sensor for 720p high-definition video calling.

LTE networking has also been improved, allowing for up to 150Mbps. The battery life, however, remains at 10 hours.

Image: Apple live stream

But the flagship feature, just as it was with the iPhone 5s, is the addition of the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

It took Apple a little longer to port the long-awaited security feature over to its tablet range, but it's now included as standard on its tablet line-up for the coming holiday season.

It's available at $499 for the base 16GB Wi-Fi only version. The 4G LTE version enabled costs a little more at $599 on AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. 

The new tablet, which lands with iOS 8.1 , is available October 17 for pre-order in silver, space greyand for the first time in gold, as previously rumored.

For those who aren't willing to shell out for a full-priced iPad Air, the slimmed down 7.9-inch iPad mini 3 is a little cheaper at $399 for the base 16GB Wi-Fi version. The 4G LTE enabled costs a little more at $529 on selected U.S. carriers.

Like its larger sibling, the iPad mini 3 comes with Touch ID.