Apple Debuts a Host of Product Upgrades -- With No Fanfare Whatsoever

Danny Vena, The Motley Fool

Investors have become conditioned to cryptic announcements, leaked details, and great fanfare when Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) releases new or refreshed products. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was famed for saving the biggest, most groundbreaking announcement for last, with his signature lead-in "one more thing."

That tradition fell by the wayside this week when on three successive days, Apple released new or updated versions of its products with nothing more than a press release. The company debuted new versions of its iPad Air and iPad Mini, boosted the performance of its iMac line, and launched the second generation of its popular AirPods headphones.

Let's look at the updated products and see why Apple may be downplaying their debut.

An iPad Air next to a black Smart Keyboard and white Apple Pencil.

The new iPad Air with support for Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. Image source: Apple.

Fresh (iPad) Air

After a brief hiatus, Apple reintroduced the iPad Air, which will sport a 70% jump in performance, double the graphics capability, and a 20% larger advanced Retina display. The ultra-thin version features a 10.5-inch screen, the A12 Bionic chip with Apple's Neural Engine, and support for both the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard. 

The company also provided a major upgrade to its iPad Mini, which will now provide "three times the performance and nine times faster graphics." The device will feature the A12 Bionic chip and the advanced Retina display, and will boast the highest pixel density of any iPad. It will also support the Apple Pencil.

The devices are getting price refreshes, with the iPad Mini starting at $399 for the Wi-Fi model and $529 for the Wi-Fi and Cellular model. The 10.5-inch iPad Air can be had for $499 for the W-Fi-only model and $629 for the version supporting both Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity.

Big (i)Mac

Apple's iMac line of computers is also getting a refresh. The devices are getting boosted performance courtesy of upgraded processors. The 21.5-inch iMac will be endowed with Intel's 8th-generation quad-core and 6-core processors, which will deliver up to 60% faster performance. The 27-inch iMac will feature 9th-generation 6-core and 8-core processors, which will deliver 2.4 times quicker performance.

The iMac's will also come with AMD's Radeon Pro Vega graphics cards for the first time. As a result, the graphics of the 21.5-inch iMac will improve by up to 80%, while the 27-inch iMac will see a 50% boost. This will improve performance with graphics-intense workloads such as 3D content, video editing, and designing high-resolution games.

The 21.5-inch iMac and 27-inch iMac will be available starting at $1,299 and $1,799, respectively.

A young woman sitting down wearing AirPods and looking at an iPhone.

Apple's AirPods -- the world's most popular wireless headphones, according to the company. Image source: Apple.

I need to get some Air (Pods)

This week Apple also announced the second generation of its popular AirPods. The company touted a new Apple-designed H1 chip, which was developed specifically for headphones and "delivers performance efficiencies, faster connect times, more talk time, and the convenience of hands-free 'Hey Siri' [a feature that allows a user to activate a device using just a voice command]," Apple said in a press release. 

The AirPods will come with a standard charging case for $159, or a new wireless charging case for $199. Customers can also order the wireless charging case separately for $79.

Why is Apple downplaying its product releases?

Missing from this latest round of product releases is the fanfare that has accompanied previous announcements. Past releases have typically involved a theatrical event featuring a multimedia product reveal, with plenty of hoopla and press in attendance. So why is Apple forgoing all the usual pomp and circumstance?

The company may actually be keeping a low profile in the days leading up to a bigger announcement next week. On March 25, Apple will host a presentation at the Steve Jobs Theater at its Apple Park campus. The event, which has been publicized with the tag line "It's show time," is expected to announce the debut of Apple's long-awaited video streaming service. It has been speculated that Apple will offer original content as well as subscriptions to other streaming services as part of its upcoming service.

Other possibilities include a subscription news service that could offer unlimited content from a number of participating news publishers for a monthly subscription. The company could also offer a combination of services including news, music, and video for a single price. 

This high-profile event is getting all the trappings you'd expect from an Apple event -- a cryptic invitation and plenty of press -- leading many to believe that the company will be making an important announcement. Apple has recently been focusing on its services revenue in the wake of plateauing iPhone sales. If this announcement is as big as many believe, Apple likely doesn't want to detract from a major event with its recent product upgrades.

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Danny Vena owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool has the following options: short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple and long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.