Big news came in larger and smaller than normal packages for Apple fans on Tuesday, as the company unveiled two versions of the iPhone 6, along with its long-awaited smartwatch.
Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the new gadgets at the same Cupertino venue at which Steve Jobs presented the first Macintosh in the early 1980s. Like his predecessor, Cook used the occasion to announce a new arrival: the Apple Watch.
“We’ve been working incredibly hard for a long time on an entirely new product,” he said of the company’s years-long effort to create the watch.
The success or failure of Apple Watch could go a long way in establishing the legacy of its current leader. The wearable is the company’s first new product line since Cook took the reins from Jobs in 2011.
The larger of the iPhone 6 models — called iPhone 6 Plus — also represents a first for Apple, with the company adding a phablet to the series in hopes of enticing fans of large-screened smartphones. The 5.5-inch phone should siphon some sales from Samsung’s recently-announced Note 4 and Note Edge phablets.
So what can you expect from Apple’s new gadgets? Let’s take a look! (We’ll highlight the iPhone 6 first, but if you can’t wait to read about Apple Watch, just scroll down. You won’t hurt our feelings.)
iPhone 6: Go Big or Go Home
The two newest members of Apple’s flagship stable are evidence of the company’s recognition of consumers’ growing preference for large smartphone screens. The smaller of the iPhone 6 models boasts a 4.7-inch screen — nearly an inch larger than the 5s.
To make life easier on iPhone devotees who prefer smaller screens, the devices include software that allows for (what Apple claims to be) comfortable one-handed use. Those weary of large phones’ tendencies to drain batteries faster than their smaller counterparts also shouldn’t worry, according to Cook, who claimed both iPhone 6 models will boast equal or superior battery life than found in previous versions.
The phones feature impressive displays (1334×750 for the iPhone 6; 1920×1080 for the 6 Plus) that Apple is calling Retina HD. Each display boasts more than a million pixels (more than 2 million for the 6 Plus). The devices, powered by A8 processors, are the fastest iPhones yet, and also include M8 motion sensing chips and barometers that will aid in health tracking programs.
While the screens are larger than any previous iPhone, the newest versions are the thinnest we’ve seen from the series. They also feature new design elements, including backs that curve into the fronts, much like those of iPads. Also, when it comes to the headphone jack, you can use pretty much any pair of earphones/headphones you have to listen to music instead of adding an extension. This means it will be compatible with speakers and aux cable ports. They will even work with headphone amps. It may benefit you to do research into something like Graham Slee HiFi if you want to find out more information. The iPhone 6 will be a great investment for any Apple fan.
The phones contain more than 20 LTE bands (the most of any smartphone in the world) and include Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology designed to improve call clarity (Calls? What are those?). Users of the new iPhones should also be able to switch seamlessly from WiFi to the network during calls without sacrificing quality. Overall, WiFi runs three times faster on the iPhone 6 models than on the 5s.
The cameras also got upgrades on the new phones, which boast 8-megapixel iSight hardware and focus pixels that allow for auto-focusing twice as fast as that of the 5s. The cameras also feature optical image stabilization, better facial detection, enhanced panoramic capabilities, and video recording capabilities of 240 frames-per-second.
The iPhone 6 price will be available on the following price tiers: 16 GB-$199, 64 GB-$299, 128 GB-$399. The 6 Plus will be offered in the same three storage classifications, each costing $100 more than their smaller-screened counterparts.
Both iPhone 6 models will be available on September 19, with the pre-order phase beginning on September 12, so you have a few days to decide if you’re ready to become a part of Apple’s big new world.
Apple Watch: It’s About Time (And a Lot More)
It took a while (relatively speaking) for Apple to officially join the smartwatch game, but on Tuesday, the company finally acknowledged the existence of Apple Watch (not “iWatch” as many speculated).
“We’ve been working on Apple Watch for a long time,” Cook said.
Whether the devices will be worth the wait remains to be seen, but the watches boast plenty of features that should grab the attention of tech lovers.
Like the iPhone 6, Apple Watch will be available in two sizes — 38 and 42 mm — but will be separated into three groups — the Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport, and Apple Watch Edition — the latter two designed for athletes and the style-conscious respectively.
The key to much of Apple Watch’s functionality is its dial — or Digital Crown — that translates movement into digital data, enabling scrolling and zooming. A push of the Digital Crown returns a user to the watch’s home screen.
Users will also be able to navigate using common gestures like swiping, while sensors inside Apple Watch differentiate between taps and presses. Other functionality features are device-specific, like the ability of a user to accept and read notifications simply by raising his or her wrist.
“What we didn’t want to do was take the iPhone and shrink the user interface and strap it to your wrist,” Cook said.
Apple Watch will be highly customizable, with users able to choose from a variety of provided screen types — or their own — as well as six easily-removable bands, including a sweat-resistant sports version. Owners can also choose which screens will be accessible via Glances, a feature that will enable them to swipe through different views, including the time, stock information, and maps.
Apple Watch’s communication features have also been designed around the device’s wearable nature. A quick press of a button under the Digital Crown brings up a users’ contacts, any one of whom can be sent a quick message, design, or a customized emoji. Users can also send their actual heart rate to their friends, with the help of the watch’s health sensors.
Speaking of health features, Apple Watch is filled with ways to measure activities, calories, and other information that can help users interested in tracking and improving their well-being. The watch comes with two health apps already installed: Fitness App and Workout App. Fitness App monitors all daily activities, including steps and heart rate, while Workout App sets exercise goals, and even sends congratulatory messages when those milestones are reached. The watch’s GPS sensor keeps track of how far each user has traveled during any given day.
All information gathered through Fitness and Workout Apps can be transferred to any of the HealthKit apps that will be available on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus via the new iOS 8 operating system.
Like other iOS devices, Apple Watch users will be able to download programs from the App Store, many of which will be provided by third party developers. Included in that collection is an app from Starwood Hotels that allows users to check in and even unlock their room doors directly from the program. BMW is also releasing an Apple Watch app that will locate a user’s car, and provide directions to the vehicle.
Apple Watch, which Cook described as “the most personal device we’ve ever created,” requires an iPhone for usage, but not necessarily an iPhone 6. The 5, 5c, and 5s models are also compatible with the new device, which will make it available to more than 200 million people.
Apple Watch will start at $349, and will be available to the public early next year, though a specific release date hasn’t been revealed.
Apple Pay: Cook Takes Aim at Wallets Everywhere
Not content to merely replace millions of phones and watches, Apple hopes to make the wallet obsolete with its new service, Apple Pay.
Each iPhone 6 and Apple Watch will feature the Apple Pay program, which uses Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to enable quick and easy mobile payments at participating retailers, both in-person and online.
NFC, which is already in limited use on other platforms, connects mobile devices with cash registers and other payment centers to allow for proximity-based purchases. If you’re worried about security — a common trait among many Apple users nowadays — your fears may be eased by the inclusion of Touch ID fingerprint technology that will verify your identity before a purchase is completed.
To use Apple Pay, device owners need only take a picture of their Visa, MasterCard, or American Express credit or debit cards (accounts entered into iTunes will already be included). After the information is verified and stored in the PassBook app, a user can pay for merchandise at participating retailers by simply tapping his or her phone or watch against a device at the register, or through the quick tap of a button online.
Credit card information will not be stored on the iPhone or Apple Watch, so anyone whose device is stolen will not only be free of the worry of funding a thief’s shopping spree, but also the hassle of canceling their credit cards.
Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Walgreens, Staples, Subway, Whole Foods and Disney have already agreed to accept Apple Pay in their stores (and theme parks, in Disney’s case), while McDonald’s plans to do so at their drive-thrus as well. Target, GroupOn, Uber, Panera, Major League Baseball, and OpenTable are among the businesses who have agreed to accept online payments via Apple Pay.
The new payment service is scheduled to launch in October across the U.S.