Apple unveiled its anticipated next-generation iPhone, iPhone 6, which was – as expected – accompanied by a bigger brother. But that was not all: it also took the wraps off Apple Watch, and a new payment service it hopes will replace the wallet, benefitting from NFC support added with the new iPhones.
iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
The devices feature a new design over their predecessors, with a “continuous, seamless” format that sees the glass curving around the sides to meet the anodised aluminium enclosure. They are also slimmer than the predecessor, with the iPhone 6 measuring 6.9mm, compared with 7.6mm for the iPhone 5s.
The iPhone 6 has the mooted 4.7-inch screen, at a resolution of 1334 x 750 pixels and 336 pixels per inch. This gives it what the vendor describes a “more than 720p Retina HD display”.
iPhone 6 Plus has a standard full HD screen – 1920×1080 pixels – at 401 pixels per inch. This device also benefits from a new landscape interface designed to exploit the increased screen real-estate.
Under the hood, the devices are powered by a new processor – A8. This is said to offer 25 per cent faster processing power and up to 50 per cent faster graphics than A7, and is 50 times faster than that used in the original iPhone.
The increased speed is also accompanied by a 50 per cent improvement in energy efficiency.
The new iPhones have also seen a bump in their LTE capabilities, supporting speeds of up to 150Mb/s and 20 different LTE bands – compared with 100Mb/s and 13 bands in the iPhone 5s.
It also adds support for Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) technology, with Apple marketing head Phil Schiller stating that the company is “working with a lot of carriers around the world” to exploit this feature.
The camera has also been improved, although as usual Apple has steered away from a megapixel bump. The new devices have 8MP iSight cameras with an f2.2 aperture and an “all new sensor”.
Also added is support for “focus pixels,” previously only found in DSLR cameras, to determine focus direction and how far to move the lens. Software enhancements also deliver faster autofocus, next-generation local tone mapping, and advanced noise reduction.
As well as improved still image capabilities, the iPhone line also gains a new Apple-designed video encoder, which gives the ability to capture slow-motion video at 120fps or 240fps.
Pricing for the iPhone 6 – with two-year contract – starts at $199 for the 16GB version, increasing to $299 for the 64GB, and $399 for 128GB. The iPhone 6 Plus is $100 more at each price point.
Colours are gold, silver and space grey.
Sales begin on 19 September, with pre-orders starting on 12 September.
The standout feature is its user interface, with the executive noting that with every new product category it enters, “a breakthrough in user interface was needed”.
In this case it is the side adjuster already present on watches – called the crown. In Apple’s case, the “digital crown” turns rotary movement into digital data, for example to zoom into a map or scroll through messages, without the hand obscuring the screen.
And pressing the crown also launches the homescreen, and provides access to Siri voice recognition.
The device also features a sapphire glass retina screen, which is tougher than a standard display, and the touch input can detect the difference between a tap and a press. It also features a haptic feedback engine.
Apple Watch is said to be precise, synchronising with the universal time standard, as well as supporting customisation and being a “comprehensive health and fitness device”. Infrared and visible-light LEDs, along with photosensors, detect pulse rates.
It also supports inductive charging.
Unlike in some of its other product lines, which are introduced with a limited number of variants, a range of Apple Watch versions are available at launch – reflecting the personal nature of a watch.
It will be available with stainless steel, annodised aluminium, or 18-karat gold detailing, and in two different sizes. Different straps will also be available, from a fitness-band style plastic, to leather or stainless steel.
Unlike some alternative smartwatches, the device “requires” an iPhone as its features have been designed to work alongside the smartphone. It supports devices from the iPhone 5 onward.
And, being Apple, the product is also not cheap, with prices starting from “only $349”. It will be available early next year.
The service includes a number of the features present in the new iPhones, including a “groundbreaking NFC antenna” and a secure element intended to house customer data.
Transactions are authorised using a one-time number, and cashiers do not see a user’s name, card number or security code.
When a card is added to Apple Pay, rather than storing the number on the device or Apple’s servers, instead a unique device account number is assigned, encrypted and stored in the secure element.
This is then used to generate the one-time number and a dynamic security code, to validate each transaction.
Security and privacy formed a major part of the proposition, replacing “totally exposed numbers” and the magnetic strip on plastic cards, as well as security codes “that all of us know aren’t so secure”.
Following a recent security breach of the company’s iCloud service, Apple highlighted that details are never stored on its own servers.
The service will also work with online transactions, without the need to input information or delivery adresses. Apple will make available an API in future to make it possible to integrate it with third-party apps.
And in order to make it easier for customers to join the service, they will be able to add card details from an existing iTunes account, with the company noting that “hundreds of millions” of people already have such information on file. Alternatively, card details can be captured using the camera.
Apple Pay works with American Express, MasterCard and Visa, and availability will initially be in the US. More than 220,000 merchant locations accept contactless payments.
Apple said that work is underway to support the service in additional markets.