Apple as always held their very own press event in California at their Cupertino headquarters, rather than at the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (IFA). As the dust settles and details emerged we finally got a look at the new iPhone 6 lineup, the iPhone 6 Plus, the iPhone 6 and the first official look at the Apple Watch an area when it had been expected but long awaited that Apple would venture.
IPHONE 6 PLUS
The latest Premium iPhone is the first iPhone to top 5", presumably in an attempt to counter Android's domination of the larger 'phablet' market which has exploded in recent years and to prevent the loss of customers to Android vendors who want the larger screens. This puts the iPhone 6 Plus in direct competition with Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 unveiled last week and LG's G3. The iPhone 6 Plus sits at 5.5" with a 1080p IPS display which brings the device in at a healthy 400ppi. Keeping in line with the Premium objective we're presented with an aluminium and steel frame which houses strengthened glass which is slightly rounded at the edges, which Apple say is to aid natural swiping movement. Also there will be a hard and soft touch functional capability. Split screen mode is also available in selected applications to take advantage of this larger screen real estate. The iPhone 6 Plus has a new 64bit A8 chipset and supports 20 LTE bands, however it does lack support for the newest fastest LTE band Cat6. Another first for an Apple phone is support for NFC, this is a very welcome addition, expect to see Apple Pay (Apples NFC payment system) vigorously marketed in the near future.
For the photo lovers we get an 8MP iSight rear camera with dual LED flash and optical image stabilisation, the OIS is another first for an Apple phone. This is paired with a rather meagre 1.2MB front camera, however on the plus side the front camera does have burst mode and HDR features and Apples camera technology is known for being able to punch above its weight. For video recording we are still limited to 1080p, for most users this is not a concern but with other brands flagship devices now pushing 4k video recording it would have been nice to see an improvement here. As is the norm with Apple devices we don't get an SDcard slot, but the device is available with three memory options, 16GB, 64GB and 128GB. This should be enough to satisfy any users requirements but of course you're going to be paying a hefty premium for the larger models. There is no word on the battery power but Apple claim it is good for up to 24 hours of talk time. Battery life has never been the iPhones strong point but hopefully with the more efficient A8 chipset we will see a marked improvement over the iPhone 5 series.
The iPhone 6 Plus runs on Apples latest iOS 8 which has been tweaked for a better UI experience on the larger screen, coincidentally iOS 8 should be available to all compatible devices later this month. The Apple iPhone 6 Plus is priced at $299 for the 16GB version and the 64GB and 128GB will cost $399 and $499 respectively. Bear in mind that these are two year contract prices, expect off contract prices to be significantly higher. (Update: SIM free prices are said to begin at €800 for the basic 16GB model in Europe.) The previous generations iPhones have also received a discount, the iPhone 5c is now free and the iPhone 5s is now $99.99, again these are contract prices and but we would assume SIM free options will receive a price cut shortly. The iPhone 6 Plus will be available in three colours, Gold, Silver and Space Grey. In the US pre-orders for the iPhone 6 Plus start this Friday and shipments are expected by the end of September.
The smaller iPhone 6 model sits at 4.7", which is still quite an increase in display size compared to the iPhone 5s which arrived last year with 4.0". This increase is no surprise as consumers have been almost begging Apple for larger options, a few years ago 4.0" was considered big but now it is barely even considered a mini device; for example Samsung's Galaxy S5 mini and HTC's One mini 2 both have 4.5" screens. The iPhone 6 has an LCD 'Retina' display which brings in a 750 x 1334 resolution. Apple are using a software scaler to ensure existing apps work on both new iPhone 6 devices while developers work on updating Apps for the newer resolutions.
Once again we get an 8MP iSight rear camera, in fact it's the same camera we've seen in Apple's iPhones for the last four years. However Apple claim improvements have been made, one such improvement being that the camera now has an larger f/2.2 aperture which should improve low light photography. Unlike the iPhone 6 Plus we don't get optical image stabilisation on the standard iPhone 6 but digital stabilisation is available instead. Video recording is again limited to 1080p but now you are now able to take advantage of the full 60fps at 1080p whereas the iPhone 5s could only achieve the maximum 60fps at 720p. Like the iPhone 6 Plus we have the rounded glass and aluminium chassis to complete the new design, we also get the same improved A8 chipset to power the device and NFC support to boot.
The competition for the iPhone 6 is chiefly going to be Samsung's Galaxy S5 and Sony's Xperia Z3, however both of these do have 5"+ displays, a more natural competitor may in fact be Sony's Xperia Z3 Compact, despite the latter being billed as a scaled down flagship. The battery for the iPhone 6 is said to be equal to or better than the iPhone 5s, with Apple claiming up to 14 hours of talk time. In price terms the iPhone 6 is $100 cheaper than the iPhone 6 Plus, this equates to $199 for the basic 16GB model, $299 for the 64GB and $399 for the 128GB version. Note that these prices are for a two year contract. (Update: SIM free prices are said to begin at €699 for the basic 16GB model in Europe). Pre-orders are scheduled to start on September 12 and the phones will ship one week later on the 19th.
"One more thing" was Apple's tagline at this event, and the one more thing was the Apple Watch. It feels like Apples smartwatch has been talked about for longer than the moon landings but it's finally official. Apple have decided to go with a rectangular form factor rather than opt for a modern rounded look ala Samsung's Galaxy Gear S or LG's G watch R. Apple's Watch will be available in two sizes, 38mm and 42mm, coming with six interchangeable strap choices and three build material options, namely aluminium, steel and gold. The steel option will be known as the Watch Sport while the 18 Carat gold option will be known as the Watch Edition. All versions will come with a curved ceramic backplate to fit snugly against your wrist and a sapphire screen.
The screen of the Apple Watch will activate as you lift your wrist to conserve battery and there is a feature called 'Glances' which enables you to touch swipe through various information, you will also be able to add your own custom swipe and touch gestures for your favourite items. The digital crown residing on the side of the watch will offer more interaction such as the ability to zoom in or out. The Apple Watch comes with a microphone and is fully compatible with Apple's voice assistant Siri. Like Samsung's Gear S the Apple Watch also includes a heart rate monitor but unlike the Gear S it does not come with an internal GPS module so you'll still need to bring your iPhone with you on a run to pair it with.
A nice touch is that the watch will support Apples upcoming NFC payment system Apple pay, this means you'll be able to purchase goods with just a flick of your wrist. So far Apple are keeping quiet about the battery life, perhaps they are still working on improving that aspect as it's always been a contentious issue for smartwatches, however we do know that a wireless Magsafe adapter is included to keep the battery charged up. The Apple Watch will start at $350 and should be available in the first quarter of 2015. The watch will be compatible with both the iPhone 5 and 6 range so if you're an iPhone 4/4s owner with a penchant for smart accessories then it might be time to think about an upgrade. In the meantime developers will soon be able to play with the upcoming Watchkit to create custom watch Apps.
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