Finally, the rumours are confirmed: two new larger iPhones and a smart timepiece known simply as the Apple Watch are on the way. The Cuptertino-based company made the announcement at a special event held on Tuesday in what is arguably one of the more exciting Apple events of recent years.
Also announced was a brand new method of wireless payment and the release date for Apple’s upcoming iOS 8 software update. We’ll have full reviews and giveaways of all the new goodies as soon as we get our hands on them, but for now here’s what we know.
Two New iPhones
September’s event is traditionally used to unveil a new iPhone, and this year’s announcement marks the biggest shake-up for the iPhone’s design since the original was introduced in 2007. Two new iPhones were announced sporting two differently sized screens: the 4.7 inch iPhone 6 and 5.5 inch iPhone 6 Plus.
The new “ion-strengthened” screens pack brand new resolutions of 1334 x 750 and 1920 x 1080 pixels respectively, marking the first true high definition iPhone with the arrival of the Retina HD screen. The panels, which promise even wider viewing angles than past models, seamlessly “melt” into the new rounded, thin-profile iPhone chassis — each only 6.9 and 7.1 mm thick respectively.
That larger iPhone comes with a few unique features, like the ability to put the home screen into landscape mode for the first time, extra keys on the keyboard (a dedicated Cut, Copy and Paste) and a new feature called Reachability. Double tap the home button on an iPhone 6 Plus and the screen gets squished down to the lower half of the phone, allowing you to easily reach elements at the top of the screen without overstretching your thumb.
The new chassis marks the other big difference: the most radical redesign the iPhone has seen since its inception. Rounded anodized aluminium, a slightly-protruding camera module, much larger volume buttons and a new sleep/wake button on the side of the device have been designed to ensure everything is within reach when you need it, despite the increased size.
Under the hood, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have received new internals in the form of an A8 chip and M8 motion co-processor, providing desktop-class 64-bit processing power. The chip promises to be 25 percent faster and 50 percent more efficient than the A7, with a quoted 14 hours talk time on 3G for the iPhone 6 and a whopping 24 hours on 3G for the iPhone 6 Plus — more than double what Apple quoted for the iPhone 5S (10 hours).
Last of all, a handful of other useful features, like a barometer for measuring air pressure (expect more from fitness apps), camera enhancements including improved focus and optical image stabilisation for the iPhone 6 Plus camera, and faster LTE and WiFi performance also make an appearance alongside iOS 8.
Want To Buy A New iPhone?
Apple will charge $199 for the iPhone 6 and $299 for the iPhone 6 Plus, both of which are available for pre-order on Friday September 12th and will ship on September 19th.
The Apple Watch
After months of speculation, it is revealed that the iWatch is actually just called the Apple Watch, and it’s Apple’s first major new product since the introduction of the iPad in 2010.
Apple will offer two sizes (38mm and 42mm) in three styles of wearable: Watch, which comes in a plain stainless steel or “space black” case with a sapphire crystal face and a range of casual bands; Watch Sport, which features lighter anodized aluminium casing, strengthened glass, and colourful bands designed with durability in mind; and Watch Edition, a business-focused 18-karat gold casing in yellow or rose with a range of premium bands.
Despite these personal differences, each Apple Watch has the same features. The design sports a digital crown, designed as a multifunctional input device for scrolling, zooming, and selecting (with a click) without covering the screen. Naturally, the screen itself supports multi-touch input, and it can tell the difference between a light and hard tap.
Apple Watch runs Watch OS, a new purpose-built operating system that’s been designed around simple gestures. The software supports customisable watch faces, the ability to connect to your iPhone and receive push notifications, and a communication button that reveals a list of favourite people for quickly striking up a conversation. A feature known loosely as “digital touch” allows Watch users to send each other scribbles, encouraging a method of communicating without words.
The Apple Watch is also a personal fitness monitoring device, keeping an eye on your activity over the day using the custom heart rate sensor coupled with the accelerometer, GPS, and WiFi in your iPhone to build and record a complete picture of your physical activity. Naturally, you can use this technology to set and track goals, and it’s exciting to see what other developers will do with the technology.
To make charging a bit easier, Apple has employed its MagSafe technology (from the MacBook charger) that uses quick-release magnets to charge the iWatch. Slightly worrying is the lack of an official figure regarding battery life, which was not mentioned in the official announcement and hasn’t yet made an appearance on Apple’s website.
Finally, it’s worth noting that you do need an iPhone 5 or newer to use the Apple Watch. As it requires syncing with an iPhone to function, it will not operate as a standalone device.
Want To Buy An Apple Watch?
If you want the Apple Watch, then you’re going to have to wait till “early 2015” and pay $349 at least. Apple didn’t announce how much the watch bands would cost, so expect to pay more if you want something fancy.
The last big announcement from the event involves a brand new payment system included with all new iPhones called Apple Pay. The technology uses a near-field communications (NFC) chip to communicate with point of sale payment terminals, requiring a simple confirmation of your fingerprint to pay for items without even having to unlock your iPhone.
While wireless “tap and go” payment systems like MasterCard’s PayPass and Visa’s PayWave are common in the UK, Australia, and elsewhere, the US’s payment systems are fairly outdated — and that’s where the new announcement is bound to have the most impact.
It’s not really known whether the technology will “just work” with existing payment terminals; after all, Apple has only announced support for Apple Pay in the US so far. However, as the rest of the world may be better positioned to adopt the technology, there’s a chance non-US residents won’t have to wait as long as usual for the feature to roll out internationally.
Those of you reaching for your tinfoil hats will be relieved to hear the usual security and privacy spiel from such an announcement involving sensitive financial data. Merchants cannot see card numbers, Apple cannot tell what you are buying, and if you lose your phone, you can simply suspend the service using Find My iPhone.
iOS 8 Release Date
Last but not least, we finally have an official release date for iOS 8 on September 17th, two days before the new iPhones are available. In case you hadn’t heard, Apple’s planning a big update to the software that powers your iPhone and iPad. Check out the full list of upcoming changes to iOS 8 here.
Unfortunately there was no mention of the upcoming OS X 10.10 “Yosemite” update for Mac.
Apple Is Doomed, iPhone 7 Has Wings
Now that we’ve got the iPhone 6 announcement out of the way, let’s waste no time speculating what the iPhone 7 will look like. I for one can’t wait for months of poorly rendered mockups, technology unfeasible hardware leaks, and the usual articles about how “doomed” Apple is because it is supposedly losing its touch.
But on a serious note: What did you think of Apple’s announcement? Will you be buying any of their new toys?