Apple Launch Event: Two Bigger iPhones, a Watch and More
Two new bigger iPhones, the long-rumored Apple Watch, iOS 8, and a new Apple Pay service introduced at the company's launch event Tuesday gave fans lots to fawn over. Most of the new products announced by CEO Tim Cook at the event, broadcast live from the Flint Center in Cupertino, California, will be available later this month. But on the Apple Watch, Cook remained coy, saying only that the device would be available in "early 2015."
The two new iPhone 6 models feature continuous, seamless designs with no distinct edges. The iPhone 6 screen comes in at 4.7 inches and the iPhone 6 Plus at 5.5 inches. The cover glass curves around the sides of the handsets, where they meet with the aluminum enclosures.
Both models are significantly slimmer than previous versions, coming in at thicknesses of 6.9mm and 7.1mm, compared with the 7.6mm for the iPhone 5s. Both also feature the new Retina HD display of 1920x1080 pixels and the full sRGB wide color gamut.
A8 Chip Is 25 Percent Faster
Users will be able to take full advantage of the larger screen of the 6 Plus with a new landscape view that extends to the Home screen, as well as a larger keyboard. Both models are powered by Apple's new A8 chip, which is 25 percent faster than the A7 and offers up to 50 percent faster graphic rendering, and is 50 percent more energy efficient.
Each phone also includes a barometer that senses air pressure to measure relative elevation and an M8 coprocessor to measure information from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass. The iPhone 6 will also support Voice over LTE -- wide-band high-quality calls that make conversations sound as crisp and clear as if you were face-to-face. It also comes with faster Wi-Fi based on the 802.11ac protocol, up to three times faster than Wi-Fi on the iPhone 5s.
The camera, meanwhile, is an 8-megapixel iSight with 1.5 micron pixels and a 2.2 aperture. In addition to having the ability to zoom in and out, the new camera can also move vertically and horizontally for improved image stabilization. The camera can also capture slow-motion video at 120 or 240 frames per second.
The iPhone 6 is available for pre-order beginning Friday, Sept. 12, and will hit Apple store shelves Sept. 19. The iPhone 6 starts at $199 for the 16 GB model with a wireless carrier contract, with 64 GB and 128 GB models priced at $299 and $399. The iPhone 6 Plus starts at $299 for 16 GB, with 64 GB models priced at $399 and 128 GB at $499.
NFC Payment System To Replace Credit Cards
The launch event was also used to introduce Apple Pay, an entirely new type of service for the company. The payment system will be built into every iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and uses NFC (near-field communication) radio antennas built into the top of the handsets. The company promoted the service as "easy, secure and private," allowing users to use cards they have already stored in their iTunes accounts. Alternatively, consumers can add new cards to Apple Pay by taking pictures of the cards with the cameras on their iPhones.
The company stressed that it does not store the card number, and that payment would be made using a one-time payment number and dynamic security code (rather than the static, three-digit security codes found on the backs of plastic cards). In the event that the phone is lost, users will be able to suspend payments from the handset using the Find my Phone app. Since credit card numbers are not stored in the devices, users will not have to cancel their physical credit cards. Macy's, Bloomingdales, Walgreens, Duane Reade, Subway, Staples and McDonald's are among the merchants that have already agreed to accept Apple Pay at all of their locations.
No Date on the Apple Watch
The curtain also rose on Apple's much-anticipated first wearable device, which will retail for $349 when it comes on the market next year.
The Apple Watch "is the most personal device Apple has ever created," Cook said. "It will define what people expect from a watch."
As had been widely rumored, Apple's smart watch includes several new apps, including Health, Exercise and Move apps that promise to measure everything from a user's heart rate, elevation change, and level of exertion.
When paired with either the iPhone 5, 5s, 5c, 6 or 6 Plus, a user will be able to receive phone calls, messages and other notifications either through the watch's display face, or through a haptic response system the company is referring to as "tactic."
The smart watch will come in three separate lines: Apple Watch, with a stainless steel finish; Apple Watch Sport, in anodized aluminum; and Apple Watch Edition, with 18 carat gold cases.
Square Case, New User Interface
Beyond the cosmetic details, the audience got its first peek at the watch's form factor. The square case features a new user interface designed for the smaller screen, rather than a smaller version of the iOS used on the iPhone, iPod and iPad. The traditional wheel used to wind mechanical watches, known as the crown, can be used to zoom in and out of apps, maps or photos, scroll through lists, or return to the Home screen, which itself represents a design departure from iOS, looking more like a cloud of applications than a grid.
The company also announced partnerships with third parties providing enhanced functionality through the wearable. American Airlines will allow travelers to receive updates through Apple Watch, while Starwood Hotels will allow them to unlock their hotel rooms using their devices. Twitter and Facebook are developing apps to allow users to see notifications from their services, and Honeywell is creating an app to allow users to control their heating and air conditioning systems. Cook said these applications represent only the tip of the iceberg of what the device could be used for.
"The list of features is a mile long, and I'm certain when developers get their hands on the developer kit, that list will get even longer and there will be things we can't even imagine in it," he said.