Apple Unveils Two iPhone 6s and the Apple Watch
In news that should shock absolutely no one (except all the mainstream media who thought this was the most revolutionary announcement ever), Apple announced exactly what was rumoured. The new iPhone 6 was unveiled with two screen sizes that are both bigger than the current iPhone 5-series offerings and a new smart watch. That and a bunch of other new little gadgetry additions were noted for those devices that weren’t really reported on ahead of time.
Let’s start with the phones.
The iPhone 6 comes in two flavours. There’s the vanilla iPhone 6 which is the one with a 4.7″ screen and the 5.5″ iPhone 6 Plus. There are differences in the screen resolution, though. The 6 has a 1334 x 750 resolution display which is less than what you get from the HTC One while the Plus has a full 1080p display but the bigger screen size means that it falls short on pixel density when compared to the HTC One, Galaxy S5 and the bigger Galaxy Note 4.
Each comes in the 16 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB models that you expect from Apple and each has the black, white/silver and gold coloured shells that were introduced with last year’s iPhone 5S. From a price perspective, going with the 6 Plus will set you back $100 more than the regular 6 at each model in the range with the 6 ranging from $199 to $399 depending on storage size and the Plus from $299 to $499 (all prices with contracts).
Under the hood, the iPhone 6 phones are powered by Apple’s new A8 mobile processor which promises increased computing power and an even greater increase in graphics horsepower which probably isn’t a bad idea with the higher resolution phones. They’ve also upgraded the battery life of the phones with the iPhone 6 adding 4 more hours of talk time and the Plus adding 14 more hours of talk time over the 5S. Maybe it’s just me but there’s my selling point since my year-old HTC One can go a little under a day-and-a-half on a full charge.
On an app front, there’s a new health suite app which we knew was coming in iOS 8 but gets a boost from the new “motion co-processor” that’s supposed to improve measurement of steps and distance. One neat trick is that this iPhone series can make calls while transitioning from wifi to cellular connections which shouldn’t be a heavily used feature but still cool.
The big selling feature of the 6-series iPhone is the new Apple Pay feature. Using NFC (near-field communication), iPhone users will be able to pay using their iPhones. Similar to the tap payment ability of your credit card (assuming that it’s not just a Canadian thing), you will be able to tap your phone to make payment using payment methods loaded into your iTunes account. To maximize the capabilities of Pay, Apple has worked out deals with the major credit card companies, leading American banks and over 200,000 retail outlets to be ready to go at launch.
In announcing Apple Pay, they said that they wouldn’t collecting user data which was considered a dig at Google. While Apple may not be collecting your personal data, various hackers in an underground trading ring will be doing that with anything you backup to iCloud.
There are three models and two face sizes for the Apple Watch. There’s the standard Watch, the lighter-weight Watch Sport and the gold luxury Watch Edition. Watch faces will be either 1.5 or 1.65 inches. And while prices of each model haven’t been announced, the standard Watch will start at $349 and be launched sometime in 2015.
As you’d expect, the watch face is a touchscreen that allows for different reactions from apps depending on how hard you push the screen. The Watch also has the classic dial on the side (which Apple called the “digital crown”) which also has various functionalities for apps.
Speaking of apps and functionality, Apple Pay will be built into the Watch. It’ll also have all the expected integration with apps on your iPhone, especially the fitness apps in iOS 8. That because a whole host of sensors that talk to your phone while things like your phone’s wifi and GPS will talk to your watch so that its apps work. Basically, the Watch is going to augment the iPhone but the relationship isn’t really symbiotic.
For me, the best part is that Apple has designed a smart watch that looks like a watch which isn’t something I can say for most smart watches. While they try to go for an almost futuristic sci-fi design with their products, the Watch is very classically designed. I kind of wish there was an Android-compatible smart watch that looked like these but was round. I wear a watch everyday and it’s always round.
There’s one catch with the Apple Watches. It requires an iPhone 5 or newer to work. Okay, all smart watches require a smartphone paired with it but most watches seem fairly phone brand agnostic. However, considering how much Apple products seem to talk to each other, you’d think that it would be able to pair with an iPad or an iPod too. This probably doesn’t seem like a shock to most tech watchers but don’t tell that to investors who got a bit panicked at this news.
At the risk of offending the Cult of Apple, this really seems like a year where Apple is scrambling to catch up to Android in terms of hardware. What Apple forgets is that isn’t good enough. Android hardware manufacturers aren’t just competing with Apple. They’re competing with each other too. Each one of their offerings has to be better than not only their last model but the other guys’ newest models. Apple has kind of coasted along with incremental improvements over last year’s models and it worked for a while.
Now that Android has a taken the lead in the mobile OS market share race, Apple’s fighting fire with fire. And, in this instance, fire is bigger screens, thinner phones and mobile payments through NFC integration. Fire is the flagship Android device playbook but apart from the camera and the Apple Pay integration with iTunes, it doesn’t seem to significantly surpass what the top Android phones seem to be able to do. But, as Formula One commentator Murray Walker was fold of saying, catching is one thing. Passing is another.