iPhone 6: 8 Key Details About Apple’s New Device
After months of rumors, speculation, parts leaks, and building anticipation, Apple has finally unveiled its new iPhone to the world. Rumors were confirmed when Apple announced two iPhone 6 models: the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. But what other rumors were confirmed or disproved? How will the iPhone’s user interface change to make the most of the bigger screens? What new sensors will the iPhone 6 gain, and how will it take advantage of the new apps and capabilities brought by iOS 8, the new version of Apple’s mobile operating system? Further, critically, how much will the iPhone 6 cost? When will it be available? For answers to these questions and more, here are eight must-know details about Apple’s newest iPhone models.
1. Apple finally adds bigger screens
Exactly as rumored, the iPhone 6 has arrived with a 4.7-inch screen, and the iPhone 6 Plus with a 5.5-inch screen. (The iPhone 6 has a resolution of 1334 x 750 pixels with 326 pixels per inch. The iPhone 6 Plus has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels with 401 pixels per inch.) Both are larger than the 4-inch screen of the iPhone 5s, and the size of the iPhone 6 Plus places it into the category of “phablet,” uncharted territory for Apple. That category of phone/tablet hybrids with screen sizes between 5.5 and 7 inches is expected to see dramatic growth, with IDC forecasting that phablet shipments will reach 175 million units worldwide this year and 318 million units next year. The iPhone 6 will weigh 4.55 ounces, more than the 3.95-ounce iPhone 5s. The iPhone 6 Plus will weigh 6.07 ounces.
The point of a larger display is to fit more content onto the screen. The iPhone 6 Plus features full 1080p resolution. Users can take advantage of the big screen with a new landscape view, which also works for both the homescreen and the keyboard, and a one-handed feature called Reachability. Activated by tapping twice on the Touch ID button, the feature will move content to the lower half of the screen. Reachability is built into iOS 8, so will work with third-party apps in addition to native functions.
Apple also demonstrated how apps, including the native Messages app, use the bigger size to put more information on the screen. The sleep/wake button to activate the phone has moved to the right side of the phone to make the button easier to reach with one hand. Apple has also included what it calls a “desktop scaler” to correctly size content without requiring developers to set everything up. The tool can effectively display content from webpages which aren’t mobile-optimized based on the size of the screen.
2. It’s built with a faster processor
Apple says that the new A8 chip with 64-bit architecture brings 25 percent more processing power and 50 percent faster graphics than the A7 chip that preceded it. During the presentation, Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president for marketing, told the audience that the A8 processor will enable the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to run at full power without generating an excessive amount of heat.
The new processor also enables better performance for gaming, and 23 game developers have committed to delivering iPhone 6 games by the end of the year. The A8 will enable users to complete performance-intensive tasks, like playing games at higher frame rates, and the presentation at the Flint Center included a demonstration of a game called Vainglory by Stephan Sherman of Super Evil Megacorp (which is, in fact, a game development company). Apple also introduced Metal, which enables developers to create “console-style” games for the iPhone, and use the CPU and GPU together to deliver more detailed graphics and effects.
The A8 chip also includes a new M8 motion coprocessor, which gathers data from a variety of sensors, including a new barometer. The coprocessor offloads that work from the A8 processor for increased efficiency, and the sensors enable the iPhone to measure steps, distance, and elevation changes.
3. It features modestly better battery life
Apple says that the iPhone 6′s battery will sustain it for 11 hours of web browsing on WiFi and the iPhone 6 Plus’ battery packs enough power for up to 12 hours of web browsing on WiFi. That’s an improvement, but a relatively modest one compared to 10 hours of WiFi web browsing on the iPhone 5s. Only when it comes to the “Audio” usage category does the battery power of the new iPhone models promise to dramatically outstrip the power of the older models. Where the iPhone 5s battery can sustain up to 40 hours of audio playback, the iPhone 6 can go for 50 hours, and the iPhone 6 Plus for 80 hours.
But the lack of substantial improvement in the iPhone 6′s battery life may be a disappointment to power users, who have long complained that heavy activity drains an iPhone battery quickly. Finances Online research found that 37 percent of survey respondents cited increased battery life as their “most wanted” improvement for the iPhone 6 (interestingly enough, followed by a “bigger screen” at 19.2 percent), and the iPhone 6′s incremental improvement may not be as dramatic as some of these users had hoped.
It’s possible that Apple chose to keep the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus thin — the iPhone 6 is just 6.9 millimeters thick, and the iPhone 6 Plus only 7.1 millimeters, versus the 7.6 millimeter iPhone 5s — to offset some of the inevitable shock brought by the significantly larger screen sizes. But that commitment to delivering the thinnest iPhone yet could have entailed some sacrifices to battery life — a tough compromise to make.
4. How is it priced, and when will it be available?
In the U.S., the 16GB iPhone 6 will cost $199, the 64GB model will cost $299, and the 128GB model will cost $399 (all with a standard two-year contract). The iPhone 6 Plus will cost $299 for 16GB, $399 for 64GB, and $499 for 128GB. The new iPhone models will be available for pre-order starting September 12, and will begin shipping to the U.S. and eight other countries on September 19.
However, the iPhone 6 won’t be available in China on its initial launch day, despite the fact that China is the world’s biggest smartphone market. As Quartz reports, Apple has achieved only a 7 percent market share in China, only half of Xiaomi’s and behind Samsung’s. The delayed release, possibly linked to supply-chain difficulties, could help amp up anticipation, but reception of the iPhone 6 has so far been cold in China, especially compared to Chinese consumers’ reactions to previous Apple releases.
5. Where’s the sapphire? (Hint: not on the iPhone)
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus both feature a new Retina HD display and what Apple calls “ion-strengthened glass.” The event finally resolved the long-running debate over whether one or more iPhone models would include a sapphire crystal screen. Neither the iPhone 6 nor the iPhone 6 Plus does, but the Apple Watch, also announced at the September 9 event, does feature a sapphire Retina display.
The Apple Watch is a companion device for the iPhone, and features, among many other things, dedicated Activity and Fitness apps. Cantor Fitzgerald’s Brian J. White wrote in a note to investors that Apple “wields its magic” with the Apple Watch, which will be introduced during what White calls the seasonal lull after the holiday in early 2015.
6. Its camera is improved
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus each have an 8MP camera, featuring 1.5 micron pixels, an f/2.2 aperture, and a new iSight sensor. The camera can focus almost twice as fast as cameras in previous iPhones thanks to phase detection autofocus and Focus Pixels in the new sensor. The camera also adds tone mapping and advanced noise reduction, plus a new image signal processor in the A8 chip. The iPhone 6 Plus also includes optical image stabilization, integrated with the phone’s gyroscope, to take better images.
Additionally, the iSight camera features improved face detection, including blink and smile detection, and enables a burst mode to automatically capture and choose the best shot. Users can control the exposure with a simple slide in the preview pane, and the Photos app enables users to edit photos seconds after taking them, and even share photos from the lock screen with their passcode or Touch ID.
7. It includes the Apple Pay mobile payments system
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are the first iPhones to integrate NFC — near-field communication — technology, which has been used in Android and Windows Phones to let devices exchange photos or communicate with speakers. In the iPhone, NFC powers Apple’s new payments system. Apple Pay will be available on the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and even the Apple Watch that was also announced at the event in Cupertino. Apple says that 220,000 retail locations currently accept contactless payments, and Apple Pay will also be integrated into apps to make online shopping faster and more convenient.
Apple emphasized that the company won’t collect data on where you shop, what you buy, or how much you spend, and a major selling point of Apple Pay is that the system keeps your credit card safe by generating one-time payment numbers stored in the Secure Element. The Secure Element is a dedicated chip in the iPhone that also stores a unique device account number in lieu of the actual credit card number, which won’t be saved on the device or on Apple’s servers.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a note to investors that he believes Apple Pay is the most important announcement that Apple made at its event, and potentially “the most important Internet service introduced by Apple since iTunes.” Munster cites the consistency of the Apple experience, plus the company’s efforts to bring on significant card issuers and merchants as partners, as a major advantage for Apple Pay. While he notes that he thinks the need for a mobile wallet may be “debatable,” there is opportunity in reducing payment friction at the point of sale.
8. It will ship with iOS 8 and all the new features brought with it
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will ship with iOS 8, Apple’s new mobile operating system, which will be available to current iOS users on September 17. (The mobile operating system will be available on devices from the iPhone 4s and later and the iPad 2 and later.) Further, iOS 8 brings new features for Messages, a new QuickType feature to suggest contextually appropriate words, Family Sharing for purchases from iTunes and the App Store, the newly integrated iCloud Drive app, new notifications, and the new Health app.
The new iPhone models also include the M8 motion coprocessor, which measures motion from the phone’s accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass. The addition of a barometer, which can sense air pressure to determine relative elevation, enables the iOS 8 Health app to detect if users are climbing a mountain, or even a flight of stairs, as it tracks their activity.