Apple has revealed its latest range of bigger smartphones and its much-anticipated smartwatch, along with a new mobile payments system that uses fingerprint ID for security.
The announcement, at Apple’s annual conference marks the tech giants first foray into wearable technology and larger sized ‘phablet’ phones, two sectors in which many of its rivals such as Samsung, LG and Sony are already firmly established.
The Phone 6 will be available as two significantly bigger models than before, with screen sizes at 4.7 and 5.5 inches (called iPhone6 Plus).
The new phones are a significant upgrade from the outgoing flagship, the iPhone 5S, which has a 4-inch screen.
How the Apple Watch works
The watch – called simply Apple Watch – is customisable in “millions” of ways, with a key function as a health and fitness device. However, the Apple watch needs an iPhone kept nearby to work.
The Apple Watch uses GPS and Wi-Fi to track the distance covered by the wearer for example, and a tap of the screen can send an alert vibration to another Watch user.
The watch has a completely new user interface, different from the iPhone, and the ‘crown’ on the Apple Watch is a dial called the ‘digital crown.’ Users can turn the crown to zoom in and out on a map, or scroll a list. The crown can also be pressed to take the user back to the home screen.
Different areas on the watch face can be customised with taps and swipes, and force touches. The Glances feature shows info users would like to see, similar to Google Now, and is accessed by swiping the screen up from the bottom.
Music can also be controlled on an iPhone through the Apple Watch- but CEO Tim Cook did not reveal how long the battery lasts on the device.
Built-in is a ‘taptic engine’ that responds to a subtle vibrations users feel on their wrist for notifications.
Siri also is built into the Apple Watch. It understands questions in messages and then offers pre-selected answers, and messages can be dictated to the iPhone.
Users can also talk to the watch and send a voice reply, or have it transcribed to them. There is no keyboard on the watch, and messages can only be sent through dictation, or emoji.
It will start at $349 and comes out early next year. UK pricing has not been set.
Watch this video from Bloomberg showing the Apple Watch presentation below:
Phablet phone features
Among the features of the two new iPhones are a better sensor and autofocus for the camera, and a landscape mode. A HD FaceTime camera also promises improved face detection.
Apple said that the A8 chip featured in the new phones would provide 25% faster compute performance than before.
The improved resolutions – dubbed “retina HD” – mean that the iPhone 6 offers 326 pixels per inch and the iPhone 6 Plus 401ppi. While better than before, the resolutions are still beaten in terms of raw numbers by Samsung’s flagships – the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note 4 – and the HTC One.
New sensors include a barometer, which Apple said would help fitness apps distinguish whether the owner was running up a mountain or along a flatter surface.
The M8 co-processor can now estimate distances as well, which should also help provide more accurate readings.
Apple had previously justified the 3.5in and 4in screen sizes of its existing iPhones as being suited to one-handed use. In 2010, the company’s co-founder Steve Jobs went so far as to say “no-one’s going to buy” a phone that they could not get a single hand around.
Apple Pay- a true game changer?
A new payment process called Apple Pay was also announced. It uses fingerprint ID for security and stores payment information on a NFC chip.
Users can store their credit card information by taking a picture of their cards with an iPhone camera. Apple says the system does not release transaction data to Apple, keeping the information consumers and their banks – and credit information stored on your phone will be kept private from the company, as well.
The mobile payment system works with credit and debit cards issued through American Express, MasterCard and Visa, along with a long list of popular banks that includes Bank of America, Capital One Bank, Chase, Citi and Wells Fargo. Apple Pay will be available for use in all 258 of Apple’s U.S. retail stores and will also be supported by such retailers as Bloomingdale’s, Disney, Macy’s, McDonald’s, Sephora, Staples, Subway, Walgreens and Whole Foods Market.
The move could speed up adoption of mobile payments, with mobile proximity payments increasing 114.5% last year, to $1.6 billion, according to market research company eMarketer.
Apple is certainly entering a space with room to grow, as eMarketer also notes that about 8% of U.S. smartphone owners – roughly 11 million people – used mobile payments last year, up from about 7 million people in 2012.
Watch the presentation on Apple Pay below:
Apple claims the feature is more secure than keeping cards in a wallet. Payments using NFC (near-field communication) technology could be “revolutionised” if Apple’s feature catches on, says one expert.
The phones go on sale in the US and eight other countries on September 19. Pricing is still to be announced.
Apple had been under pressure to make a bigger iPhone after rivals outgunned it with handsets like Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8.