Apple Unveils the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and the Apple Watch!

Well folks, the time for wild-eyed rumors and clandestine reports is finally over – Apple CEO Tim Cook just officially revealed the hefty new iPhone 6 Plus and its 5.5-inch screen in Cupertino alongside a long-rumored (and handier) 4.7-inch model. This thing won’t seem all that foreign if you frequent the geekier corners of the web, but it’s a sure sign that Apple wants to give all those other pocket-stretching phablets out there a run for their metaphorical money. The company’s live press event still chugging along (with a sketchy stream, no less), but here’s what we know so far.

There’s no two ways about it: the star of the show here is the spacious 5.5-inch 1080p Retina Display HD riding up front – to hear Apple’s Phil Schiller tell it, it’s SRGB-accurate, has an ultrathin backlight, photo-aligned IPS liquid crystals, an improved polarizer, and ion-strengthened glass. More importantly (and at long last!), the screen runs at 1080p.

You won’t notice any dramatic design differences between this model and its little brother – it’s still dramatically thinner than the iPhones that came before it (the Plus comes in at 7.1mm thick, and the angular edges of the 5s have given way to a smoother, rounder look in line with the company’s most recent batch of iPads. Remember all those leaks? They absolutely nailed it, and the end result looks, well, really comfortable to latch onto.

But what of the tech powering the show? Let’s look at Apple’s snappy new 64-bit A8 chipset – Schiller says it’s 50 percent more energy efficient (not to mention a hair smaller) than the the A7 that graced earlier models, and about 25 percent more powerful to boot. A new M8 coprocessor should also help keep better track of your activity levels, since it can hazard guesses at distance traveled and measure elevation changes for you avid stair-climbers. And speaking of power, you’ll be able to squeeze 16 hours of standby time out of the 6 Plus, 14 hours of continual video playback and or a full 24 hours of 3G talk time out of the non-removable battery.

Mobile photographers (which is really everyone these days, right?) may be a little bummed to see that the 6 Plus has an 8-megapixel iSight camera and an f/2.2 aperture lens paired with the same True Tone flash as in the 5s. That’s not to say that Apple’s been slacking — it’s got phase detecting autofocus (we’ve seen similar tech in SLRs), improved face detection and a new Best Shot mode. Extra bonus for Plus owners: you get optical image stabilization, so you can lord your crisper shots over everyone else when it launches. You’ll be able to shoot 1080p video at either 30 or 60 frames per second, and slow motion video has gotten even slower: think a whopping 240 frames per second. The front-facing camera has been updated with a sensor that’s even greedier for photons, perfect for all those well-lit “LOOK I HAVE A NEW IPHONE” selfies you’ll probably snap.

Apple’s iOS 8 got the grand unveiling treatment back at WWDC, but (to no one’s surprise) it packs a few extra features to help it feel more at home on bigger screens. Perhaps the biggest is the inclusion of a two-paned landscape mode which makes the whole thing feel a little more like a tiny iPad than an upscaled iPhone. If you give the TouchID button (yeah, you’re not escaping those sensors), you’ll also invoke a one-handed mode that moves everything down to the lower half of the display for easy access — great if you’ve got some short thumbs.

There’s a decent chance that if you’re reading this, you’re already clamoring for a 6 Plus of your very own. Curiously, Apple has done away with the 32GB model entirely and added a 128GB model to the mix too in case you’ve got a few decades of movies that need to go with you everywhere. The 6 Plus will cost $299, $399, and $499 for the 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models, respectively with your usual two-year contract. You’d better start saving up, too: preorders start on September 12 and it’ll start shipping in “several countries” on the 19th. Take that, oft-repeated rumors of a protracted launch!

ple is back with the latest iteration of its wildly successful smartphone, the iPhone. Today, the company introduced two new models: The 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.

Both models sport curved edges and rounded corners, creating a more unified and welcoming design. Apple says the back has been constructed from anodized aluminium and features a premium, stainless steel Apple emblem.

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The iPhone 6 is the smaller of the two new handsets, with a 4.7-inch display and a 1334 x 750 pixel resolution. Meanwhile, the iPhone 6 Plus sports a larger 5.5-inch panel and a more pixel-dense 1920 x 1080 resolution. Both are considered “Retina HD” screens, which Apple describes as a “new generation” of displays for its high-end smartphones. To put that in perspective, the iPhone 6 Plus features 185 percent more pixels than the current iPhone 5s.

Both devices are luxuriously thin too. The iPhone 6 comes in at 6.9mm, while the larger iPhone 6 Plus manages a bulkier, but still attractive 7.1mm. Both are skinnier than the already sleek iPhone 5s, which measured 7.6mm on the side.

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With a larger display comes changes to the overall software experience. Showing the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus side-by-side, Apple was able to show how various apps would look different on the two devices. Turning either handset on its side reveals an altered UI too, similar to Apple’s popular iPad tablets. The home screen will also change automatically in this new landscape mode, ensuring the app icons are always facing the right way up.

Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus feature a new gesture called “reachability,” which pulls the entire screen down into the bottom half. The upper section is left entirely blank and it’s designed to help you select buttons and links that would normally be difficult to reach. These features form part of iOS 8, which Apple detailed at length during its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June.

On the hardware side, the power button has been repositioned on the side. This was expected and is identical to the large majority of Android smartphones that sport equally large displays. In short, having a power button right at the top can be difficult to grasp, especially in one-handed use.

More power

Under the hood is a new A8 processor. It’s a “second generation” 64-bit chip that features 2 billion transistors and up to 25 percent faster CPU performance. Graphics performance is also 50 percent faster; both of these should result in a faster, more powerful iPhone with less slowdown, stutters and lag.

Apple is also improving the battery performance for its new iPhone models. In a chart (below), Apple promised equal or better performance for both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in all areas, including audio, video, Wi-Fi and 3G browsing. Standby time is probably the best metric to judge Apple’s progress, however; the company claims the iPhone 5s managed 10 days on standby, and this will be roughly the same on the iPhone 6. On the iPhone 6 Plus, however, this will rise to 16 days – a noticeable improvement that should please power users.

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Backing up the A8 is Apple’s “next-generation” M8 motion coprocessor. It’s designed for fitness apps and measuring exercise – it can apparently tell the difference between cycling and running via an integrated barometer. Apple says the Nike+ for iOS app will be updated to take advantage of this feature, allowing users to see how high they’ve climbed each day.

Internet connectivity hasn’t been left alone either. The new iPhones support up to 20 LTE bands – more than any other smartphone, according to Apple – and supports Voice over LTE (VoLTE) for superior call quality. After all, these are phones – it’s easy to forget about texting and traditional calls, but they’re of vital importance. Apple’s new smartphones will also support Wi-Fi calling, with T-Mobile in the US and EE in the UK among its launch partners.

Cameras

Apple’s iPhones have always offered some of the best camera experiences in the smartphone market. The company isn’t resting on its laurels for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, packing in a new 8-megapixel rear-facing camera with true-tone flash, 1.5 micron pixels and an f/2.2 aperture. Both smartphones use an upgraded sensor and utilise a new technology called “focus pixels.”

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The feature allows for the same phase detection auto focus found in digital SLR cameras. If that sounds like another language to you, here’s the important bit: It’ll result in faster autofocus – up to twice as fast – better local tone mapping and noise reduction. In other words, significantly better images.

Panoramas now support up to 43 megapixels, allowing for more detailed sweeping shots. The new A8 chip has also been designed for faster facial recognition and better blink/smile detection when capturing human subjects.

The iPhone 6 also features “digital” image stabilization, while the iPhone 6 Plus boasts the more effective and highly anticipated optical image stabilization.

In the video department, the new smartphones support full HD (1080p) recording at either 30 or 60 frames per second. Slow-motion video will be offered at 120 and 240 frames per second, capturing your precious moments in buttery smooth detail. Both models also support “cinematic video stabilization” for smoother footage in unbalanced or fast-moving shooting conditions.

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The front-facing camera has been updated too, although Apple has been a little more coy with the specs here. It features a new FaceTime HD camera and an “all-new sensor” which captures 81 percent more light with a larger f/2.2 aperture. Both models should also sport better facial recognition and a new “burst selfies” feature, which presumably captures a series of self-portrait shots in quick succession. At least, if selfies is your sort of thing anyway.

How much will it cost?

The iPhone 6 will start from $199 for the 16GB model, rising to $299 for 64GB and $399 for 128GB. The iPhone 6 Plus will set you back $299 for the 16GB variant, or $399 and $499 respectively for the 64GB and 128G versions. Both will be sold in the US from September 19, with pre-orders opening on September 12.

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Apple says it’ll be available in 115 countries by the end of 2014. The company will also be selling the phones with a range of optional silicone cases, which come in bright colors such as baby blue, peach, green, silver and red.

The lay of the land

The smartphone landscape is changing and while Apple still sells a dizzying number of smartphones, the pressure to innovate and offer something fresh has never been greater. Android handsets are simply getting better: The metal design of the HTC One (M8) is gorgeous, the cameras in Sony’s Xperia handsets are proficient and Motorola’s Moto smartphones continue to offer lively customization options. Android itself is improving and what we’ve seen fromAndroid L so far highlights a renewed emphasis on design.

All of this fails to mention the steady progress Microsoft is making with Windows Phone 8.1 and the latest range of Lumia smartphones.

As such, Apple needs to prove that it’s still the frontrunner in the smartphone industry. The iPhone arguably defined the modern smartphone, but to ensure its continued success, Apple needs new ways to stay ahead of the pack. Make no mistake, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will sell like hotcakes. But technology enthusiasts don’t just want a smartphone that sells well. They want a smartphone that is bold, beautiful and simply better than the rest.

Apple Pay!

At its media event today, Apple has announced Apple Pay, a new NFC payment system for its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones and its upcoming Apple Watch. The service uses TouchID fingerprint recognition to authenticate payments.

Apple Pay will launch in the US first in October with support for Mastercard, Visa, and American Express cards.

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When you add a credit card, the payment information is saved to the iPhone 6’s new Secure Element chip. Purchases will generate a one-time payment number.

Retailers that have signed on to support Apple Pay include Macy’s, Walgreens, Staples, Subway, McDonald’s, Whole Foods and the Disney Store.

For online purchases, Apple Pay will enable one-touch checkout without having to enter your card number or address. No card information will be shared with the merchant. Target, Uber and Groupon are on deck to include Apple Pay in their iOS apps. The OpenTable app will let you pay your check with Apple Pay.

An Apple Pay API for iOS 8 will let more developers tap into the service.

Apple Watch!

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Apple unveiled the Apple Watch, its much-anticipated smartwatch at a media event in Cupertino today. Apple CEO Tim Cook called it a “precise and customizable timepiece” and a “comprehensive health and fitness device.”

The device starts at $349 and will go on sale early next year. It comes in two sizes and has three different lines: Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and an 18k gold Apple Watch Edition.

You’ll need to pair the watch with an iPhone. The device supports iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5C and iPhone 5.

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In addition to a touchscreen, the Apple Watch includes a “digital crown” for interacting with the interface. You can use it to scroll through a list or zoom in on a map. Pressing the crown jumps you back to the home screen.

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With the Apple Watch, Apple is diving into the fashion space. Cook noted that the device is “as much about personal technology as it is style and taste.” The company invited a number of style editors and publications to its event today, a departure from the usual focus on tech writers.

The watch knows when you’re raising your wrist to look at it and activates the screen. A Digital Touch feature lets you ping friends, draw on the touch screen and share your heart beat. Sensors on the back of the watch track your pulse. You’ll also be able to use the device to make payments using the new Apple Paysystem.

As expected, Apple used a sapphire crystal display on the watch. The device measures force and provides haptic feedback through a “Taptic Engine.” When you send your heart beat to another Apple Watch user, the recipient’s watch will buzz in time with your pulse.

The charger on the Apple Watch uses a combination of the company’s MagSafe technology and inductive charging.

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Apple has designed six different straps – made from leather, polymer, metal mesh and stainless steel – for the watch and included an interchangeable mechanism for switching between them.

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Apps on the watch will be displayed as bubbles that you can rearrange on the homescreen. Using the crown, you can zoom in and out to different “neighborhood” of app icons. A “Glance” feature lets you swipe up to view customizable screens.

When replying to messages, the Apple Watch will intelligently generate quick replies based on the content of the incoming message. You can also send voice messages, dictate to Siri and create custom animated emojis.

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Developers and use the WatchKit SDK to create “rich actionable notifications,” WatchKit apps and Glance widgets. For instance, Starwood has created an app that lets you unlock your hotel room by waving the watch in front of your door.

The watch includes two apps for motivating you to be more healthy. A Fitness app monitors activity, calories burned, and time spent standing throughout the day, while a Workout app lets you set goals when you’re exercising.

The Apple Watch is the first new Apple product line that CEO Tim Cook has launched since he took over in 2012. Cook has been promising an “exciting” new product category for over a year now.

Apple’s wearable will launch to an increasingly crowded smartwatch market. Last week, Motorola recently sold out of its Moto 360 smartwatch. Sony andSamsung also recently announced new wrist-worn devices.

5 things to expect from Apple’s big event tomorrow!

iPhone 6

There’s a lot riding on Apple’s massive iPhone 6 and iWatch event. Since the first iPad in 2010, the big question on everyone’s mind has been “what comes next?” Apple updates its lineup on a fairly predictable schedule, but products that push the company into entirely new categories have been few and far between. That hasn’t hurt Apple financially by any stretch; in fact, it continues to make more on each device it sells than just about anyone. Still, a constant stream of promises from Apple’s top execs have drawn out the idea that something big is just around the corner.

That something big is very likely making its debut at Apple’s event next Tuesday, which kicks off at 1PM ET / 10AM PT. The company has spent the past week erecting a large, white building right outside the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino, just down the road from its headquarters. While new models of the iPhone are a shoo-in, all eyes are on the company to finally take the wraps off its wearable — the one that’s been rumored to be in the works since 2012, and that could shake up a market where rivals like Google and Samsung already have a head start.

ECB will  bring you all the news. But in the meantime, here’s what to expect from Apple’s big event tomorrow.

Two bigger iPhones

Multiple reports have pegged Apple to launch two completely new and different versions of the iPhone 6: one at 4.7 inches and another at 5.5 inches. But it’s not just reports. There’s been a slew of leaked parts (like there are every year), showing off a new design that bears more of a resemblance to the iPod touch and its rounded edges than the slightly taller iPhones we’ve known for the past two years.

What’s the big deal? A larger screen makes text, photos, and videos easier to see. It also gives developers more space within their apps for additional buttons and features, similar to what we’ve seen them do in the jump from the iPhone to the iPad. More importantly though, it puts Apple on equal footing with competitors that have been releasing increasingly larger phones for years. Make no mistake about it, this is Apple playing catch-up.

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Three iPhone 6 rear “dummy” shells posted earlier this year by 9to5Mac.

So what will be new besides the larger screen? It looks like Apple is moving the sleep / wake power switch from the top of the phone to the side. That’s not a new thing for smartphones by any measure, but it makes a difference when using a bigger device where your finger can’t reach the top as easily. Apple is also said to have added a special one-handed mode, something Samsung’s done with some of its larger devices by actually shrinking the interface down.

Apple appears to have made the phone thinner than the iPhone 5 and 5S. Alleged schematics that appeared last month, along with plenty of leaked parts, suggest it’s about 7mm thick, which is a hair smaller than the 7.6mm iPhone 5S. Not everything is shrinking though. The battery expected to end up in the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 clocks in at 1,810mAh, up slightly from 1,560mAh battery in the iPhone 5S. It’s a different story for the 5.5-inch iPhone 6, which is expected to come with a 2,915mAh battery — nearly twice what you find in Apple’s current model. There’s no telling whether that will make a meaningful difference in how long it lasts, something Samsung has gleefully been harping on in its most recent ads.

Also expect a larger 128GB model (you can currently only go up to 64GB on iPhones though Apple’s gone up to 128GB on iPads); a better camera that might actually jut out of the casing a little bit but offer a new feature that takes “super-resolution” photos; an NFC chip; a speedier, next-generation A8 processor to replace last year’s A7 processor; as well as a barometer, which would be a measure things like elevation and ambient temperature.

Also expect the use of sapphire for the screen on at least one of the models, says The Wall Street Journal. Apple’s already used laser-cut sapphire crystal to cover the iPhone 5S’ TouchID button, and has used it as a lens cover on the rear iSight camera since the iPhone 5. Since then it’s ramped up production of the super scratch- and drop-resistant material in facilities in Arizona.

The big question is whether all these new things, as well as the jump to a larger screen, will mean a heftier price. Right now, the iPhone 5S tops out at $399 for a 64GB model on contract, which is how much the first iPhone cost (after a very quick price cut). Size seemingly hasn’t made much of a difference in the price of competing products, with phones like the LG G3, Galaxy Note 3, and just-announced Lenovo Vibe Z2 coming in well below that.

NFC and mobile payments

Apple’s been interested in Near Field Communications (NFC) for years, but has aways stayed away because it’s been such a finicky and poorly-supported technology. That’s about to change though. The new iPhones and Apple’s upcoming watch will feature the wireless technology, according to multiple reports.

Why include NFC? It allows data transfers between devices without using a cellular network, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth. Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone have offered this for years, and it’s been used for things like automatically adjusting settings or launching apps when a device is tapped to another NFC sensor. It also lets you pair your device to another quickly, so NFC tags have shown up on gadgets like cameras and printers.

Apple’s rumored to be eyeing it as a way to let peoplepay for things using their phone like a credit card. People already do that with Apple’s App Store, in iTunes, iBooks, and from within apps, but the company’s expected to open that up in other places like actual retail stores, where you could tap to pay. Apple has more than 800 million iTunes accountsset up and attached to payment information, giving it plenty of weight to throw around, and it’s reportedlyalready made agreements with Visa, MasterCard, and American Express leading up to tomorrow’s event.

Apple’s said to have built NFC into several prototypes over the years, including the iPhone 5. Funnily enough, Apple executive Phil Schiller dismissed the technology in a 2012 interview with All Things D, saying “Passbook does the kinds of things customers need today.” Apparently that’s changed.

iOS 8

iOS 8

Developers have had their hands on iOS 8 since Apple’s developers conference in June, but it’s still a work in progress. Expect that to change tomorrow, with a finished version that developers will get the same day, with the public getting it next week. Apple’s done that for the last three years, and expect the same thing to happen this time around.

iOS 8 isn’t a dramatic visual change like iOS 7, as much as a huge pile of new features that open up the platform and tie it deeper to Apple’s OS X desktop software. Among the new features is something called Continuity that lets people hand off their tasks from an iPhone or iPad to a Mac. Apple’s also added a new predictive keyboard called QuickType, and actuallyopened up iOS to third-party keyboards, something Google’s Android has offered for years.

Other new features include voice and group messaging, a file browser for iCloud, unlimited photo and video storage in iCloud (if you pay for storage), along with a new app called Health that tracks health statistics and is expected to be an integral part of Apple’s wearable.

iWatch

iWatch preview

Just about everyone’s got a smartwatch out by now, but not Apple. That’s all but guaranteed to change tomorrow. The big expectation is a wearable device that runs iOS,come with the App Store, and that can measure biometric information to feed into Apple’s HealthKit service and Health app. Yet one of the most closely guarded details is what exactly it will look like. Is it a watch, or something like a fitness band? A pair of reports fromThe Wall Street Journal and The New York Times last week said the device will feature a flexible OLED display and come in multiple sizes. On the hardware side, it’s said to have things like wireless charging, and the aforementioned NFC chip for making payments and possibly other uses.

The first murmurings that Apple was working on this bubbled up out of China near the end of 2012, with the expectation that Apple would have a product ready to go sometime later that year. That didn’t happen, but just about every one of Apple’s competitors has readied smartwatches since then. Google’s even introduced an entire wearables platform, with the first big wave of products out the door and onto the wrists of customers.

As for when Apple’s watch is coming out, and how much will it cost, there might be a wait involved. Citing sources, Recode says that Apple plans to ship it sometimes next year, and for less than $400. Some of the other big questions that Apple needs to answer are how existing iOS applications will work with it, as well as how it’s going to be better than the growing list of devices that are already out there.

iPods

Contrary to popular belief, the iPod is not dead. At least not entirely. While iPod sales have declined since 2008, people are still buying them. Just last quarter, Apple sold 2.9 million iPods, and historically, more than half of those have been the iPod touch.

But one big reason we’re due for an update is time. The last time Apple overhauled the iPod touch was alongside the iPhone 5 in 2012. That design extended the screen to 4 inches and added a small loop for a camera strap. But a lot’s changed since 2012, especially on the inside of Apple’s iOS devices. The A5 chip that’s currently on the touch is getting long in the tooth, especially when compared last year’s A7, and the A8 that’s likely to be in the iPhone 6. Graphics-intensive games like the recently-released Bioshock are proof of that, since the latest iPod touch can’t even run it.

One wrinkle in this is that Apple quietly launched an updated version of its entry-level iPod touch near the end of June that added a 5-megapixel iSight camera to the back of the device. It also trimmed the prices on the two higher-end models.

Up in the air is what happens with Apple’s other iPods. Apple revamped the iPod nano in 2012 with a narrow metal design that added Bluetooth, yet it also added a strange not-quite-the-iOS-you’re-used-to interface that’s nothing like where Apple went with last year’s iOS 7. There’s the very real question about how this product will exist alongside a wearable that might do many of the same things. As for the iPod shuffle and iPod classic, Apple seems to have taken them as far as they’ll go. Each serves its purpose, either as a very cheap clip on MP3 player, or a portable hard drive for your entire music collection. You have to wonder how long the Classic has though, especially sinceApple now owns two streaming music services.

 

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact press shots make the rounds!

Alleged press images of Sony Xperia Z3 Compact made the rounds online. The photos showcase the unannounced successor of the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact in all its glory.

Unsurprisingly, the design of the upcoming device is quite similar to that of the model it is bound to replace. The most noticeable difference is the presence of a speaker slot below the display – right in line with previous leaks.

The leaked images also reveal that the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact will be available in at least four color schemes. They are white, black, red, and green.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact will debut in less than two days, during the company’s IFA press event. Its rumored specs include Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset, 20.7MP camera, and a 1080p display.