At long last, Apple has pulled the wraps off its latest generation of products at the Flint Centre in Cupertino, California, where the original Mac was revealed 30 years ago. We’re here on the ground reporting on all the action, starting with the iPhone 6.
iPhone 6 times two
Following the Android driven trend of larger mobile phone displays, Apple has released two new models, both of which are larger, and thinner, than previous iPhones.
There’s a 4.7 inch model, called the iPhone 6, and a larger 5.5 inch ‘phablet’ sized unit called the iPhone 6 Plus.
The iPhone 6’s larger screens mean that more pixels can be crammed into each. New resolutions are 1334 x 750 (326 ppi) for the iPhone 6, and full HD 1920 x 1080 (over 400ppi) for the iPhone 6 Plus.
This new size gels nicely with existing apps because it’s easy for them to ‘scale up’ to the new, more detailed screen resolutions.
From the screens we’ve seen, the scaling looks very sharp.
While many were expecting to see an ultra-hard sapphire screen coating, Apple has gone with an ion-hardened glass, and an IPS screen.
Both phones have adopted a similar design style to the iPad Air, with rounded and tapered edges, sleek, uninterrupted lines, pill-shaped volume buttons and thick antenna bands.
Also new is an embossed Apple logo, and the power button has been moved to the right-hand side of the device making it easier to reach with your thumb.
Dimensions are 138mm long x 66mm wide for the iPhone 6, and 158mm x 78mm for the 5.5 inch model. Overall, the new models are thinner than the 7.6mm of the iPhone 5, with the 6 being 6.9mm and the 6 Plus measuring 7.1mm.
Weight-wise, the iPhone 6 weighs 129 grams, with its bigger brother weighting in at 172 grams.
New and improved
Other notable improvements include a faster and more efficient A8 processor, a new camera with optical image stabilisation, improved fingerprint sensor, faster wireless communication options, larger batteries, and new support for NFC contact-less payments.
Starting with a new processor, Apple’s latest A8 will drive the high-resolutions demanded by the new displays, along with optimising processes to improve battery life.
Like the A7, this processor is dual core, with quad core graphics. It’s meant to have 25 percent faster processing power and 50 percent faster graphics performance than the A7, and is 50 percent more energy efficient.
Also, Apple says that the A8 can provide more sustained performance without throttling back to control heat build up.
The new M8 motion co-processor can track your distance and even figure out elevation, such as when moving up stairs. The system things like air pressure to figure out many steps you’ve climbed and links to the new HealthKit app.
On the camera front, Apple has kept its camera at 8 megapixels, but rather focuses on other enhancements for taking better photos. A new pixel matching technology helps reduce out-of-focus shots.
The Panorama mode can create shots up to 43 megapixel photos with better pixel stitching to join everything together.
Only the iPhone 6 Plus gets the new optical image stabiliser, which is a mechanism that houses the tiny camera and helps counteract shaky movement.
It’s an electro-mechanical system, similar to that found in far larger, and more professional lenses.
The camera now supports a time-lapse mode, and the front facing camera can take burst ‘selfies’ and now supports high dynamic range (HDR).
On the outside, the lens has a raised rim around it that protrudes from the phone. While not a problem, it does mean that the device will not lie completely flat.
Like the 5, both iPhone 6 models also feature 2-tone flashes, which will create a more ‘natural’ colour cast to photo rather than a harsher ‘white out’ effect.
This time, however, the LED flash is circular rather than pill shaped.
On the communications side, the iPhone 6 now supports the latest Wi-Fi standard, called 802.11ac.
This means it can transfer information around compatible Wi-Fi networks at speeds up to 430Mbps, and brings it in line with the latest smartphones from Samsung, HTC and Sony.
There’s a new Wi-Fi calling feature that starts your call on Wi-Fi and hands off to cellular networks once the signal strength improves. This will starting with US carriers.
Also, there’s support for LTE Category 4 with carrier aggregation, which is a faster mobile network standard that’s beginning to appear in Australia, starting with with Vodafone.
A maximum transfer speed on a Cat 4 network is 150Mbps, so this is certainly a good thing. Twenty LTE bands are now supported, compared to the iPhone 5’s 13 bands.
VoLTE, or Voice Over LTE is also included, but we haven’t seen this feature supported by Australian telcos yet.
The iPhone 6 also marks the inclusion of the long-awaited mobile wireless payment technology called NFC, or Near Field Communication.
This, in combination with the Fingerprint ID sensor, and a new security chip, should help drive adoption of mobile payments using your phone, rather than your credit card.
The larger batteries in the iPhone 6 models will be a welcome addition to many.
While Apple hasn’t said exactly what the battery sizes are, we suspect the 4.7in model will get the rumoured slightly higher capacity 1,810mAh, a small increase over the 1,560mAh battery in the iPhone 5s, while the the iPhone Plus gains the rumoured considerable bump to a 2,915mAh version, though we’re checking with Apple to see if we’re on the money with both.
Claimed times are 14 hours talk and 10 days standby for the iPhone 6, while the iPhone 6 Plus apparently manages 24 hours talk and 16 days talk-time, but this will be different in real life depending on how heavily the phone is being used. Apple also quotes 1o hours of LTE browsing time for the iPhone 6 and 12 hours for the Plus.
On the memory front, the iPhone 6 provides 16, 64 and 128GB choices, with the iPhone 6 Plus following suit. Seems that 32GB has been dropped.
The new iPhones come loaded with Apple’s latest iOS 8 operating system, which includes many enhancements and new features.
Where, when and how much?
Following Apple tradition, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available 10 days from launch in the US, and Australia is one of the international launch countries that will also see the phone appear in shops on the 19th of September.
iOS 8 will be available to download to older iPhones on September 17th in the US.
Prices start from $869 with the 4.7 inch iPhone 6, available in space grey, gold, or silver for $869 for 16GB, $999 for 64GB, and $1129 for the 128GB model, while the much bigger iPhone 6 Plus starts at $999 for 16GB, and hits $1129 for 64GB and $1249 for 128GB.
And yes, you’re reading that right: there is no 32GB iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. We suspect this is to sway you over to the 64GB or 128GB sizes.
You can also expect all the local major telcos to have the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but given the high price of the iPhone, don’t expect all deals and contracts to be particularly cheap.
Valens Quinn attended Apple’s launch in California as a guest of Apple.