Apple’s most recent event jammed a ton of information on new products into a rapid two hours. The company’s first major unveiling was two new iPhones: the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Both phones are available for pre-order this Friday, September 12, and will be available on September 19. Pricing is as follows:
- 16 GB: $199 with two-year contract.
- 64 GB: $299 with two-year contract.
- 128 GB: $399 with two-year contract.
iPhone 6 Plus
- 16 GB: $299 with two-year contract.
- 64 GB: $399 with two-year contract.
- 128 GB: $499 with two-year contract.
(Looking for a deal? Verizon will give you $200 credit toward the iPhone 6 if you trade in an older iPhone [4s or newer] that works.)
The iPhone 5S now starts at $99 with a two-year contract, while the 8 GB iPhone 5C is now free with a two-year contract.
Hardware and Software Upgrades
The iPhone 6 has a 4.7″ screen (1334x750px), while the iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5″ screen (1920x1080px), and both screens are a new level of quality: Retina HD. Both phones are also thinner than any Apple has ever released (6.9mm, 7.1mm respectively). Each is powered by a new A8 chip. That means they’re stronger and more energy-efficient than ever before. They also have awesome new cameras that make it easier than ever to take great pictures. You can shoot 1080p video at either 30fps or 60fps, or slo-mo video at 120fps or 240fps.
As rumored, there is a one-handed mode of sorts — Apple is moving the buttons lower to the bottom (and putting the power button the side for easier access). It’s a sort of unconventional workaround, but it makes sense.
Software is getting an upgrade to match the bigger screen hardware. The iPhone’s keyboards will have dedicated cut, copy and paste buttons. The phones’ proprietary apps will take advantage of the phones’ bigger screens. They’ll react just like they do on iPad, with some (like Stocks) operating for the first time ever in landscape mode. Mail will let you pop-out a new message you’re composing. Messages even got a nice touch in that your contacts will have an avatar next to their name. One of the nicest upgrades is that the iPhone’s home screen can now be viewed in landscape mode, too.
The second major reveal at Apple’s event was Apple Pay: the company’s take on mobile payments. We collectively spend $12 billion a day with our credit cards, which Tim Cook (rightfully) pointed out is an antiquated system.
Apple Pay is powered by NFC (near-field communication), which is embedded in the phone along the top. You’ll be able to use any credit cards you already have on file with iTunes, or you can take a photo of a new credit card and add it to your phone. At participating retailers, you’ll be able to hold your phone up to a chip at checkout, with your thumb on the Touch ID sensor, and pay in a snap. Speaking of participating retailers, there are more than 22,000: Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Whole Foods, Disney, Staples, Walgreens, Duane Reade, Subway, McDonald’s and more.
Apple Pay also makes shopping online easier. In apps that have Apple Pay enabled (like Target), you can buy items with a single touch. That means no need to enter credit card information or billing/shipping address. It’s all just there.
Apple Pay may also be more secure, because your credit card number is never actually given to the merchant; instead, it uses a one-time payment number and a “dynamic security code.” Apple also isn’t keeping track of where you shop, what you buy, or how much you spend: “We are not in the business of collecting your data.” Lose your iPhone? No worries! You can suspend all payments through “Find My iPhone.”
The MasterCard Perspective
Apple Pay will start in the U.S. with American Express, MasterCard and Visa. Apple has also partnered with the big six banks. Shortly after the event, Ed McLaughlin, chief emerging payments officer for MasterCard, released the following statement:
“Apple has a long tradition of introducing breakthrough products with features that really matter to people. ApplePay, combined with MasterCard’s payments technology, gives consumers an easy, secure and private way to shop. We have been a pioneer of mobile commerce innovation for years – including the world’s first contactless and mobile payment solutions. We’re thrilled that MasterCard cardholders will soon be able to make payments from their iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, knowing that every purchase is secure and offers all the same guarantees and benefits they’ve come to expect from using their MasterCard.”
I spoke to Mung Ki Woo, EVP of digital platforms at MasterCard, to get a little more information. Mr. Woo, who is very excited about Apple Pay and says it’s a “very sleek consumer experience,” saw quick consumer adoption of Apple Pay because of the security behind the platform: “When it’s a MasterCard that’s extended into the the iPhone 6, you get the full MasterCard account. That means protection against fraud. Zero liability. You’re going to have the exact level of protection when you extend into the iPhone 6. […] MasterCard has worked hand in hand with Apple to implement a series of technical security features into Apple Pay.”
While Apple Pay may be the future, don’t expect to toss your credit cards out just yet. Mr. Woo pointed out that just as bills didn’t replace coins, and paper checks didn’t replace bills, Apple Pay wouldn’t replace credit cards. “My personal opinion is that people will keep the plastic,” he said. “Over time, the proportion of transactions made with the phone will increase. We think the proportion of payments done electronically will increase. That’s completely in line with our vision of a world beyond cash. That’s a very good thing.”
I was worried small businesses might be left behind, not willing or financially able to afford new hardware to work with Apple Pay. Mr. Woo assured me that wouldn’t be the case.
“As a merchant, when you go to buy a new point-of-sale device, it comes with contactless built in,” he explained. “You don’t have to pay another cost; it’s already built right into the price.”
He also emphasized that the bigger potential of Apple Pay is for in-app purchases, and the fact that i’ll make their systems less susceptible to fraud.
Oh yeah, Apple Pay will work with one other device… the Apple Watch.
One More Thing… Apple Watch
Apple saved the most-leaked item for last. Called Apple Watch (not the iWatch after all), the device will be available in early 2015 from $349. Personalization is key; Apple designed six different straps for the Apple Watch, with a clasp that easily lets you swap between bands. Not only that, but Apple designed two different sizes for the Apple Watch, because one size does not necessarily fit well on every wrist. There are also three collections — the standard Apple Watch, the fitness lover’s Apple Watch Sport and the fashionista’s Apple Watch Edition (with 18k gold!). That means two sizes, three faces, and multiple bands … “millions” of unique designs, according to Tim Cook.
Apple knew it couldn’t take the iPhone interface and shrink it down onto your wrist; gestures like pinch-to-zoom would completely obstruct the screen. The solution? Add functionality to a feature that’s always been on watches: the crown (the rotatable dial on the side). Apple’s calling the Apple Watch’s crown a “digital crown,” and you can use it to zoom in or out, or scroll through a list. Tapping the side of the crown returns you to your home screen, just as you’d expect. The Apple Watch’s screen can also differentiate between a touch and a press, giving you ultimate control over the screen on your wrist. And your pal Siri has also made her way to your wrist, letting you search by voice like you do on your iPhone.
The Apple Watch will also work with third-party apps. (WatchKit helps developers create apps and features specifically for the watch.) Initially, notifications will just pop up on your watch — like someone wants to be your Facebook friend — but companies like Facebook can make those notifications much more visual and interactive through WatchKit. The MLB app will let you see live scores; Honeywell will let you change your thermostat; Starwood Hotels will let you check in and unlock your room with nothing more than your watch.
Another cool feature of the Apple Watch is wordless communication through ‘digital touch.’ You can send messages to other Apple Watch users through pictures or animated emojis. Want sushi? Draw a blue fish.
In terms of practical functionality, the Apple Watch senses that you’re raising your wrist, and will then activate the display. Hello, battery savings! Speaking of battery, the Apple Watch also has inductive charging — a MagSafe charger attaches to the back of the device’s face for wireless charging. There was no real mention of the Apple Watch’s battery life, though, which is troubling. Tim Cook offhandedly said you’re meant to wear it all day, but it’s not clear how long the device’s battery will actually last.
The watch’s apps were designed for “lightweight interaction.” This is not a device that will replace your phone (in fact, it requires the iPhone … anything iPhone 5 or newer will do), but will be able to do a lot of the basic and mid-level functionality of that device. The Apple Watch is a perfect health complement to your iPhone. It’s able to track your pulse, and can use your iPhone’s GPS and Wi-Fi to give you a complete look at your health. You’ll also be able to keep track of your calendar, contact, music and more from your wrist. Nothing is further than a swipe up, down or side away.
Unveiled earlier this year, Apple finally put a date on iOS 8 — it’ll be available on Wednesday, September 17. It’ll work on the following devices:
- iPhone 4s
- iPhone 5
- iPhone 5s
- iPhone 5c
- iPod touch 5th generation
- iPad 2
- iPad with Retina display
- iPad Air
- iPad mini
- iPad mini with Retina display
One Last, Last Thing…
Apple is releasing U2’s newest album, Songs of Innocence, will be available to every iTunes customer for free, beginning now.