Apple unveils its 2015 iPhones: Faster performance, Live Photos and 3D Touch

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The design remains largely unchanged from the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus(Credit: Apple)

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After months of rumor and speculation, Apple has been showing off its new iPhones at a media event in San Francisco: The iPhone 6S and the iPhone 6S Plus. The major updates for 2015 are a new 3D Touch input system, significant internal upgrades and an improved camera, including a new Live Photos format.

The outside design of the handsets has barely changed since last year, but there's a lot to talk about in terms of internal components. The 3D Touch is an upgraded version of the Force Touch available on the Apple Watch and the latest MacBooks – it recognizes different levels of pressure and gives apps a new input option (in the same way as a right-click on a computer does).

In an on-stage demo, Apple executives used 3D Touch to quickly preview email contents and maps; it's also possible to hold-and-press on an app icon to access shortcuts within the app (so you can jump straight to selfie mode in the Camera app, for example).

There's a new A9 chip powering everything inside the new iPhones, which Apple says is 70-90 percent faster than its 2014 predecessor, the A8, alongside a new M9 motion coprocessor. Apple also says its Touch ID fingerprint recognition now works twice as fast as before.

Pricing is in line with last year's models(Credit: Apple)

The camera gets an upgrade too. The rear-facing iSight camera is upgraded to 12 MP and comes with faster autofocus and better noise reduction technology. Apple says it handles colors and exposure better than ever, and had the photo samples on-hand to prove it. 4K video recording is possible for the first time, and the FaceTime camera is bumped up to 5 MP, with the Retina screen acting as an intelligent flash for front-facing photos.

Apple also showed off a new Live Photos technology, where a long press on a picture shows you a few seconds of video either side of the moment you snapped the picture – it's designed to give you a brief reminder of the time when the photo was taken (somewhat similar to HTC's Zoe camera mode from a couple years back). The new format is supported across all of Apple's most recent hardware products.

Last year's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have been huge successes for the company – across all models, 47.5 million iPhones were sold in the three months up to July, up 35 percent on the year before – so Apple is understandably keen not to mess with the formula too much.

In that vein the pricing and storage configurations stay exactly same from last year, while the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus get the token "last year's model pricing," with $100 knocked off at each price point. The iPhone 6S starts at US$199 (16 GB), $299 (64 GB) and $399 (128GB) on a two-year contract in the U.S. (though those are becoming less common these days, with installment plans gradually taking over), with the iPhone 6S Plus $100 more expensive at each level. International pricing is yet to be confirmed but will likely match the 2014 levels.

Pre-orders open on September 12 and the devices go on sale on September 25 in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States. The new iPhones of course come with iOS 9, which Apple confirmed is going to begin rolling out on September 16.

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