Apple's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus pack bigger screens – and even bigger plans for mobile payments
Apple has taken the wraps off of two new smartphones in its popular iPhone line. The new devices, known as the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, feature 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays, are powered by the company's in-house A8 chip and are the thinnest iPhones ever.
With large screened devices like the LG G3 or the recently announced Samsung Galaxy Note 4 out in the wild (or soon to be), the iPhone 5s' 4-inch display was starting to look very small indeed. Luckily, Apple has seen fit to level the playing field a little, with the the new devices' 4.7-in, 1,334 x 750 and 5.5-in, 1,920 x 1,080 displays hitting the current smartphone and phablet sweet spots. While they're far from the sharpest displays out there, they do offer higher contrast and wider viewing angles over previous generation devices.
The new devices may have larger footprints than the the iPhone 5s, but they're actually a little thinner, coming in at 6.9 mm (0.27 in) for the iPhone 6 and 7.1 mm (0.28 in) for the iPhone 6 Plus. The devices also pack 802.11ac wireless, as well as the ability to make calls over Wi-Fi, providing you're a T-Mobile (US) or EE (UK) customer.
Apple threw in a few new features to adapt to those larger screens. The larger iPhone 6 Plus will show certain apps in a wider landscape mode that's similar to what you'd see on an iPad. In the Mail app, for example, the 6 Plus will show separate panels for the inbox and current message. The iPhone 6 Plus' home screen will also rotate into landscape mode, like you'd see on an iPad.
Another large-screen concession is "Reachability," or Apple's version of one-handed mode. By double-tapping on the home button, the iPhone 6's display will slide down to the bottom, so you can reach top-level navigation buttons with one hand. This combines with Safari back and forward gestures (swiping left and right) to make for supposedly easy one-handed use. It's certainly a different take than we've seen from the likes of Samsung and LG, so we'll be curious to see this feature in action.
Both new smartphones run iOS 8, and are powered by the company's in-house A8 processor, which offers 25 percent faster processing power than the iPhone 5s, and up to 50 percent faster graphics. The company was keen to point out that the handsets are up to 50 times faster than the original, first generation iPhone.
Despite the larger screens and faster processors, the new devices supposedly offer longer battery life than the iPhone 5s. Apple estimates 11 hours of Wi-Fi browsing on the iPhone 6 and 12 hours on the iPhone 6 Plus.
The devices' cameras hold onto the iPhone 5s' 8-MP rear shooter, though the company has added phase detection autofocus technology, something usually found on DSLRs. The new technology leads to twice as fast autofocusing as on the last generation of iPhone. The camera can take 1080p 60 fps video and slow-mo videos at 240 fps. The new imaging chip also offers improved noise reduction and better color tones.
The company also announced an NFC payment system known as Apple Pay. To use the service, users can take a picture of their credit cards using the device's camera, which is then verified and added to Passbook. The app doesn't store the user's credit card number on the device, instead generating a one-time payment number for every transaction.
Paying at a register is supposedly as simple as holding the iPhone in front of a retail NFC station, holding your finger on the Touch ID sensor and walking away with your purchase. Apple Pay is compatible with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but owners of the iPhone 5 and later can get in on the payments action with a paired Apple Watch.
The devices will be available in space gray, gold and silver, with on-contract prices starting at US$199 for the 16 GB iPhone 6, $299 for the 64 GB model and $399 for the new 128 GB configuration.
The iPhone 6 Plus will retail for $299 for 16 GB version, $399 for the 64 GB model and $499 for the 128 GB variant. Both devices will hit the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, France, Hong Kong, Germany, Singapore and Japan on September 19.