The annual ritual we know as an Apple Event took place today in Cupertino, California. The big news? The larger iPhone 6 (at 4.7 inches) and the iPhone 6 Plus (at 5.5 inches) will debut on September 19, and they are faster, bigger, and better. The new Apple Watch promises to change how we interact with information "in the moment" and could usher in an age of more personal and immediate communication. It comes out early next year.
As usual, it was easy to predict that Apple would announce the new phones and the smartwatch (I already have an iPhone 6 case in from FedEx this morning). What we didn't know was the exact specifications or the look and feel for each of them.
The iPhone 6 has a massive 4.7-inch screen that makes the iPhone 5s look quaint. It's thinner (at just .27 inches), 25 percent faster than the iPhone 5s, and runs on a new Apple A8 chip. The new iOS 8 operating system, which you can get on September 17 for the existing iPhone models, has better multi-pane messaging, an improved keyboard, and more robust file syncing that lets you put just about anything in the cloud.
The iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5-inch screen that runs in full 1080p high definition with more than two million pixels on the screen. You can tilt both phones into landscape mode to see apps redesigned for the larger screens. For example, in the Messages app, you see chats and contacts side by side. Apple says older apps will automatically adjust to the new screen size.
A new feature will help you control the larger phones with your thumb. You'll double-tap the Home button to slide the top half of the screen down to reach those apps.
The new Apple Pay payment system should make Square nervous. It runs as an app on the new iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. A transaction is authorized using a onetime unique number that's completely hidden. You pay by pressing your thumb on the Home button of the iPhone and syncing to a terminal. Merchants include Subway, Whole Foods, Walgreens, and many others. The merchant doesn't know your name, card number, or the security code; Apple doesn't see what you purchased. (Unfortunately, the company didn't comment at all about security measures as they might relate to the recent celebrity photo leaks that are still making headlines.)
The Apple Watch has potential. As with any new device, it all comes down to the apps, the interface, and the battery life. For apps, business folks will appreciate seeing hotel and flight info using apps from American Airlines, Starwood Hotels, and others. You'll be able to unlock your room by "swiping" the watch in front of the door. There's an app that tells you the charge level of a BMW electric car, plus quite a few mapping and city transit apps.
You can use the Twitter app to post a message by voice and even to check for trending topics, which could be useful during a meeting. (We'll have to wait and see if looking at your watch is considered just as rude as looking at your phone while someone talks.)
To control the watch, you'll use something called the Digital Crown. It's a knob on the side that looks like something you'd use in the '80s to adjust the time on your Timex. You can push and hold to use Siri, and use swipe and click gestures to control the watch interface. There's just no way to know if the new interface controller works reliably without testing it. At first glance, the Apple Watch looks a bit bulky to me.
As for battery life, there doesn't seem to be an exact estimate for that yet. Stay tuned for more details. Suffice it to say, the new phones will last longer because they are bigger (and therefore have a larger battery), but don't expect more than a day of use. The Apple Watch probably lasts for two days in keeping with the other devices on the market.
The Apple Watch will only work with iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6, and 6 Plus, so no Android support. It will cost $349, and you'll be able to buy one early in 2015. The iPhone 6 starts at $199 with a two-year contract, and the iPhone 6 Plus costs $299 on contract.