Here’s our quick take on what Apple had to say on Tuesday:
iPhone 6! And 6 Plus! They’re here, or will be, anyway, on September 19. Pre-order is September 12, so set your alarm clocks. We think you’re gonna want one.
The new iPhones are very thin, with nice rounded edges, and bigger screens (which means a bigger iPhone). Take your choice at 4.7″ or 5.5″ (for comparison, the iPhone 5/5c/5s has a 4″ screen). The pixel density is even higher than the “Retina” displays, so Apple is calling it “Retina HD”. On the larger one, the apps lay out differently so you can see more. There’s also a “one-handed mode” in which the screen slides down to the lower half so you don’t have to do thumb gymnastics. The performance and camera are substantially improved.
One feature I’m excited about is Wi-Fi calling, which is handy when you have poor cell coverage. This has already been sort of available via FaceTime or Skype, but you’ll be able to call any cellular phone. T-Mobile will be the first carrier to offer it. Also cool is “voice over LTE” in which sound quality is improved by putting calls over the wireless data network when possible.
The 16 GB base model starts at $199. However, we’re delighted to see that the middle model, at $299, includes 64 GB of RAM, which is overwhelmingly worth the price difference; and the top model, at $399, includes 128 GB of RAM. The iPhone 6 Plus costs $100 more for all models.
Apple Pay, available with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, is designed to replace all of your credit cards. Instead, you store your credit cards in an app on your iPhone, but the numbers themselves are not actually stored on the phone. All you have to do is unlock your phone and tap it at a retail counter, or simply tap a button if purchasing online. Apple has no knowledge of your credit cards, or what you purchase. This kind of technology has been around for other phones, but no one has really yet made “tap-to-pay” a reality. Apple Pay appears to bring it closer.
Then, Apple finally announced their long-rumored watch, called Apple Watch. First, the good news: it starts at $349, which, given the neat stuff it does, doesn’t actually seem too bad. The bad news is that it won’t be available until “early 2015,” and we’re honestly surprised that Apple would have announced it this far out — perhaps they are feeling pressure to finally announce something, or perhaps they want to develop a rich app ecosystem before release by telling developers about it now.
Apple Watch is available in a stainless steel model, or a “Sport” edition made of aluminum, or an “Edition” edition (no, really) made of 18K gold. It comes in two sizes, and has interchangeable watch bands, which should be a boon for third party vendors. Using Apple Watch will require an iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6, or 6 Plus.
Rather than attempt to shoehorn the iPhone or Mac experience into a tiny screen, Apple Watch has an all-new interface, the center of which is a touch screen which can tell the difference between a “tap” and a “press”, and a watch crown (i.e. a small dial) that lets you perform analog back-and-forth movements like zooming. The watch has “taptic feedback,” in which it can communicate with you through your sense of touch, including making it possible to have turn-by-turn navigation without ever looking at your wrist. You can send messages to others by speaking or even drawing on the screen. It has a ton of health and fitness related capabilities.
We were pretty skeptical about just how much anyone would want a nouveau digital watch, but it was actually quite impressive. To get the vibe, watch Apple’s videos.
But we’re all going to have to wait. When the Apple Watch actually arrives, we’ll be here to tell you if you need one or not.