CUPERTINO, California—Today Apple unveiled a trifecta of new products that are surely sending worrisome ripples down the spines of the company’s competitors.
At a massive media event here at the Flint Center for Performing Arts, Apple announced two new large-screen iPhones, a new mobile payment platform, and an advanced touchscreen wristwatch. Judging by the numerous outbreaks of applause and the occasional standing ovation, the new products were met with great support by the huge audience of press, Apple employees, and VIPs from the entertainment, technology, and fashion industries.
But don’t worry if your eyes weren’t glued to the video livestream—or if you were one of the countless viewers who suffered from numerous drop-outs and technical problems and were left in the dark for much of the event. Here are the most important things you need to know about Apple’s big day.
The New iPhones: iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
After a dramatic introductory video, Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller unveiled two new iPhone models today, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Both are styled with a smooth, brushed aluminum rear face that curves gently into the front face. They look like small iPads.
The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch display with a 1334×750 pixel resolution. The iPhone 6 Plus features a 5.5-inch screen with full HD 1920×1080 display resolution. Other than this size difference, the phones are essentially the same.
On the rear, they’ve got an 8-megapixel shooter with an f/2.2 aperture 8-megapixel camera. It’s got a new sensor and speedier autofocus. The 6 has digital image stabilization, but the 6 Plus also has additional optical image stabilization that uses its gyroscope and the M8 coprocessor to cancel out extra shakiness. The front-facing camera gets some new features like HDR and a burst-shot mode.
Inside, an A8 processor promises to be up to 87 percent more efficient than its predecessor, offering CPU processing power up to 25 percent faster and GPU speeds up to 50 percent faster than the iPhone 5s’ A7 chip. The M8 motion coprocessor, in addition to aiding in image stabilization, can now tell when you’re walking, running or cycling, and can give you credit if you’re traversing up and down stairs thanks to a barometer that detects changes in air pressure.
Both devices feature Touch ID home buttons and NFC (more on that in a sec). The iPhone 6 goes on sale Friday, September 19th starting at $200 on contract for 16 GB, $300 for 64 GB, and $400 for 128 GB. The iPhone 6 Plus starts at $100 more.
ApplePay, Apple’s Mobile Payment Initiative
“Payments is a huge business. Every day between credit and debit, we spend $12 billion, and that’s just in the United States,” Cook said to introduce what a huge space payments is—a huge space digital payments have yet to crack.
Working with American Express, MasterCard, and Visa, the new ApplePay system as been designed to work with over 220,000 merchants at launch, including familiar locations like Walgreens, Whole Foods, Macy’s, and Target. Using NFC, you simply tap your phone on a payment terminal to purchase things. It’s that easy. How it works is a bit more complicated though. It uses a combination of NFC, Touch ID, and a secure chip Apple calls the Secure Element. You add a card by snapping a photo of it, then getting verification from your bank. During a transaction, a unique device number, rather than the actual credit card information, is sent to the merchant along with a dynamic security code. Apple doesn’t collect your data—what you buy is between you and the merchant. And if you lose your iPhone, you can suspend payments with Apple’s standard-issue Find My Friends app without needing to cancel your actual credit card.
It will launch in the U.S. in October as an update to iOS 8.
Apple’s Wearable: The Apple Watch
The biggest question mark surrounding today’s event was whether Apple would actually unveil its long-rumored wearable computing product. The company did not disappoint. The Apple Watch is officially here.
“Apple watch is the most personal device we’ve ever created,” Cook said after receiving a standing ovation and a round of wild applause. Apple’s CEO calls it “a new intimate way to connect and communicate direction from your wrist.”
The timepiece, which is accurate to within plus or minus 50 milliseconds, is not just technologically impressive. It’s also quite stylish. The faces and the different hardware choices let you trick out the watch to match your own personal style.
The watch face looks very similar to a traditional watch, including a dial on the side that Apple calls the “digital crown” that translates movement into digital data. Apple kept some of the tech specs on the vague side—the product won’t actually ship until next year. What we do know is that the display is a sheet of sapphire, and inside is a custom designed chip encapsulated to protect the electronics. On the rear are four sapphire lenses which hold LEDs and photo sensors for detecting your heart rate.
With regards to looks, the Apple Watch is a bit of a chameleon. It comes in three editions: Apple Watch, Watch Sport, and Watch Edition. Apple Watch is the most basic, Watch Sport is more durable, and Watch Edition is more exotic and made of gold. There are six different straps you can mix and match to suit your needs: a quilted leather strap with a magnetic clasping band, a traditional leather buckle, a stainless steel link bracelet, and a mesh chain loop are among the choices. The device comes in not just two band sizes, but two watch face sizes, to suit folks with different-sized wrists.
But it’s not just the hardware that’s customizable. “With every breakthrough, Apple has also had to have a breakthrough in user interface,” Cook said. What Apple didn’t do, he says, is take the iPhone and shrink the interface and strap it on your wrist. The display is too small, and it would make for a terrible user experience. Instead the digital crown is a key part of the navigation experience, as are onscreen taps and swipes.
The menu screen is composed of bubbles of circular app icons you can arrange however you like, including grouping them by “neighborhood” of related apps. Twisting the crown zooms in and out on the group of apps. To open an app, you tap it. A feature called Glances lets you swipe upwards from the bottom of the screen to cycle through a customizable series of data screens. Siri is built into the watch, so you can dictate questions like “What movies are playing tonight?” A new feature called Digital Touch lets you select a contact then send a super-quick message just based on taps and drawings that your contact can then feel (via a vibration) when it reaches their wrist. It’s intended for messages that have a more personal context—and are a lot less wordy—than your usual text message.
The Apple Watch has a number of other apps including Maps, notifications from third-party apps, and a lot of customizable watch faces. Third-party apps, like ones from American Airlines and W Hotels, are also on the way. A pair of Apple-built health and fitness apps use both the watch and your iPhone’s sensors to give you a holistic view of your daily activities, combining the features of a general activity tracker and an advanced sport watch.
The Apple Watch charges using an inductive charger that fits on the back of its rectangular face. There’s no word about exact battery life yet. Few details were given about pricing, as well. All we know is that the Apple Watch will start at $350, and that it will go on sale in early 2015.