Boy, that was one heck of an event. We knew it was all coming, but actually seeing it come to life, being announced by Apple and witnessing it was a lot more fun. Today we saw the unveiling of the biggest change in iPhone since the original iPhone- two different screen sizes. Moreover, Apple has stepped into the wearables competition with its own smartwatch, brilliantly named ‘Apple Watch’ *applause*. We watched the live stream, and yes, there were issues in the stream (hope you got to learn a little bit of Mandarin today), but Apple fixed them within 30 minutes of the stream and for us, the stream worked pretty nicely throughout. If you’ve been following Apple’s keynotes for the past couple of years (even since the Steve Jobs era), there has been a trend where the presenter (usually Tim Cook, after Steve left) takes the stage, proceeds to count some of Apple’s achievements and milestones and how they’re the best, and slowly move to the main theme. This event was different. Tim Cook appeared, and set the stage for unveiling iPhone 6. Boom, just like that, no delay. All presenters were pretty hasty and quick, with no hands-on demos this time- everything was within the presentation and backed up with videos. And just in the middle of it, there was a exciting part that we haven’t seen in an Apple event in a long time. Here’s a quick recap of what just happened.
iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
Apple finally heard the customers’ voices. A bigger iPhone is finally here, generally called the iPhone 6. In fact, it comes in two different sizes. The ‘iPhone 6’ has a screen that measures 4.7 inches diagonally, with a resolution of 1334×750 pixels at the same old 326ppi. Its elder sibling is the ‘iPhone 6 Plus’, with a 5.5 inch screen and a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels at 401 ppi. Though Apple is referring to the display on both these phones as the ‘Retina HD’ display (perhaps an improvement over the Retina display? We’ll see). Other than the screen size (and the associated factors like weight), there isn’t much difference between the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus; except for subtle changes like the presence of OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) in the iPhone 6 Plus, and more that we’ll discover once it comes out. Both these new iPhones are powered by an Apple A8 chip with a special ‘M8’ motion coprocessor. The camera is still 8 megapixels, but the underlying optics have been highly revamped which can prove to be great at delivering some awesome photos. The audience had a special reaction at the fact that these iPhones can make slow-motion video as slow as 240 frames per second.
The iPhone 6 brings a lot of new things with itself. One of them is a service called Apple Pay. With the help of an integrated NFC chip in both new iPhones, customers can pay at selected stores where mobile payments are available (obviously in the US and wherever supported). NFC based mobile payments isn’t a new thing in the first world countries. Android phones have been doing it for quite a while now (with help from Google Wallet). But the process hasn’t been really user friendly. Apple has simply attempted to make it simpler using the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The idea is to bring the phone closer to the payment point, and using the Touch ID sensor (that’s built into the home button), the user can confirm the purchase, instead of entering long passwords like other mobile payment systems. The money will be transferred from the user’s bank account that’s configured on the phone.
The new iPhones will run iOS 8 right out of the box, while iOS 8 would be released as a free update for: iPhone 5 and above, iPad 2 and above, iPad mini and above. The iPhone 6 starts at $199 for the 32GB version, $299 for 64GB, and $399 for 128GB (on contract, of course). The iPhone 6 Plus is 100 dollars higher for each variant, starting at $299 for the 32GB version. You do the math. Both will be available from September 19 in the US.
Find out more about the iPhone 6 here: https://www.apple.com/iphone-6/
This was a very typical move by Apple. They drop the bomb once all the competitors are in the field, and that’s what just happened. Since most giants have their own smartwatches now, all eyes were on Apple to make their move. We were expecting this. After the first hour of the keynote, it looked like the event is about to come to an end. Phil Schiller had explained most of the things related to the new iPhones, but it wasn’t over. Now if you’ve been watching Apple keynotes since the Steve Jobs era, you might know the significance of ‘One more thing’. It’s been a while since we saw that, and Tim Cook came up with it. It was evident that Apple had something up its sleeve (pun intended). It’s the Apple Watch. Yes, we wonder why they didn’t give this new product the ‘i’ branding that’s on most Apple products. But anyway, it’s finally a new and most anticipated product by Apple!
So the Apple Watch turns out to be Apple’s entry in the smartwatch market. It comes in 3 flavours: Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport, and Apple Watch Edition; and two sizes. Each of these 3 versions have their own construction material and form factor. We don’t understand where to start describing it. It is a square faced watch with curved edges. The face is fully touch and pressure sensitive, and made of scratch-resistant sapphire. Tapping and pressing the face of the watch are two different types of interactions. It also has a crown, you know, the round thing on most analogue watches that’s used to set the time. It is one of the iconic things in a watch, and Apple has made use of that as an interaction element, by the turning and clicking motion of the ‘Digital Crown’ (that’s what Apple calls it). Under the crown is a button to quickly access your favourite contacts for a call or text, or a special type of conversation where you draw things for the recipient, and they respond by drawing, or even with their heartbeat. The UI of the watch is all optimized for the small screen, so that you don’t end up covering it with your fingers while interacting with it. There’s also a heart rate detecting sensor at the back of the watch, and a ‘taptic’ feedback mechanism. Most smartwatches have a vibrating motor, but Apple built in a haptic feedback system and calls it Taptic feedback, since it feels like someone is tapping you on the wrist. It has interchangeable watchfaces and straps, so you can give your watch a new ‘personality’. With the Apple watch, you can respond to texts, make calls (it has a mic built-in), take photos using the iPhone’s camera and the Watch screen as a viewfinder, view all the notifications or calendar appointments and interact with them, even make payments on ApplePay counters using the watch. The Apple watch isn’t just a smartwatch- it’s a health & fitness tracker as well. It has dedicated apps for health tracking, and uses the data from the sensors to calculate calories burned and other useful statistics, which are synced with the user’s iPhone. There’s so much more about the Apple Watch, so many features that weren’t even covered (read:uncovered) in the keynote.
It can be charged using a magnetic connector that attaches to the back of the watch (just like the MagSafe magnetic connector on MacBooks). No word on battery life though; it wasn’t mentioned how long the battery lasts with all these powerful features, but what Tim Cook said was “when you put it to charging at night”. That probably means you’ll have to charge it every other night, but we can’t say for sure until it comes out. Of course, this isn’t a standalone gadget; you need an iPhone to make it work perfectly. The Apple watch starts at $349, and that’s all we know for now. It would be available in 2015, and would be compatible with all iPhones from iPhone 5 onwards. Find out more about the Apple Watch here: http://www.apple.com/watch/
For the music fans out there, U2 performed live at the end of the event, and after that, Tim Cook announced that the latest U2 album would be made free to all iTunes users for a limited time. That’s all Apple had for now. Do visit Apple’s official site for the video of the keynote, and more on today’s announcements. And in case you didn’t notice, the whole Apple site has been revamped. There hasn’t been a design change on the site in such a long time, and now we can see a flat and minimal design. Perhaps Apple took this opportunity to also give the site a new look so that the change looks subtle compared to all the announcements that they’ve made- but we’ve noticed it too! Also, here’s a sad news for all the long-time Apple fans. The iPod Classic is no more. It used to be on the Apple’s site, hidden somewhere. But now it’s nowhere to be found. A moment of silence for a truly classic portable music player of the 2000s, with the iconic click wheel that defined the iPod personality. You’ll be missed.
But this isn’t where it all ends. Stay tuned for our review of iOS 8 when it comes out. Mac OS X Yosemite is expected soon, and we’ll be reviewing that as well. Also, we can’t wait to get our hands on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus as soon as possible. We’ll let you know when we grab hold of one!