By Nicole Arce
Apple has finally unveiled its latest-generation iPhone after long months of hype. The rumor mill has got it right. Apple chief executive Tim Cook introduced two new smartphones on Tuesday, a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and a 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, which marks Apple’s late foray into the phablet sector, one that it has previously ridiculed.
Since the death of its founder Steve Jobs in 2011, Apple has been conservative about introducing new changes to the iPhone, its flagship product that is responsible for bringing in around 70 percent of the company’s profits. But with the introduction of the two new iPhones, Apple is hoping it can catch up with and surpass its rivals already racing ahead of the smartphone game.
Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus hold substantial upgrades over the iPhone 5, with a 64-bit A8 processor, better battery life and improved photo and video-recording capabilities. However, the biggest feature to watch out for is the screen size itself. Apple has long stuck to its claim that users don’t want a smartphone they can’t hold with just one hand, a claim that has been proven wrong by Samsung, which has lorded over the phablet market with its Galaxy Note series.
Research firm International Data Corp. (IDC) announced that manufacturers will sell 175 million phablets this year, well ahead of the 170 million units PC sellers are expected to ship. With Apple joining the phablet bandwagon, the phablet market is expected to grow to claim 32 percent of the smartphone market by 2018.
“With Apple expected to join the space in the coming weeks, we anticipate even more attention on phablets as larger-screen smartphones become the new norm,” says Melissa Chau, senior research manager at IDC.
On the display front, the iPhone 6 Plus offers 1920 x 1080 resolution with a pixel density of 401 pixels per inch (ppi), putting it on par with smaller smartphones. But although the iPhone phablet goes full HD, its display is overshadowed by Quad HD devices such as the LG G3, and the new Galaxy Note 4 from Samsung, which packs in a whopping 515 ppi on its Super AMOLED screen. iPhone 6 owners may feel ill-treated, though, as the 1334 x 750 resolution on the smaller iPhone is far behind the full HD displays on similar-sized phones, such as the HTC One introduced in early 2013. The numbers, however, do not tell it all, as Apple’s Retina HD displays use a different technology from Android and Windows Phone devices. But in terms of real estate, the iPhone 6 is not the biggest phone to watch out for.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the event was the sapphire glass display, which was a no-show despite rumors of the scratch-proof glass being manufactured by an Apple factory in Mesa, Arizona. The sapphire display, however, was found on the newly unveiled Apple Watch. Apple also says that both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have “ion-strengthened” glass displays but didn’t specify what that meant.
Another breakout feature to look out for is Apple Pay, Apple’s long-rumored mobile payments system that gets rid of users’ credit cards. Apple Pay makes use of near-field communications (NFC) to connect the iPhone, as well as the Apple Watch, with a special terminal so that users can purchase goods and services by simply tapping the iPhone’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner.
The user’s bank information will not be transmitted to the retailer’s terminal. Instead, Apple Pay will generate a unique security code for each transaction that will allow the store’s point-of-sale system to charge the user’s credit card. When Apple launches its mobile payment system in October, users can expect the new payment standards to work in several major retailers, including McDonald’s, Starbucks, Walgreens, Target and Macy’s.
Apple also introduced a new built-in storage size of 128GB and better battery life. On paper, the new iPhones pale compared to the 3400mAh battery in the Lumia 1520 running on Windows Phone, but Apple says its new smartphones can handle up to 14 hours of talk time on 3G, up to 11 hours of video and up to 50 hours of nonstop music. This is particularly thanks to the fact that Apple produces its own components, which are all optimized to work well together, compared to off-the-shelf parts put together by other manufacturers.
The company says little about its new 64-bit A8 processor, only that it will generate 20% faster CPU performance and 50% better graphics. In the past, Apple’s processors have seen a generational leap from their predecessors, but the A8 will definitely not slow down the iPhone 6. Users will know for sure when they get their hands on the new iPhone on Sept. 19. The iPhone 6 starts at $649 for the 16GB model, $749 for 64GB and $849 for 128GB. The iPhone 6 Plus charges an extra $100 for the 16GB, 64GB and 128GB variants.