There is no better all-in-one communicator than a smartphone, and Apple’s new iPhone offerings make such communicators even better. In case you missed Apple’s introduction Tuesday, September 9th, here are some highlights and my take.
1. Apple introduced two new models, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The main new feature is larger screens, 4.7 inches diagonally and 5.5 inches diagonally respectively. These are major increases over the iPhone 5’s 4 inch screen which is considerably smaller than it rival’s screens. Samsung with its Galaxy 5 and 5.5 1nch screen and those from HTC, LG and others have been taking sales away from Apple. With this introduction, Apple catches up with the marketplace. Screen resolution on the iPhone 6 remains at 326 pixels per inch but the iPhone 6 Plus gets an upgrade to 401 pixels per inch for its larger screen. Both of these phones should do well against the competition.
2. The iPhone 6 models now include near field communications (NFC), a short range 13.56 MHz radio technology that permits very secure data transfer over a range of a few inches or less. This not-so-new technology targets the wireless payments movement where a tap or wave of an NFC smartphone replaces credit cards for retail payments. Many Android smartphones have had this technology for years but have not been useful as most retailers have yet to buy the readers and adopt the payment software and systems. With Apple’s inclusion of NFC, the wireless payment movement should make a leap forward. It is up to the retailers to welcome the millions of new Apple customers and deploy the capability. An extra layer of security has been added to reduce the potential for hacking as a finger print and new coding is required for payment.
To aid the NFC payment system, Apple has also implemented Apple Pay, a system that allows consumers to use their existing American Express, Mastercard and Visa cards at many new locations in addition to major retailers such as Macy’s, McDonalds, and Walgreens. Apple will get a cut of the transaction fees. Again, this new system should advance the nascent digital wallet concept.
3. The new iPhones also sport new computer technology including an upgrades multicore A8 processor and an update of the iOS operating system. The new 64-bit processor is faster than the older A7 and has an accompanying M8 motion processor. The iOS8 upgrade offers better synching to iPads and iMacs amongst other updates. The iOS8 will also work on iPhone 5s.
4. The new iPhone 6s now include 802.11ac Wi-Fi. This faster version of Wi-Fi operating in the 5 GHz band has been around for a while but not widely adopted. Many new 11ac access points have already been deployed and the Apple adoption should enable consumers to enjoy the faster download speeds that approach 1 Gb/s. Apple is also making it possible to use Wi-Fi voice offload to make calls if cellular coverage is poor. Some carriers are beginning to adopt this method (e.g. T-Mobile).
5. The latest iPhones also incorporate the latest in Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology including VoLTE. LTE, of course, is the 4G technology enabling high speed data applications over the cellular networks. This means boosting download speeds to 150 Mb/s under the right conditions and incorporating the new and unique 4G bands that each service provider uses. Apple supports up to 20 LTE bands, more than most manufacturers, meaning a greater number of potential LTE cell sites can be accommodated. As for voice over LTE (VoLTE), this improved voice technology is gradually being phased in at most of the carriers replacing the dominant 2G/3G voice technology now used.
6. The Apple Watch is another major product introduction. It is available in three basic forms, a standard watch, a sports model, and a fashion piece. All have multiple band choices allowing the user to customize the watch to their style and need. These watches come with a color touch screen and communicate with an iPhone 5 or iPhone 6 by Bluetooth. The Watches boast superior time keeping accuracy base of new technology. I was not able to determine what this technology is use but it may even use the wireless connection to NIST’s uber-accurate time station WWVB using the 60 kHz (yes, kHz) frequency. There are also a huge number of time display options to satisfy everyone. The watches respond to and can handle voice calls, texts and email. There are too many other features to describe here.
While I believe the new phones will do well, I am not sure how the Watch will sell. It is a high price to pay for what is essentially a peripheral to the iPhone. Samsung, Sony, Pebble, and others have been offering smartwatches for over a year, yet the watches have not been widely accepted by consumers. Those offering sports and fitness watches have been the most successful. Apple could suffer the same poor acceptance as the others or it could generate new interest in the smartwatch movement. We shall see if the Apple “magic” still works.
Other features worthy of note are the addition of a barometer to the iPhone 6 sensors. Cool feature. While camera resolutions remain at 8 Mpixels, the video camera can now achieve 240 frames per second to enable slow motion playback. Take a look at the Apple website to see even more details.
The new iPhone 6s will go on sale September 19th and will be available from Apple as well as the main carriers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. Prices are $199 for the iPhone 6 with a two year contract and $299 for the iPhone 6 Plus with a two year contract. Most carriers now offer unsubsidized installment payment plans in lieu of the two year contract. The Apple Watch will be available early next year for $349, a very high-end accessory.
Overall the latest announcements are very impressive and all of these new products should succeed as the Apple faithful upgrade and as others switch over.