We’ve heard for months that Apple was going to launch two new smartphones this fall, and today it did just that. The tech giant introduced the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus at a special event in Cupertino today, with both devices coming in larger than every previous iPhone.
As the litany of rumors suggested, the former will arrive with a 4.7-inch, 1334 x 750 display (that’s a pixel density of about 326 ppi, for those playing at home), while the latter will pit Apple directly against phablets like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with its 5.5-inch, 1080p panel. In company speak, both screens are being described as “Retina Display HD.” They aren’t the sapphire panels many rumors anticipated, though. Either way, the two devices mark a significant shift for the iPhone line, as Apple appears willing to adapt to growing thirst of big-screened phones that’s overtaken the Android and, to a lesser extent, Windows Phone markets.
Both devices borrow the usual iPhone design language for the most part, with the same singular home button (with Touch ID sensor) and all, but the angular edges of iPhones past have been rounded and smoothened out, and the power button has moved from the top to the side. Both handsets are impressively thin too: Apple says that the iPhone 6 measures 6.9mm along its side, while the iPhone 6 Plus is only slightly thicker at 7.1mm.
Internally, the two iPhones run on a new, 64-bit Apple A8 chipset. Apple says that the SoC gives the usual power and graphics boosts over last year’s model, and claims that it’s significantly more energy efficient as well. The chip’s graphical abilities looked fantastic during an on-stage game demo, but they always do, so we’ll hold off on any proclamations for now.
As far as battery life goes, Apple says that you can get 11 hours of video playback out of the iPhone 6, and 14 hours of video from the iPhone 6 Plus. Given the larger and higher-res displays on show here, it’ll be crucial to see whether those claims hold up.
On both phones, the A8 is joined by an updated Apple M8 coprocessor, which primarily serves to track motion and movements for fitness software and the like. Finally, there’ll be 16GB of storage on the two by default, with 64GB (not 32GB) and 128GB options also for $100 and $200 on top of the base prices.
Cameras are usually a prime focus for the iPhone series, but the updates this year are a little more subtle. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus both feature an 8-megapixel rear camera, which is the same resolution as the shooter on the iPhone 5s, with an f/2.2 aperture. Apple says it’s fit the two with faster autofocusing abilities, though, as well as a new imaging chip that is meant to improve color tones and reduce overall noise. You’ll also be able to capture 720p video at 240 frames per second, which is a whole lot and should help with slow-motion video.
The iPhone 6 Plus looks to have a leg up in this department, though: It supports optical image stabilization, which is designed to keep shots stabler from your shaky hands, while the iPhone 6 sticks with a digital solution. Finally, Apple says the front cameras on both phones have been upgraded too, with the ability to bring in more light for pictures in dimmer surroundings.
The handsets will both run on iOS 8, which we’ve known about since Apple introduced it at its WWDC conference this past June. The iPhone 6 Plus gets a few special features as part of the update, however; as the larger-screened phone, it’s able to go into landscape mode like a tinier iPad. It’s also equipped with a “Reachability” mode that lets you double tap the home button to move the contents of your display down to the lower half of the screen. That’s an interesting take on the inherent problem of phablets being difficult to use with one hand. Apple also says that iPhone apps will naturally scale up to fit the larger display, but we’ll have to wait and see how smooth that sort of transition will be. iOS 8 as a whole will roll out to every iPhone from the 4s up on September 17th.
Both devices are also loaded with connectivity features. A whopping 20 LTE bands are supported globally, as is VoLTE, which is still in rolling out process with the major US carriers but improves overall call quality. Wi-Fi calling support is also onboard.
Apple’s bigger focus, though, is on NFC. More specifically, it’s tapped into the NFC chips at the top of its phones to create its long-rumored mobile payments system, dubbed Apple Pay. Like the mobile wallets on other operating systems, it allows you to tie a credit card to your phone and use it to quickly make payments at participating stores (here enabled with a press of the home button). Apple says that Pay will support Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, and that the system will work at more than 22,000 retail stores in the US. The company heavily stressed that nobody but you will have access to your payment information, for whatever that’s worth. Pay will arrive in October as part of an iOS 8 update.
Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will ship on September 19th in the US, with pre-orders starting on the 12th. The iPhone 6 will start at $200 with a two-year contract, and the iPhone 6 Plus will go for $300 with the same plan. Last year’s iPhone 5s will drop to $100 with a contract as a result, while the iPhone 5c will now go for free with a two-year agreement.