Apple overnight unveiled two new iPhones, the 6 and the 6 Plus, and previewed the Watch, a new wearable available in three models that will compete with previously launched smartwatches and fitness devices.
Here is a brief synopsis of Apple’s new gadgets along with some commentary:
The new Apple iPhone 6 is the latest iteration of the California company’s flagship device. It has a 4.7-inch Retina HD display (1,334 x 750), making it 38 per cent bigger than the iPhone 5s screen. It will be available in gold, silver and space grey. The iPhone 6 is RRP $869 for 16GB, RRP $999 for 64GB and RRP $1,129 for 128GB. It will launch through Apple Retail Stores, authorised resellers and carrier partners on Friday 19 September 2014.
Packed with innovative new technologies, iPhone 6 includes: the Apple-designed A8 chip with second generation 64-bit desktop-class architecture for blazing fast performance and power efficiency; advanced iSight and FaceTime HD cameras; ultrafast wireless technologies; and Apple Pay, an easier way to simply and securely make payments with just the touch of a finger. [This] model includes iOS 8, the latest version of the world’s most advanced mobile operating system, featuring a simpler, faster and more intuitive user experience with new Messages and Photos features, QuickType keyboard, a new Health app, Family Sharing and iCloud Drive.
Apple’s response to the phablet craze is the iPhone 6 Plus, a 5.5-inch handset with a Retina HD display but no stylus. This size display is a new frontier for Apple and it will be interesting to see if app developers make products specifically for this screen size of if there will be stretching, like when you use an iPhone app on an iPad or pretty much use any Android app. This iPhone has all the same features includes in the above iPhone 6 quotation and appears to be differentiated only by size. This is quite a different strategy to Samsung, which has created a wholly different sub-brand for its phablets — Note — and is using the extra screen size and stylus compatibility to introduce new functionality to the device. The only major advantage from a usability point of view — save the larger screen, which no doubt has appeal — is a better camera.
The iPhone 6 Plus will be available in gold, silver and space grey for RRP $999 (16GB), RRP $1,129 (64GB) and RRP $1,249 (128GB). These handsets will go on sale on Friday 19 September 2014.
The iSight camera gets even better with a new sensor featuring Focus Pixels for faster autofocus, making it easier to quickly capture any moment. iPhone 6 Plus users will also benefit from optical image stabilisation technology that compensates for hand shake in low light and works with iOS 8 to reduce subject motion. High-definition video on iPhone improves with faster frame rates up to 60 frames/second for 1080p video and 240 frames/second for slo-mo, as well as continuous autofocus, cinematic video stabilisation and time-lapse video.
Smartphone analyst Telsyte today speculated that Apple will sell 1.5 million units of iPhones in Australia by the end of 2014. That equates to around 100,000 per week and is highly dependent on stock availability.
Telsyte further predicts that phablet-sized smartphones, those with displays 5.5 inches and above, will make up 20 per cent of the overall smartphone market by the end of 2016. The biggest barrier to take-up, Telsyte said, would be Apple’s very high pricing:
“In today’s world of sub-$300 smartphones, the biggest challenge might be Apple’s local pricing,” Telsyte said. “Of the new iPhone 6 configurations, only the iPhone 6 16GB comes in below $999. This might impact demand, particularly for outright purchases.
“Apple might be creating a new ‘luxury’ category — or maybe “ultra-premium” — given it is going against overall industry downward pricing trends.
“High purchase prices also increase the importance of contracts and MRO (mobile repayment option) payment plans, likely to be a key strategy of the carriers to lure customers, amongst other incentives.”
Regarding the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus’ availability, Virgin Mobile today said:
Virgin Mobile today announced it will offer iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the biggest advancements in iPhone history, beginning September 19. Customers may pre-register interest today at http://www.virginmobile.com.au/register-news.
Vodafone chipped in with this update:
Vodafone today announced it will offer iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the biggest advancements in iPhone history, beginning 19 September 2014. Customers may pre-register interest today at www.vodafone.com.au/personal/start-the-buzz.
And here comes Telstra:
Telstra today confirmed it will offer iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the biggest advancements in iPhone history, beginning 19 September. Customers may pre-register their interest today at www.telstra.com/iphone.
Due to be released “in early 2015” and starting at US $349 (AU ~$380), Apple’s three Watches are compatible with all iPhones from the 5 up, provided they are running the new iOS 8 operating system. All three models come in 38- and 42-millimetre sizes and are targeted at distinctly different groups: the everyday user, the active iWearer and the design conscious. Considering the cheapest, smallest model is priced towards high end of this nascent market — Samsung’s Gear S is expected to cost around $400 in Australia — Apple will firmly establish itself as the price leader when this model is finally rolled out.
Taking advantage of its location on your wrist, Apple Watch provides timely information that can be viewed at a glance. Smart Replies and dictation let you respond quickly to messages, and with Handoff, you can start a message on your Apple Watch and continue where you left off on your iPhone. Swipe up from the watch face for Glances that quickly show you information you care about, such as your current location, stocks or your next meeting. Pressing the side button brings up Friends, a view of your favourite people, so you can contact them quickly and easily. Digital Touch allows you to send a sketch, a gentle tap, an audio message through Walkie Talkie or even your own heartbeat.
Watch comes across as a clasically Apple device: best featured, best looking, most expensive and last to market. Launching it so far out from its actual release, however, is very unApple and it comes across as a last-ditch attempt to stop consumers defecting to the already-available Android Wear alternatives. This is uncharacteristically desperate of Apple, who normally play their own game instead of reacting to rivals, but then you read about how U2 has become their nominal spokes-snorers and suddenly it all makes sense.
This author is on Twitter: @Patrickavenell