Apple unveils new phones, watch

Updated: 2014-09-10 07:00

By ERIC JOU in Cupertino(China Daily USA)

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Technology giant Apple Computers announced at a press event in Cupertino, California today three new products: two new iterations of their iPhone smartphones, the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple's first foray into to the wearable market — the Apple Watch.

Describing it as the "the next chapter in Apple's story", Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced the Apple Watch to a standing ovation from invited guests and tech media.

"What we didn't do was take the iPhone and shrink it and strap it to your wrist," said Cook.

The new Apple Watch is a square screened device with a sapphire display that provides haptic, or skin-contact, feedback. The watch has sensors on its back to monitor heart rate. The focus of the watch — with so many health and fitness features built in — appears to be health oriented.

The new Apple Watches come in two sizes and three basic models: stainless steel, an aluminum-cased sport model and a high-end 18-karat gold version, all with a selection of interchangeable bands.

The watches, which require the use of an iPhone, support apps that include Chinese messaging app QQ messenger and micro-blogging app Sina Weibo.

The invitation-only event was held in the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino, a throwback to the venue where Apple first launched the Macintosh computer 30 years ago and the same stage where the iMac was launched.

"It is great to be back to the Flint Center, down the road from the Apple home center," said Cook. "We had some of the most important apple products on this stage"

In lieu of the normal announcements of updates happening in the Mac World, Cook moved directly into the meat of the conference, talking about the iPhone.

"Today we are launching the biggest advancement in the history of iPhone," he said. "I couldn't be more excited and more proud to show it to you now."

Apple senior vice-president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller took to the stage to introduce the new smartphones — the 4.7-inch screen iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch screen iPhone 6 Plus.

Both sport a myriad of technology upgrades, from faster WiFi to faster LTE cellular connections. Both phones will launch with the new iOS 8 operating system. (Software updates will go out to older iPhones (the 4S and later) on September 17.)

The new phones come with what Apple calls Retina HD, an upgrade to their current Retina display technology, the 6 supports up to 1 million pixels and the 6-plus up to 2 million pixels.

The new phones are also thinner. On the new 6 Plus, apps can be used in Horizontal views.

Previously, the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs made comments about bigger-sized phones having issues in terms of use, as in being difficult to use with one hand. Apple's move to bigger displays is seen as emulating what Android makers such as Samsung and HTC have already done.

Beyond the displays, Apple has put out a new 64-bit chip, the A8, the second generation, which promises to be 25 percent faster in CPU use and 50 percent better in graphics processing. This new processing power is supposedly better in terms of power use. The new iPhones will have better battery life than the iPhone 5S, the company says.

To show off the power of the new phone, Apple brought Super Evil Megacorp co-founder and chief creative officer Stephan Sherman on to the stage to show off their new Massive Online Battle Arena game VainGlory.

The new iPhone will make standard calls from Wifi to Cellular. Schiller said the technology allowed users to talk on Wifi and then transition seamlessly into cellular voice.

The upgrade to the iPhones' camera isn't much on paper, but Apple claims the new iPhone 6's have censors comparable to popular DSLR cameras. As for video, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will take 1080p video at 60 frames per-second and slo-mo videos at 240 fps. Apple has also included time-lapse functions.

Along with the new iPhones, Apple is pushing a new Apple Pay mobile payment system.

"It's so easy to lose your card or have it compromised, it's no wonder that people have dreamed of replacing these for years, but they've all failed," said Tim Cook. "We love this kind of problem, this is exactly what Apple does best, and so we created an entirely new payment process and we call it Apple Pay."

Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice-president of internet software and services, talked about the security of Apple Pay. Credit and debit cards uploaded to the iPhone are iPhone only. Credit card information isn't stored on the device.

"We're not in the business of collecting your data," said Cue.

Apple Pay comes with every iPhone 6 and 6plus and will start in the US with American Express, MasterCard and Visa.

Daniel Matte, an analyst with Canalys, said that Apple's announcement delivered what Apple needed to deliver and the Apple Watch stole the show.

"On the iPhone side, they delivered what they needed to," said Matte. "I think they're in a very competitive position, putting out two bigger sizes like what the market has been demanding."

Matte says that the 5.5-inch screen model will work well and appeal to a lot of people. His only concern is the supply. Matte says that despite China not being listed as one of the first countries for roll out, it still may be faster than previous iPhone launches. Matte says that Apple is focused on the China market.

In regards to the Apple Watch, Matte pointed out that this was the first major non-Steve Jobs product.

"I think the take away is that this is a new area of software, a new direction, a new user interface, a post Steve Jobs product," said Matte. "It'll take a lot of time to evaluate the software to see if it's something consumers will take to, but I do think that the price point and the cool factor — such as the software and the different functionalities — will appeal to a lot of customers and sales will be quite strong."

Apple's demo of the Apple Watch showed a few Chinese made applications. Matte says that this, plus Apple's push into China, shows that Apple is committed to the Chinese market.

The new iPhone 6 and 6 plus will go on sale in the US and Hong Kong among other countries for 199 for the 16gb with a 2 year contract and 299 for the 64gb. The 6 Plus will start at 299 with a two-year contract on September 19. Both come in silver, gold and black.

The Apple Watch will go on sale in early 2015 starting at $349.

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