Apple held a massive press event today, where it unveiled a quartet of important new products. While a ton of people tuned in to watch the live stream of the keynote from the Flint Center in Cupertino, there was a lot to digest.
So in the event you were too busy to catch it all, here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about today’s announcement:
iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
Tim Cook opened the show with a wholly expected announcement: Apple will be launching two new iPhones this month, named the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus.
For the most part, it’s standard fare for one of Apple’s numbered iPhone releases: the updated phones sport bigger screens, better cameras, faster internals, and a thinner outer shell.
The iPhone 6 sports a 4.7-inch screen, while the 6 Plus features a massive 5.5-inch display. Apple is calling both “Retina HD” displays to differentiate them from the comparatively smaller 4-inch display on the iPhone 5S and 5C.
In addition, the iPhone 6’s front and rear cameras have both gotten improvements. The rear-facing camera now features a new sensor with a Focus Pixels feature for faster autofocus, while the front-facing camera sports a new sensor with support for burst mode and a f/2.2 aperture for improved low-light performance.
Apple took some of the the added space available in the iPhone 6 Plus’s body and added an optical image stabilization system that reduces shake by moving the phone’s camera sensor.
The iPhone 6’s other internals also got a boost, with a new A8 processor that’s 80 times faster than the one packed into the original iPhone, and a M8 motion co-processor that comes with a barometer built in to measure altitude gain.
Both phone models will come pre-loaded with iOS 8, the newest major release of Apple’s mobile operating system that was first introduced at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June.
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will be available for pre-order on Friday, and will go on sale on September 19. The iPhone 6 will cost $199 for a 16 GB model on a standard two-year contract, with 64 GB model that costs $299, and a 128 GB model that costs $399. A 16 GB 6 Plus will cost $299, with 64 and 128 GB models costing $399 and $499, respectively.
iOS 8 will be released on September 17.
If Apple has its way, people will be able to start kissing their wallets goodbye, thanks to a new mobile payments system called Apple Pay. It uses Near-Field Communications (NFC) to connect with a retailer’s point-of-sale system and facilitate the transfer of funds. It’s designed to be both easier and more secure than a traditional credit card transaction. Users just need to tap their device on a compatible reader, and they’ll be able to pay.
One of the things that sets Apple Pay apart from other payment methods is that the retailer doesn’t get access to your personal information. Companies won’t see users’ names, credit card numbers or security codes, which should help reduce the potential for fraud.
For Apple’s part, the company won’t be collecting users’ purchase history, so people won’t have to worry about the company snooping on their buying habits. The system also doesn’t store credit card numbers on a user’s device, but instead keeps a unique Device Account Number on a special Secure Element chip.
At first, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will be the only devices to support it, but the Apple Watch will also have the requisite hardware when it launches, which will allow older iPhone users to also take advantage of the tech.
Apple Pay will launch in October for physical retail locations and apps downloaded through the App Store.
Everyone was waiting for it, and here it is: as the name suggests, the Apple Watch is the company’s foray into the smartwatch market, and it’s a big one. The watch features a square face, and pairs with a user’s iPhone.
The watch comes in three different styles – steel, aluminum and gold – along with a whole host of easily interchangeable bands so that users can customize the look of their watch for different situations.
It also comes in two sizes for people with smaller and larger wrists. That’s a key point, since one of the complaints I’ve frequently seen about smartwatches from the women in my Twitter timeline is that they seem too large to look good.
One of the major differences between the Apple Watch and other smartwatches is the use of what it calls the “digital crown,” a rotating button on the side of the watch that will allow users to scroll through content without blocking their view of what’s on the screen.
Alongside the digital crown, users will also be able to control the phone using a force-sensitive touchscreen that will not only register when a user presses down on it, but how hard they are pressing down. The difference between those two presses will equate to different functions on the watch, depending on what app someone is using.
The Apple Watch comes packed with the seemingly requisite fitness tracking sensors, including an accelerometer, gyroscope and heart rate monitor. Users can view information from the sensors on their watch’s screen, as well as through their iPhone’s Health app, which will be launching with iOS 8.
It also supports NFC for Apple Pay, which means that people buying things from merchants who support the company’s mobile payment platform won’t even have to fish their phone out of their pocket to check out.
At launch, the Apple Watch will come preloaded with a number of apps including Maps and a remote control for an iPhone camera. Third-party developers will also be able to create apps for the device using WatchKit, a new framework built for the watch.
However, people who want to pick it up will have to wait: the Apple Watch won’t be released until early 2015. On the bright side, the watch is compatible with the iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 6 and 6 Plus.
All told, it’s been a big day for Apple, and consumers are going to have some interesting purchasing decisions to mull over for the weeks and months to come. The Cupertino-based company still has some tricks up its sleeve – it hasn’t unveiled new iPads yet, and has yet to announce a release date for OS X Yosemite, which was unveiled in June.