Sep 10, 2014

iPhone 6 specs: Apple launches two super-slim phones

Apple has revealed detailed specs for two new handsets, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

There were few surprises last night as Apple unveiled two new phones – the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus – as well as its long awaited Apple Watch.

Images, video and detailed specs for the iPhone 6 had been so thoroughly leaked and widely discussed that Apple investors barely reacted to the event, sending the share price down by 0.38 per cent.

Among Apple fans – and the tech press assembled in California – there was no such disappointment.

"Apple's Tim Cook told the whooping crowds at the Flint Center in Cupertino that the new iPhone 6 is 'the most beautiful phone ever made'," writes Matt Warman in the Daily Telegraph. "I'm trying hard to be objective, but I think he’s right.

The iPhone 6 at a glance:

  • It will come in two screen sizes, 4.7 inches for the iPhone 6 and 5.5 inches for the iPhone 6 Plus. That compares with the four-inch screen of the iPhone 5S.
  • The frame of the iPhone 6 will be 6.9mm thick, and the iPhone 6 Plus 7.1mm thick.
  • The design is a departure from recent models, with rounded sides replacing the sharp-edged, flat-sided iPhone 5S.
  • The iPhone 6 screen resolution will be 1,334x750 pixels, which Apple describes as Retina HD; the iPhone 6 Plus will feature a full HD resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels
  • The screen will be protected by ion-strengthened glass (but not the much-discussed sapphire crystal)
  • The iPhone 6 has improved camera specs. Although the sensor remains at eight megapixels, a new focusing and exposure system should improve image quality. The iPhone 6 Plus also has optical image stabilisation.
  • Both models can take slow-motion video at 240 frames per second.
  • The larger screens will allow multi-tasking, allowing the user to see an email inbox and message at the same time, for example. The app dock can also be moved to the side of the screen, instead of the bottom.
  • As expected, the handsets will come a Health app that will integrate with Nike's fitness app.
  • They will also include a built-in barometer.
  • Both iPhones will be available from 19 September in the UK,
  • British prices are yet to be confirmed, but the Daily Telegraph says the iPhone 6 will cost £539 for the 16GB model, £619 for 64GB and £699 for 128GB.
  • The iPhone 6 Plus will cost £619 for the 16GB model, £699 for 64GB and £789 for 128GB, the paper says.

The revamped design met with near unanimous praise.

"The first thing I noticed was that it feels a lot thinner than the 5s and 5c, and its rounded edges suggest you're holding a very small iPad mini rather than a larger iPhone," writes Nate Lanxon, the editor of "The chassis has a satisfying curvature as the rear shell folds around to the front, and meets the glass of the display in a way that feels nearly seamless."

Lanxon is also impressed by the sharpness of the "Retina HD" screens on both phones, but particularly the larger model. "The 6 Plus's pixels are so tiny they're hard to see no matter how close you get your face," he says.

If the first reviewers had any complaints, they focused on the battery.

"Both iPhones will be powered a new A8 processor that is 25 per cent faster than the previous iPhone and 50 per cent more power efficient for increased battery life," The Guardian reports.

But on stage, Apple had only promised that battery life would be at least equal to its current models – which are frequently criticised for their lack of power reserves.

"Take your phone out for a busy day of GPSing, mobile browsing, texting on the go and whatnot, and you can drain an iPhone to zero in just a couple of hours," writes Forbes's Mark Rogowsky. And Apple "basically told the world that experience will be the same with the iPhone 6".

He blames the company for prioritising form over function, leaving limited room for the battery by cramming all the components into a slim frame with rounded edges.

Live: Apple launches iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

9 September

7.20pm: Tim Cook returns to the stage to walk us through the next revelation of the evening, the Apple Watch.

6.55pm: Apple confirms that it will be introducing a payments system that will work in 220,000 locations around the world including, naturally, Apple Stores. The system works in partnership with American Express, Mastercard and Visa, and allows users to pay for goods by holding the iPhone 6 against a reader, as if it were a contactless payment card. Transactions are authorised using the phone's fingerprint reader. "Cashiers don't see your name, your card number or your security code," Forbes reports.

6.30pm: In a flurry of superlatives, the Apple demonstrator says the iPhone 6 will be larger, thinner and faster than its predecessor. But the promise on battery life - that it will be equal or better - dashes hopes of a big leap forward on that front.

6.15pm: The Daily Telegraph reports that "these phones are thinner than anything Apple has ever made: 6.9 mm"

6.10pm: Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, arrives on stage a little late, but he breaks with company tradition and goes straight to the big news: Apple is launching two new phones, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Cook's predecessor, Steve Jobs, always started with routine announcements and saved the biggest unveiling until last.

iPhone 6: what to expect

As the world's technology press descends on Cupertino, California, for the launch of the iPhone 6, the Apple rumour mill has gone into overdrive. In the year since the relatively low-key launch of the iPhone 5S and 5C, rumours have come and gone about the new specs and features likely to find their way into its successor.

While some of it seems to be based on wishful thinking, much is likely to prove well founded. Here is our round-up of the most frequently discussed iPhone 6 specs, and how likely they are to make it into production.

iPhone 6 launch date: Analysts are expecting two versions of the iPhone 6, but it is unclear whether both will make an appearance tonight. It'll be a huge surprise if Apple doesn't produce a 4.7-inch device, but some analysts also expect to see a larger, 5.5-inch handset. Others think that the bigger iPhone 6 will not appear until later in the year. It's also unclear when the new phones will go on sale, but 19 September is the date most frequently predicted.

iPayments: Recent reports suggest that Apple is working on a mobile payments system that will be unveiled alongside the iPhone 6 on 9 September. "Apple has reached an agreement with American Express to work together on its new iPhone payments system," Re/code reported, and Bloomberg later added that Visa and Mastercard have also signed up. The system is likely to use near field communication (NFC) technology, which transfers data to be transferred between a device and a reader when the two are held against each other. The iPhone 6 would therefore work in the same way as the contactless debit and credit cards which have recently entered circulation.

Sapphire crystal: the use of sapphire crystal (also known as sapphire glass) for the iPhone 6 screen has been one of the most persistent rumours about the new handset. Apple is known to have invested heavily in the super-strong manmade material, which is resistant to scratching and bending, but recent reports suggest that it has been having trouble making it in sufficient quantities – and at sufficiently low costs – to furnish an iPhone production run of 100 million units or more. The Guardian recently suggested that Apple may end up using a blend of glass and sapphire crystal.

A Liquidmetal shell: As Apple strives to make the new handset as slim and strong as possible, some commentators have speculated that it may turn to Liquidmetal, an alloy that's stronger than aluminium. In theory that would mean the handset could be lighter and slimmer without skimping on strength or build quality, but in practice it seems unlikely. Although one of the inventors of Liquidmetal predicted two years ago that Liquidmetal cases would be possible by mid-2014, its use has so far been limited to small components.

Liquidmetal components: This is much more likely. Documents published by Apple-watching website MacRumors, suggest that the alloy could be used in buttons and switches in order to toughen up what have often proved to be weak points on previous iPhones.

Aluminium frame: Although Liquidmetal may be off the cards, most of the leaked images and technical drawings suggest that Apple will adopt an all-metal rear frame for the iPhone 6. Previous iPhones have made either extensive or decorative uses of glass, but this year's preview shots appear to show a rear panel fashioned entirely from aluminium – with a cut-out for the Apple logo.

Super-slim frame: Whatever it's made from, most commentators expect the iPhone 6 to be noticeably slimmer than its already svelte predecessor. A few months ago some were predicting a depth of just 6mm, but specs supposedly leaked by Amazon in recent weeks suggest we can look forward to a 7mm iPhone. The slender dimensions are apparently causing problems for component-makers: the difficulty of making a battery that's just 2mm thick has reportedly led to production delays.

A8 chip: Concerted speculation that the new device would include a revamped processor has been "confirmed" by Venturebeat. "The A8 will run at a frequency of 2.0 GHz per core and will create noticeably faster response time and graphics rendering in the new phones," its source says. "By comparison, the A7 chips in the iPhone 5 run at only 1.3GHz per core." Even if those details prove wide of the mark, a newer, speedier chip is a safe bet: Apple is unlikely to build an all-new phone around old technology.

13-megapixel camera: There has been comparatively little speculation about the iPhone 6 camera, but tentative reports out today suggest that Apple may build in a 13-megapixels sensor capable of recording high-resolution 4K video. "Apple is well-known for investing millions into its camera sensor, though the company has always refrained from entering the megapixel count race because adding more megapixels tend to have an negative effect on the low-light performance," Tech Times says. But the website sounds a note of caution: "The original source comes from a Chinese web forum, which may not be the best place to find legitimate iPhone 6 leaked information."

Optical image stabilisation: MacRumors says the bigger of the two iPhone 6 models "may include camera improvements in the form of optical image stabilisation with modules produced by sensor company InvenSense". Camera performance is becoming increasingly important at the top end of the smartphone market, and analysts suggest that optical stabilisation, which reduces image blur, could help to justify a larger price tag for the 5.5-inch iPhone 6.

A curved screen: At the end of last year Bloomberg carried a report predicting the next iPhone models would have screens that curved down at the edges. Curved screens are said to be more durable, more comfortable to use, and better suited to watching videos and playing games, according to Sky News. This would be a bold move for Apple, which usually likes to stand back and see how other phone-makers fare with new, risky technologies – and more recently a source told The Wall Street Journal that Apple has no plans to make use of curved glass. However, despite all the leaked images apparently showing the iPhone 6 with a flat screen, rumours of curved glass have resurfaced, most recently in the Daily Mirror.

Quantum dots: This is probably a technology for future handsets, not the iPhone 6. Patent filings suggest Apple is experimenting with tiny crystal semiconductors just a few thousandths of a millimetre across, which could improve the colour and sharpness of mobile screens. "The techniques Apple describes would let its screens not only show colours more accurately," Business Insider says, "but also show a wider gamut of colours." The publication had predicted in March that the quantum-dot screen may be ready this year, but no further reports of the technology have emerged.

Battery life: Mixed signals have emerged about the iPhone 6 battery life. On the positive side, analysts have pointed to iOS 8, Apple's new operating system, and its new A8 processor as evidence that the company is paying more attention to power consumption. The chip, says "adds significant performance and efficiency enhancements in order to improve the iPhone’s battery life". On the other hand, more recent reports suggest that the slim frame of the new phone has forced Apple to adopt a battery that is just 2mm thick. Taiwanese sources suggest that the new battery has a "similar capacity" to its predecessor, which may dash hopes of significantly improved performance.

Eye-tracking: Some rumours suggested that the iPhone 5S would be eye-controlled, allowing users to scroll through pages without touching the device. When the technology failed to materialise in the last model, hopeful observers shifted their attention to the iPhone 6.

NFC: Another long-predicted feature, Near Field Communication or NFC would allow the phone to act as a payment system. Users would wave their handsets over a receiver to transfer money in shops and restaurants, or between friends. Several Android and Windows Phone devices already support NFC payments, but Apple has yet to make the leap.

Health monitors and apps: Apple has already unveiled its new operating system, iOS 8, and what we've seen so far suggests that Apple is turning its attention to health and fitness. Smartphone accessories such as the Fitbit and FuelBand have proven the demand for health-monitoring devices, and reports suggest that the iPhone 6 will be able to keep track of its owners pulse and body temperature, as well as other metrics. These features may work in conjunction with the long-awaited Apple iWatch.

Price: Financial analysts suggest that the iPhone 6 will be more expensive than its predecessors, in part because of the cost of new components, and in part to re-establish the profit margin eroded by last year's upgrade. When Amazon Japan apparently leaked details of the new device last month, the price, which was the equivalent of £100 higher than a similar iPhone 5S model, took many commentators by surprise. It's unclear whether the leak reflected genuine pricing information, or even if it was a way for Apple to test reaction to a price rise.

Production run: After relatively minor iPhone upgrades last year, analysts expect this year's more substantial changes to create unprecedented demand. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple "is asking suppliers to manufacture between 70 million and 80 million units combined of two large-screen iPhones with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays by Dec. 30". That's substantially more than the 50 to 60 million iPhone 5S and 5C production run last year, and a huge leap from the 35.2 million iPhones sold in the three months to June.

iPhone 6: battery life hopes rise on launch day

With Apple expected to unveil the iPhone 6 today, hopes are rising that the new model will offer substantially improved battery life.

Super-tough screens, integrated payment systems and a range of health-monitoring apps have all been predicted for the new handset, but potential customers may be just as pleased that Apple is working on something more fundamental – a battery that lasts.

Analysts anticipate that the iPhone 6 will come in two sizes – one, with a 4.7-inch screen that will be available within days, and another, with a 5.5-inch screen, which may not go on sale until later in the year.

Owners of existing iPhone often complain that their devices barely make it through the day without needing a recharge.

It's a problem that affects all smartphones to some extent. Phone-makers say customers demand light, slim phones that limit battery size and capacity – as well as big screens and powerful processors, which drain power quickly. By contrast, the simpler, stouter phones available a decade ago could go as long as a week in between charges.

The current iPhone, with its small four-inch screen and slim frame, has less room for its battery than most of its competitors. Unlike Android phones, it also provides no way to see which apps are sapping power, so that users can switch them off to conserve battery life.

Evidence emerged earlier in the summer that iOS8, the new operating system that will debut with the iPhone 6, will give Apple owners that option for the first time.

"A presentation slide shown during the tech giant’s Worldwide Developer Conference revealed the next-generation software will monitor battery usage by app," the Daily Mail reports.

"By monitoring which apps use the most power, Apple users will be able to keep a closer eye on their battery life and know which services to close, in order to extend it."

Previously had reported that the iPhone 6's new processor, known as the A8, will also help to extend the life of the battery.

"Sources say that Apple has developed a new A8 system-on-a-chip for the next iPhone that focuses on marginal speed improvements rather than core architectural changes, but adds significant performance and efficiency enhancements in order to improve the iPhone’s battery life," the website reported.

More recently, leaked specification for the iPhone 6 suggest that both models will feature improved battery capacity, which is measured in milliamp-hours (mAh).

"A capacity of 2,915 mAh [for the 5.5-inch model] would be much greater than that of the 1,560 mAh battery found on the iPhone 5s and the rumored 1,810 mAh battery said to be included on the 4.7-inch iPhone 6," Macrumors reports.

Apple-watchers responded enthusiastically to the report. Daniel Sparks, writing for the financial website Motley Fool, said: "As both an Apple customer and an investor, I hope the company can deliver this rumoured 2,915 mAh battery, as well a cutting-edge innovation in battery conservation, which could finally serve up some true all-day battery life."

But he warned that an 1,810 mAh battery for the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 would come as a "major disappointment" and would leave Apple lagging behind its rivals – and iPhone users scanning the room for a power cable.

iPhone 6: why Apple's new phone may disappoint

Analysts have warned that the iPhone 6 may fail to live up to its pre-launch hype when the new phone is finally unveiled on Tuesday.

Expectations have been running at fever pitch and Apple shares reached a record high two weeks, as Apple investors looked forward to the launch of a substantially updated handset. However, they fell shatply last week and closed on Friday below the psychologically important $100 mark, which they had breached in mid August.

The iPhone 6 is expected to include a faster processor, slimmer frame, larger display and more scratch-resistant screen – as well as a slick new design. Demand is expected to be high and Apple is believed to be gearing up for a record production run of 70 to 80 million units by the end of the year.

But analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray says that early sales of the iPhone 6 may compare unfavourably with those of its predecessors.

"In the near term, we caution that there will likely be noise in the opening weekend iPhone 6 sales numbers," he said, according to Business Insider.

His reasoning is that last year Apple launched two new iPhones, the 5S and 5C, and immediately took the previous model off sale. Between them, the two new models sold nine million units in three days.

Munster predicts that the iPhone 6 will sell 6.5m units in its first three days on the shelves – more than the 5.4m 5S phones sold in the same period last year, but significantly down on the combined figures for both new phones.

Apple is eventually expected to bring out two versions of the iPhone 6, but most commentators now expect to see only a 4.7-inch version of the device at the launch event on 9 September.

A larger model, possibly with a 5.5-inch screen is predicted for later this year.

After peaking at $103.30 on Tuesday, Apple shares have fallen sharply in recent days, recording a 4 per cent drop yesterday.

"Just days before the launch of a new iPhone, Apple shares had their worst day since January," the Daily Mail reports, "with one brokerage warning of a stock downgrade unless its new products show better promise for profit growth."

An analyst from Pacific Crest Securities advised investors to sell Apple shares and bank their gains "unless next week's event details massive incremental profit opportunities" – in other words exciting new products.

But most analysts remain bullish about Apple. Even Munster predicts that the company will rebound from unflattering sales figures and short-term profit-taking.

These factors "may prove to be a speed bump to shares," he says, but "we expect additional product launches and the platform theme to move shares higher through year-end."

Regardless of any misgivings in the financial markets, grassroots excitement about the iPhone 6 shows no sign of abating. Yesterday queues had already begun to form outside the flagship Apple store in New York, even though the phone is unlikely to go on sale until at least 19 September.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australian iPhone enthusiasts have been engaging the services of "professional queuers" to stand in line for the new device.

"By Friday, the number of ads looking for professional queuers at online tasks marketplace Airtasker had soared, along with the premium, with some consumers advertisers offering [Aus]$200 for the privilege," the paper reports.

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