If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen what Apple unveiled at its special event, you missed quite a lot. If you did see what came from Cupertino this week, but want to know what exactly it means for mobile going forward, then we’ve got you covered!
Apple unveiled three new major products in its Keynote on Tuesday: the new line of iPhone 6 models, the long-anticipated Apple Watch and Apple Pay, a mobile commerce solution. After months of predictions, leaks and more, our patience was rewarded. Let’s take a look one-by-one at the different products apple demoed.
We all knew this would be the biggest announcement of the day, but that turned out to be true in more ways than one. Apple unveiled two new iPhone options, dubbed appropriately the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. The most notable change is the screen size of the devices. While the 5S had a 4-inch diagonal, the 6 will have a 4.7-inch diagonal and the 6 Plus a whopping 5.5 inches. Larger smart phones have been growing in popularity, especially with Android users up to this point, and it’s not surprising to see Apple follow this trend. While 0.7 inches seems like a big jump, 4 inches has just become tiny for a smartphone.
Even the Samsung Galaxy S5 mini is 4.5 inches. The screens will also have far higher resolution. The 6 Plus will have a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels at 401 ppi, compared to the 1136 x 640m 326-ppi resolution found on last year’s iPhone 5S and 5C. While the LG G3 has higher resolution and pixel density at 2560×1440 and 534 (which is borderline unnecessary) respectively, the 6 Plus is near the top in terms of display quality. One really nice display feature will be the dual domain pixels, which allow for a much higher viewing angle. The extra size adds around 17 g, but both the 6 and its larger counterpart are more than half a millimeter thinner than the 5S.
So what does this mean for iPhone users? Well for one, the bigger screen means easier media consumption, something the iPhone already did well by all accounts. For Apple, this could very well mean more seniors becoming comfortable buying iPhones, something that rival Samsung has pushed for since the S5 with their “Easy Mode,” which is basically a stripped down interface with bigger text and buttons. For developers, this means rethinking the way iOS apps are designed. As has been the case with Android, the larger screen size means that buttons that sit high up on the screen will be difficult for many users to reach with one hand.
Multiple screen sizes has been a challenge in both web and Android for some time now, so iOS developers may well be beneficiaries of established design norms. And really, more than the things we’ve already mentioned, that’s the key takeaway here. Survey after survey has shown that users like big screens, and Android OEMs have been catering to that for quite some time. For Apple, the 6 and 6 Plus mean not only bridging that gap but also leapfrogging most Android phones out there because of the extra resolution.
We all knew there was a very high chance that we would see the long anticipated Apple Watch this week, and we were not disappointed. We’ve talked a lot about how wearable tech is poised to change mobile, and the thing that has stood in the way thus far has been a lack of involvement from the largest tech companies. Well, in the last 3 months that has changed big time. The Apple Watch now joins Google’s Android Wear watches as the next big things in wearable tech. While it is relatively unknown how the Watch will be received when it is released in early 2015, it is clear that Apple executives think that it is a big step for Apple.
Introduced with the world-famous “One More Thing” slide, the giddiness of Tim Cook & Co. was tangible as they walked through the features of the watch they believe is a home run for the company. Apple will offer two Watch size variants: a 38mm and a 42mm. There are also three distinct styles available: the standard Watch, the athletic-geared Watch Sport, and the high-end Watch Edition. Beyond those three umbrellas are many design choices users can make, from the type of metal surrounding the face to the strap, and of course to the watch face itself.
While the design is simple and true to Apple’s DNA, the Watch has already caught criticism for being considered less beautiful than the Moto 360, which went on sale last week. Many were expecting a round face to rival that of the de facto Android Wear front-runner, but the Watch opted for a square face with round edges that stay consistent with the look and feel of the new iPhones. Another point of contention is the $349 price tag the Watch will carry, about $100 more than its Wear rivals.
What no one is complaining about is the software that will be run on the Watch. Based on the demos given during the keynote, the Apple Watch looks to be more sophisticated in functionality than Android Wear. For one, users can access apps directly from the watch. While they are not laid out in the grid pattern iOS users will know and love, the user-arranged cloud-like shape of apps displayed on the face already makes it more accessible than Wear, which facilitates app access through either incoming notifications, voice activation (which for some situations is simply impractical), or a far-too-long list of steps to access the functionality of Wear-enabled apps.
Not only are the apps more easily accessible, they will likely be far more functional, as the Watch will run full blown applications, not strictly extended from the iPhone. That means developers will be able to build apps for the Watch that mirror user experiences on the iPhone, as opposed to the basic notification-hub model that Wear uses.
Users can navigate and zoom using the watch crown, the dial used on traditional watches for adjusting the time. Users also interact with long presses, which up to this point have been far more associated with Android than iOS. One cool functionality of the Watch is that it will measure the pressure of touches on the screen. While it remains to be seen how developers will utilize this feature and how users will acclimate to it, it’s a nifty wrinkle in the traditional way we have navigated and interacted with our mobile devices.
As to be expected with any wearable tech product, the Watch also comes with an array of sensors, the most significant of which is the heart-rate monitor. The Watch will still rely on the phone for internet access, GPS, and a host of other signals from the outside world, but hopefully this will keep the battery usage to a relative minimum. Battery life is one way in which the Watch could significantly outdo the competition, which typically last for a day with any amount of significant usage.
The Watch is a big step for Apple, and one that could revolutionize the way developers view the wearable revolution as a whole. While we talked a lot about the competition between Android Wear and the new Watch, they are really only extensions of their respective platforms. It is most likely that users will still choose their platform based on the features of the platform as a whole and possibly the phones, far before they turn to the wearable offerings. Still, this is a big win for iOS users, and a big win for Apple.
Mutual Mobile has been vocal in claiming that mobile payments would take off in 2014 and it looks like that might have been an understatement. While not the biggest announcement of the week, by far the most disruptive was that of Apple Pay, a contactless payment technology coming to the new iPhones in October. To many peoples’ joy, Apple announced the integration of NFC into its new phones, which will allow for easy check out at 220,000 stores, according to Apple. This is surely the very beginning, however, as most retailers are sure to jump on board moving forward.
In addition, the use of Apple’s Touch ID will allow for built-in security. While it is unlikely to receive the hype of the new phones or Watch, Apple Pay will fundamentally change the way commerce is done. Visa, MasterCard, and American Express have all signed on to the initiative, as well as Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Citi, and Wells Fargo. All of these companies already have a robust mobile presence, so the transition is likely to be relatively seamless.
A big knock on Apple as of late is that they haven’t been “innovative” enough. While that’s a debate for another article, it is hard to look at the announcements of this week and deny that Apple is at least still disrupting. Even if they are leveling with Android in a lot of ways, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus look to be exactly what the company needed to shake up its offering and keep its user base happy. The Apple Watch is flat out more functional than what is available today. And Apple Pay is going to change way more about the way we interact with money than anything we have seen in that space in a long long time. It is an exciting time for mobile, wearables, and mobile payments, and we can’t wait for these products to roll out.
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