Business & Economy

Apple's next big thing: Apple Watch, iPhone 6, ApplePay — worth the hype?

Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the new Apple Watch on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif.
Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the new Apple Watch on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the new Apple Watch on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif.
Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller announces the new iPhone 6 during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on September 9, 2014 in Cupertino, California. Apple unveiled the two new iPhones the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the new Apple Watch on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif.
Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, discusses the camera features on the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif.
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP
Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the new Apple Watch on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif.
Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller announces the new iPhone 6 during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on September 9, 2014 in Cupertino, California. Apple unveiled the two new iPhones the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the new Apple Watch on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif.
Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller talks about the new iPhone 6 during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on September 9, 2014 in Cupertino, California. Apple unveiled the two new iPhones the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images


Newly unveiled | Worth the hype?

Updated 11:39 a.m.: Apple Watch revealed

Apple on Tuesday revealed its entry into the wearable computers market with the Apple Watch, a customizable timepiece that includes communication, health and fitness features.

Also introduced at its highly anticipated event was a new feature of the iPhone series called Apple Pay, which creates a one-tap payment system by tying into major payment networks American Express, MasterCard and Visa. The company claims that using Apple Pay will be more secure than keeping credit and debit cards in your wallet.

Earlier in the event, Apple revealed a sleeker, slimmer iPhone 6, along with a larger model, the iPhone 6 Plus, which will be priced at $199 and $299 respectively.

The two phones will be available with three storage options: 16GB, 64GB and 128GB. Each of the larger capacities add an additional $100 to the price tag.

Here's more from the Associated Press on each new announcement:

A SMARTWATCH

The audience erupted with cheers as Cook proclaimed that he had, "one more thing." It was how Jobs used to close his keynote addresses.

That one more thing was Apple's smartwatch. It's called the Apple Watch, rather than the iWatch that many people had been speculating.

Cook says Apple had to invent a new interface because simply shrinking a phone wouldn't work.

Much of the interaction would be through the dial on the watch. You use that to zoom in and out of a map, for instance, so you're not blocking the screen, which would have occurred if you were pinching in and out to zoom.

LARGER iPHONES

Now, Apple is increasing that. The iPhone 6 will have a 4.7-inch screen, while the iPhone 6 Plus will be 5.5 inches. The screen resolution on the Plus version will be sharper than previous iPhones, at 401 pixels per inch rather than 326.

With the larger screen comes a new horizontal view of the home screen. Usually, icons are stacked vertically, even when the phone is turned horizontally. App developers will also have new tools to rearrange their content to take advantage of that larger screen.

The new phones aren't as big as Samsung's latest flagship phones — 5.1 inches for the Galaxy S5 and 5.7 inches for the Note 4 — but they will be large enough to neutralize a key advantage Samsung and other Android manufacturers have had.

Notably, Samsung's Note phone isn't getting bigger this year. Last year's Note 3 was 5.7 inches. Instead, Samsung is emphasizing other hardware features, such as a sharper screen. It's also releasing a model with a curved edge to display weather, time and other information on the side of the phone.

Apple says the new phones will be faster and have better battery life than previous versions. The phones will also have a new sensor, the barometer, to estimate how much you've climbed stairs, not just how far you've walked or run.

Of course, some people still use their phones to actually make calls. When there's poor cellular reception, people will be able to make regular calls over Wi-Fi. The handoff between the two networks will be seamless. In the U.S., this feature will initially be available through T-Mobile.

The resolution on the camera is staying at 8 megapixels, while rival Android and Windows phones have been boosting that. The S5, for instance, is at 16 megapixels. However, the megapixel count is only one factor in what makes a good photo. Apple says it is putting in new sensors for better shots.

Apple is also improving a slow-motion video feature by allowing even slower shots. The camera will be able to take 240 frames per second, double what's in last year's iPhone 5s. Normally, video is at 60 frames per second.

The new phones will start shipping in the U.S. on Sept. 19, with advance orders to begin this Friday. Starting prices will be comparable to those in the past — $199 with a two-year contract for the iPhone 6 with 16 gigabytes of storage.

However, the step-up models will have double the memory than before — $299 for 64 gigabytes and $399 for 128 gigabytes. The iPhone 6 Plus phones will cost $100 more at each configuration.

MOBILE PAYMENTS

Apple is calling its new payment system Apple Pay.

You'll be able to use your phone's camera to capture a photo of your card. Apple will verify it behind the scenes and add it to your phone's Passbook account so you can make payments at a retailer. Apple announced several merchants that will accept this system, including Macy's, Whole Foods, Walgreens and Disney stores — and of course, Apple stores.

Many companies have tried to push mobile payment services, but none has caught on widely. Cook says that's because the business models have been centered around companies' self-interest instead of the user experience. The latter, Cook says, is "exactly what Apple does best."

For security, the card number is stored only on the device. Each time you pay, a one-time card number is created to make the transaction.

NEW SOFTWARE

Though much of the attention has been on new gadgets, the software powering those gadgets is getting its annual refresh. Apple considers iOS 8 to be its biggest update since the introduction of the app store in 2008.

Existing iPhone and iPad users will be eligible for the free upgrade, too. Apple takes pride in pushing existing customers to the latest software, allowing app developers to incorporate new features without worrying about abandoning existing users. With Android, many recent phones can't be upgraded right away because of restrictions placed by manufacturers and wireless carriers.

Among other things, iOS 8 will let devices work better in sync. For instance, it'll be possible to start a message on an iPhone and finish it on an iPad. With an upcoming Mac upgrade called Yosemite, it'll be possible to continue working on that same message on a Mac computer as well.

The new iOS software will also let people do more things without jumping from app to app. For example, if a text message comes in as you're composing an email, you'll be able to pull down the text from the top edge and send a reply, all without leaving the email app.

A new keyboard aims to predict what you're about to type, going beyond standard spell-checking. You can install keyboards from outside parties, too, something Android already allows.

In fact, Apple is opening up more of its features to outside developers than in the past. The fingerprint sensor on iPhones won't be restricted to Apple's own services, for instance.

The new software will be available to existing users on Sept. 17.

HOME AND HEALTH

Apple is rolling out the HomeKit and HealthKit systems. The idea is to turn Apple's products into a suite of digital servants that do everything from monitoring a person's eating habits and exercise routines to turning on the coffee maker in the morning.

Again, Apple isn't first in offering home and health monitoring systems. But consumers haven't rushed to buy those systems partly because products from various manufacturers don't always work with one another. With HomeKit and HealthKit, Apple is seeking to create some unity — with Apple's devices serving as a hub.

— KPCC staff and Associated Press

Updated 10:21 a.m.: iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus revealed

Apple has unveiled two new, larger iPhone designs — the iPhone 6 and an even bigger iPhone 6 Plus.

In live updates on the company's website, the company said the new designs will come with a sleeker, smoother design and be even slimmer, shaving about a half millimeter off the iPhone 5's 7.6mm depth.

The 6 comes with a high-resolution 4.7-inch 720p display, while the 6 Plus will cram a full 1080p HD resolution onto a 5.5-inch display.

— KPCC staff

Updated 6:32 a.m.: Apple's next big thing: Where to watch, what to expect

Apple is poised to reveal its next big thing Tuesday in a crucial attempt to prove its technological tastemakers still have the power to mesmerize the masses.

The trend-setting company is expected to rouse the still-slumbering market for wearable computers with a smartwatch or bracelet equipped to monitor health, help manage homes and even buy merchandise.

Apple is a late arrival to this relatively new niche: several other companies already sell smartwatches that are being greeted with widespread indifference.

If any company can transform the landscape, it's likely to be Apple Inc. after the company shifted the direction of digital technology with the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Other MP3 music players, smartphones and tablet computers were first to market, but the devices didn't enthrall consumers until Apple imbued them with a sense of elegance, convenience and wizardry.

"It means more to us to get it right than to be first," Apple CEO Tim Cook explained to analysts earlier this year.

Apple is likely to provide the first peek at its wearable device at an event set to begin at 10 a.m. PDT in the same Silicon Valley auditorium where Apple's late co-founder, Steve Jobs, unveiled the industry-shifting Mac computer 25 years ago.

Rumors have been swirling that U2, one of Jobs' favorite musical groups, will perform live to promote its new album, as well as Apple's latest gadgetry, which is likely to include an iPhone with a larger screen.

As usual, Apple hasn't said what's on tap, though the company's top executives have repeatedly promised major breakthroughs without providing any details.

"The location suggests this will be a historic event and the historic aspect will be their movement into a new category," predicted technology analyst and longtime Apple watcher Tim Bajarin.

After Tuesday's glimpse, it still may be several months before people get a chance to wear the device. There's speculation that the smartwatch won't be available until early next year, although Apple is expected to take orders during the holiday shopping season.

A smartwatch or high-tech bracelet would mark the first time that Apple Inc. has rolled out a new product line since the iPad's release nearly four-and-half years ago. In that time, the Cupertino, California, company, has been sprucing up its selection of iPhones, iPads and Macs with new models each year since Jobs died in October 2011 after a long battle with cancer.

The innovation void raised questions as to whether Apple's creativity was fading under Cook, Jobs' hand-picked successor.

Those concerns have waned in recent months amid high hopes for the products Apple has lined up for the holiday shopping season. The fervor propelled Apple's stock to new highs last week, a dramatic swing in sentiment from 17 months ago when the shares were trading about 44 percent below current levels. The stock closed down less than 1 percent at $98.35 in Monday's trading.

Even with all the anticipation surrounding the potential smartwatch, the next generation of the iPhone will still be the star of Tuesday's show, as well as the main source of Apple's profits for at least the next year.

The device, likely to be called the iPhone 6, is expected to feature a screen spanning at least 4.7 inches diagonally, up from the 4-inch display on the previous models released during the past two years. Some analysts have speculatedApple may also offer an iPhone model with a 5.5-inch screen.

Any significant increase in the iPhone's size would make the device more competitive with smartphones made by Samsung Electronics and other rivals, and virtually ensure that Apple would have one of the holiday season's hottest selling items. "There is incredible pent-up demand for a larger-screen iPhone," Bajarin said.

Besides a larger screen, the new iPhone is expected to include a near-field communications chip that would enable the device to transmit payment information wirelessly to receivers at store check-in stands. The technology is expected to be accompanied with a mobile wallet feature that taps into the more than 800 million credit card account numbers that users store on Apple's remote servers to buy songs, video and apps from its iTunes stores. The mobile wallet could be secured with a fingerprint reader that Apple introduced last year on the iPhone 5S.

The mobile wallet conceivably could also work on a smartwatch or high-tech bracelet.

Apple's latest mobile software for the iPhone 6 and other recent models, iOS 8, also includes two features called HealthKit and HomeKit that represent the next step in the company's to play an even bigger role in the lives of the people tethered to its devices. The tools are designed to turn Apple's products into a suite of digital servants that do everything from monitoring a person's eating habits and exercise routines to turning on the coffee maker in the morning to turning off the lights at night.

If Apple follows its recent traditions, the free iOS 8 software will be released shortly before the iPhone 6 goes on sale later this month.

— Associated Press

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This story has been updated.