First Take: Apple’s New Mobile Devices

September 12, 2014

in Travel Tech

  • SumoMe

(Originally published on September 12, 2014. Last updated on October 8, 2014.)

Apple’s new iPhone 6 models will go on sale tomorrow, Friday, September 8th, in Apple and other retail stores, including those of cellular carriers. To help you decide which, if either, phone to buy, read this story which we ran last Friday and which has been updated with more information on the new phones.

Much hoopla surrounded this past Tuesday’s announcement of new products by Apple.

Apple Unveils Updated iPad In San Francisco

We’ll take a quick look at the latest offerings from the Cupertino, California company.

But first, let’s review what Apple didn’t talk about this week.

Nothing New Here

New iPads

If you were hoping that Apple would be releasing new versions of its popular tablets, the iPad and iPad Mini, your hopes have been dashed.

iPad-photo.jpg

That doesn’t mean that updated versions of those devices might not be just over the horizon, it’s just that Apple gave no hint when they might be forthcoming.

Apple TV

Not only did Apple not showcase an actual television set bearing its logo, but it didn’t indicate whether its streaming video device, the “Apple TV”—which competes with Google’s Chromecast and the Roku gizmo—would get a make-over soon.

The “iWatch” Is Not Quite Here

The tech pundits anticipated Apple unveiling the “iWatch,” a gadget evoking images (at least for those of us who grew up reading newspaper comic strips in the mid-20th century) of the wrist radio worn by Dick Tracy.

Well, there was good news and bad news from Apple about the high-tech wrist adornment which, contrary to Apple’s usual way of naming its products, will be known as the Apple Watch, not the iWatch.

Apple Watch

The good news is that the company is going to sell such a device.

But here’s the bad news:

  • It won’t be available until at least “early” 2015.
  • It won’t work as a “standalone” device; you’ll need an iPhone for it to connect to.
  • The starting price is expected to be $349, far higher than that for the cheapest new iPhone.

The following video gives a quick glance at the Apple Watch.

This longer, ten-minute-plus one featuring Jony Ive, Senior Vice President of Design at Apple, demonstrates how the watch will actually work.

“Wow! I gotta have one of those!” is what you’ll likely say after watching Ive pitch the Apple Watch. (Actually, you’ll be able to buy three different styles of Apple’s “wrist bling.”)

If you’re a “fitness freak” you may find the Apple Watch irresistible. But what “Can’t Live Without It” functions will it perform for the average consumer that would justify the cost of owning both an Apple Watch and an iPhone?

As Molly Wood of The New York Times points out, it will probably take development of a “killer app” (my guess is multiple “killer apps”) to make the Apple Watch a “must-have” accessory for your arm.

In a separate story for the paper, Wood considers how the Apple Watch could be a “big deal” for travelers.

But will thieves be eyeballing wrists of pedestrians, and those of bus and subway riders, before figuratively and literally ripping-off their Apple Watches and snatching their iPhones? Will the Apple Watch have a “kill switch” that will render it useless if it is stolen?

I haven’t, of course, been able to try out the Apple Watch. But David Pogue (formerly of The New York Times, now with Yahoo! Tech) has, and here’s his take on the device and the questions about it that remain unanswered.

One of those questions is how long the Apple Watch batter will last without recharging. The answer is that owners will probably have to re-charge the battery at the end of each day.

The iPhone 6: A “Big” Deal

The biggest part of Apple’s Tuesday product announcement came when it took the wraps off two new iPhone models, the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, both of which have much larger screens than those of previous models, and are designed to compete with Android smartphones such as Samsung’s Galaxy S5.

(Brett Jordan Flickr Photo)

(Brett Jordan Flickr Photo)

This “eye-candy” video takes a quick look at the new phones.

Size-Wise

The iPhone 6 screen measures 4.7” on the diagonal, and that of the Plus is 5.5” inches. Both well exceed the 4.0” of the last iPhone, the 5s.

Length-wise (Apple calls it “height”), the “6” measures just under 5 and half inches, just about the same as my iPhone 5 inside of its Mophie Juice Pack Helium supplemental battery case. The “6 Plus” gets stretched out to nearly 6 and a quarter inches. That’s much greater than the iPhone 5s which was a tad under 5” long.

Both new phones are wider than the last, with the “6” increasing in width by about a third of an inch over the 5s. And at over 3.0”, the “6 Plus”  is wider by nearly three-quarters of an inch.

Both “6” models are slightly thinner than the 5s, but weigh another half-ounce-plus (iPhone 6) to more than two ounces (iPhone 6 Plus).

So before you buy a “6”, I’d recommend going to a retail store and holding the new phones in your hands and (if you’re like me), stuffing one into your front pants pocket, to see if the hand and pocket fit (especially when you sit down) is good for you.

Update, Tuesday, September 23, 2014: Two users report that their iPhone 6 Plus models were bent after being carried around in a pants pocket.

Update, Thursday, September 25, 2014: Here’s the latest word on what’s being called “Bendgate” and whether Apple will replace your “bent” iPhone 6 or 6 Plus under warranty. And as The New York Times reports, fitting one of the new iPhones into a purse, let alone a pants pocket, has become even more problematic for women than for men.

And don’t forget that the phone will be larger and weigh more once you put it into a case (as you surely should do).

Molly Wood of The New York Times compares these new, bigger iPhones to smartphones from other manufacturers.

 And here’s what the newspaper’s Farhad Manjoo discovered when he tried using an iPhone 6 Plus in lieu of a computer.

If you just can’t wait a week until the new phones are in-store, this “tool” might help you decide which of the “6”models to order.

Super Screen

Both of the iPhone 6 models have the Retina HD display that became famous when it was released on the iPad. And the sharpness of the display and color rendition may be the best yet on the iPhone.

Photos and Video

There are some slight improvements in the iPhone 6 models’ ability to shoot photos and videos compared to its predecessor, but I don’t see them as being significant enough that most consumers would find it worthwhile to chuck a 5s phone for a new one.

However, if you are an aspiring filmmaker who is constantly looking for low-budget ways to make high-budget looking videos, the “6” may be exactly what you need, as pointed out in this Wired article by Angela Watercutter.

Storage

As with prior models, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus come with either 16 or 64 gigabytes of storage. Unlike either versions of the iPhone, there won’t be a 32GB model.

But there will now be a 128GB model which should be great for those (like me) who either store a lot of apps, photos, or videos on their phones.

Battery Life

Battery life for both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus should be somewhat longer than with previous iPhone models. But my guess is that “heavy users,” particularly those who watch or record a lot of video with their phones, will still need a supplemental battery charger or case.

Paying With (Nor For) Your iPhone

The smartphone industry has been trying for some time to convince consumers that waving a smartphone over, rather than swiping a credit card through, a retailer’s point-of-sale reader, is the best way to pay for in-store purchases.

Google Wallet (available for both Android and Apple smartphones) doesn’t seem to have caught on that well, perhaps because stores were reluctant to invest in new readers needed to make the Google Wallet work.

Apple waited quite a long time before adding its own pay-with-your-phone feature to the iPhone, which it has now done with “Apple Pay,” a function that will only be available on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Questions remain about the viability “Apple Pay”:

Listen to what NPR says about “Apple Pay”.”

 

Paying For Your New iPhone

The iPhone 6 will set you back $199 (16GB), $299 (64GB) or $399 (128GB). Add another $100 to each price for an iPhone 6 Plus.

Click here to see if you are entitled to “upgrade pricing” from your current cellular carrier. If you are entitled to upgrade, you would be pay the above-quoted prices. But if you buy before the contract covering your existing phone expires, you’ll probably have to fork over a lot more money. (In my case, pre-ordering a “6″ today would cost me another $250 since the two-year contract with AT&T for my “5″ doesn’t end for another three weeks.) If the contract for your present phone isn’t up yet, you can give Apple your e-mail address and ask to be notified when you’ll be able to buy a new phone at “upgrade prices.”

Update, Saturday, September 27, 2014: As Jeff Sommer of The New York Times points out, the real cost of the iPhone isn’t so straightforward and you’re not going to get one for $199.

If you’ve got an iPhone 4 or older model, and aren’t obsessed with owning “The Latest and Greatest” iteration of the iPhone, you’ll be able to pick up a 5s for $99 (16GB) or $149 (32GB) or the “downscale” 16GB iPhone 5c for free (presumably with a two-year contract with a cellular carrier).

Apparently larger smartphone screens tempt their owners to watch more video, as well as make greater use of the phone’s Internet connection functionality. And that means more data consumption.

“Overeating” data isn’t a problem when you’re connected to the Internet over WiFi. But unless you’ve got an unlimited data plan from a cellular carrier, you may have to raise the monthly cap on your data plan if you find that your are “super-sizing” your data consumption with your new iPhone 6.

And don’t forget the need to buy new accessories when you’re calculating what that new iPhone will cost you.

The good news is that if you already own an iPhone 5 model with a “Lightning” connector, you won’t have to replace your existing AC and car chargers.

The bad news is that since the new phones are larger, you’ll have to toss out any case you bought for your older phone and buy a new one for your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.

Here are some tips for recycling (and maybe getting money when you trade-in) your old phone.

Decisions, Decisions

While it’s always tempting to be the kid on the block with the newest toys, there’s nothing cheap about the latest models of iPhones. If you replace your iPhone every two years (when the contract with your cellular carrier expires), you’ll be spending $100-$250 a year just for the phone itself.

For most consumers that own an iPhone 5 model, the “Sixes” represent an incremental improvement. Since Apple has been releasing a new iPhone every fall, waiting until September of 2015 for the expected release of the “7” might make sense, particularly if the contract with your cellular carrier hasn’t yet expired but will have done so by then.

On the other hand, if might be smart for those still using an iPhone 4 or older model to consider buying an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.

Jony Ive (with help from others at Apple) has put together this video review of what the new iPhones can do.

If you own an iPhone4/4s or older model and are thinking about purchasing an iPad Mini with Retina Display, visit a retail store and compare it side-by-side with the iPhone 6 Plus whose screen that is 2” smaller than that on the Mini, but costs less, and might be the single product that will do what you need just as well as two separate Apple devices.

Technology writer Daniel Howley offers his thoughts on deciding which Apple iPhone, new or “old,” to buy.

Buying an iPhone makes a lot of sense if you own a Mac computer and/or an iPad, since those Apple devices all “play nice together.”

But if you use a PC running Windows, you might want to consider purchasing an Android or a Windows smartphone instead.

What Others Are Saying

I’m not the only person who writes about technology that has published a “first take” on the new iPhones.

Here’s a thoughtful initial review by David Pogue.

Mashable compares the two “6” models to help you figure out which to buy, and does a separate comparison between them and “the competition.”

And a week-plus after the new iPhone models were announced, Yahoo Tech published this recap of what tech pundits are saying about the new Apple smartphones.

Getting Your Hands on the iPhone 6

Beginning today you can pre-order the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Next Friday, September 19th, pre-ordered iPhone 6/6Plus phones will begin being shipped, and the new phones will be available (although expect big crowds and quick sell-outs) at retail stores.

Update, 11:30 pm, PDT, Friday, September 12, 2014: Reuters is reporting that pre-orders of the iPhone 6 Plus have “booked out” and that buyers may have to wait three weeks or more to get one. And CNN reported that customers had difficulty placing pre-orders for the phones online.

Update, 7:30 am, PDT, Monday, September 15, 2014: Apple received a record 4 million first-day iPhone pre-orders, causing some buyers to wait until October to receive their new iPhone 6 models.

Update, 7:45 am, PDT, Friday, September 19, 2014: If you were one of the lucky folks who were able to actually buy an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus at a retail store today, here’s how to set up your new phone.

The New iOS8 Operating System

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will come with Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS8, installed.

We’ll take a closer look at the new operating system soon, but for now, here’s Apple’s overview of it.

And here are 13 features that David Pogue (formerly with The New York Times, now with Yahoo Tech) likes about iOS8.

Those who own fairly recent models of iPhones, the iPad, iPad Mini, and iPod Touch, will be able to download and install iOS8 beginning on Wednesday, September 17th.

But I won’t be in a rush to update the iOS on my iPhone 5, and may wait up to a month to do so.

In the past, I’ve discovered that Apple’s servers can be overwhelmed with requests to download a new mobile operating system in the days immediately after it has been released, meaning that the download may slow to a crawl, stall, or simply fail.

Secondly, new operating systems tend to have a few annoying bugs that need to “squashed.”

And Apple is releasing a new Mac operating system for its desktop and laptop computers, which you may need in order to fully integrate all of the functions of iOS8 on your phone or tablet with your Mac computer.

Update, Monday, September 22, 2014: Some users are reporting performance problems after updating older iPhone models to iOS8.

Update, Tuesday, September 23, 2014: Apple plans to issue an update to iOS8 that will resolve some issues that surfaced after the new operating system was released last week.

Update, Wednesday, September 24, 2014: iPhone 6 owners may find that the update to iOS8 that Apple just released will prevent their phones from connecting to cellular networks and disable the Touch ID function. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to correct those problems.

Update, Thursday, September 25, 2014: Apple pulled the first update to iOS8 after it caused problems for some users. Another update to the mobile operating system will probably be released in a few days.

Update, Friday, September 25, 2014, 12 noon, PDT: Apple has the released the iOS8.0.2 update to fix various problems iPhone users were experience with the new operating system for Apple mobile devices.

Update, Wednesday, October 1, 2014: Some users are reporting problems using Bluetooth to car audio systems and other devices such as headphones on the iPhone 6/6 Plus or after updating older iPhones to iOS8.

Update, Wednesday, October 8, 2014: The New York Time reports that Apple mobile device owners have been slow to update to the new iOS8 operating system. Meanwhile, this story from BGR covers features that will be available in upcoming releases of iOS8.

So I’d advise waiting at least a week or two, if not longer, before you update your iPhone 4s or 5 model to iOS8. And as this article points out, once you’ve updated your older iPhone or iPad operating system to iOS8, you won’t be able to undo the update and go back to using iOS7.

And before you update your iPhone’s operating system, be sure to heed these important warnings from Yahoo Tech Editorial Director, Rafe Needleman, particularly if you use the iPhoto iPhone app (which will no longer work on iOS8) or iCloud to share information before your Apple mobile devices and computers (you’ll need to update all mobile devices to iOS8 and your computer to the latest Mac operating system known as “Yosemite,” which will probably be released sometime in October.)

Here’s what The New York Times technology writer, Farhad Manjoo, says about updating your older iPhone’s (or iPad’s) operations system to iOS8.

When you do the update, here’s some tips on how to make it work.

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