Apple has unveiled its newest iPhone, alongside a larger-screened version and the company’s first foray into the wearables market – the Apple Watch.
The iPhone 6, the latest iteration of the company’s flagship smartphone, has already boosted screen size from 4-inches in the iPhone 5S to 4.7 inches, but the iPhone 6 Plus comes with a 5.5-inch screen putting it in the same bracket as the increasingly popular ‘phablets’ produced by companies such as Samsung and HTC.
The company also revealed the first new product to be developed and introduced under CEO Tim Cook's reign – a smartwatch wirelessly tethered to the iPhone that can receive phone calls and messages, play music, serve as a digital wallet and monitor heart rates via special sensors.
"I am so excited and I am so proud to share it with you this morning. It is the next chapter in Apple's story," said Cook. "Apple Watch is most personal device we've ever created."
The move into the wearable’s market follows on from rivals Samsung, which launched its first smartwatch last year, and Google, which has introduced its Glass headset and Android Wear smartwatches.
The device’s touchscreen is a curved Retina display, which Apple says can sense the amount of force used when tapping it, and the dial, or crown, can be used to move through the interface as turning it allows users to scroll through lists or zoom in and out of images and maps.
Users can customise the interface with their own choice of apps and while native apps like messaging were demonstrated on stage at the launch event in California last night, Apple also confirmed that a software development kit for the device will be made available shortly.
A feature called Digital Touch uses the vibrating sensor in the Apple Watch to turn it into a form of messaging, allowing users to send vibrations to their friends to prompt them. The device also has dedicated health and wellbeing apps in the form of Fitness and Workout, which combine with the Apple Watch's pulse sensor and the new Health app in the new iOS 8 operating system for iPhones.
The watch also features an inductive wireless charging with a corded transmitter that magnetically snaps on to the back of the device. Apple said entry level versions of the device will be priced at about £300 and would go on sale in "early 2015", but despite the host of features it has failed to live up to expectations for some.
"Not the knockout some were anticipating. A bit gimmicky also on the health end of the wearable bands market," said Jon Cox, an analyst of Swiss watch companies at brokerage Kepler Cheuvreux in Zurich. "Not as cool as I feared. Nick Hayek (chief executive of Swatch Group) is probably sleeping a little easier tonight.”
The firm also confirmed that the new iPhone’s, which will ship on September 19, would be powered by an Apple-designed processor chip called the A8, which it claims features a second generation 64-bit desktop-class architecture. Both models will also include the firm’s latest operating system iOS 8, unveiled in June this year and available on iPhone 4s and above from September 17.
Apple has also announced plans to enter the payment market with a new service dubbed Apple Pay, which uses the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone and native payment apps to allow users to pay for products by touching their iPhone to payment outlets.
The system uses the same near-field communication (NFC) technology found in existing contactless payments systems and the company's own secure Passbook app to securely hold user’s credit card and payment details.
"Our vision is to replace the wallet and we're going to start with payments", said Cook, calling the magnetic strips on credit cards "outdated and vulnerable".
Apple confirmed that Apple Pay transactions are not logged by the company, saying "We are not in the business of collecting your data,” and that major retailers including Toys R US and Staples have already signed up to use Apple Pay in their stores, though the technology is just being introduced in the USA at present.
Eric Van der Kleij, head of Canary Wharf technology incubator Level39, said: "The Apple Pay functionality of the iPhone6 is a powerful signal from a brand like Apple, and demonstrates that major hardware providers see huge potential in facilitating secure mobile payments.
“If the iPhone6 can entice more users to make payments using their mobile devices, this will help set standards and expectations for the industry, and should provide Apple with a healthy slice of the 'secure mobile payments' market.
"However, what we need to think of next is interoperability between 'competing' mobile wallets, payment networks and retail banks. Proprietary markets may create market-places, but interoperability creates new, lucrative economies.”
Apple iPhone 6 and Apple Watch infographic