Ever since the introduction of the iPhone 5s, the Apple community has been looking forward to the iPhone 6 in hopes of receiving two much-wanted features – a larger screen and considerably longer battery life. These expectations, fed by countless rumors of everything from a built-in barometer to an NFC chip, are reaching an all-time high as the iPhone 6 is nearing launch.
For quite a while now, rumors of an Apple-made wearable device – commonly referred to as “iWatch” – have been floating around, stirring excitement among Apple users and urging Android vendors such as Samsung and Motorola to introduce their own smartwatches. While these devices are largely limited to displaying notifications and dealing with minor tasks, Apple’s iWatch is rumored to focus heavily on health sensors and tracking.
With Apple making official the predictions of a September 9 event, the world is breathlessly awaiting the unveiling of whatever Apple has been developing over the past few years. This event could very well be the biggest Apple has had since the 2007 introduction of the original iPhone.
Although there have been many conflicting rumors surrounding the next iPhone, we generally have a clear blueprint of what Apple will be showing off in a few days. However, many details remain in the dark, including what Apple will officially call its next smartphone. An executive even hinted that the next phone might not even be called “iPhone 6,” leaving us to guess at names such as iPhone, iPhone L, iPhone Air, and iPhone Pro. Regardless, for the sake of this article, Apple’s iPhone 5s successor will be referred to as “iPhone 6.”
From alleged hardware leaks and the many mockups, the general consensus is that the iPhone 6 will borrow from the 5th generation iPod touch in design, with chamfered edges sloping into the backplate and a camera lens that slightly protrudes from the main body of the device. Rumors suggest that the device’s TrueTone flash will be round, which will better match the circular iSight camera lens. No new backplate colors have been predicted, so we’re likely to see the same gold, silver, and space gray bodies as with the iPhone 5s.
The entire device, while naturally being thinner than its predecessor, will also be more rounded on the edges, feeling less sharp and square. This new design will likely make adjusting the phone’s position in hand much easier, allowing users to maintain a better grip on the device while reaching to the top corners. The edges of the display also seem to curve into the bezel of the phone, making a gently oval edge around the entire device.
Although the above render doesn’t show it, the volume buttons will be recessed into the side of the iPhone 6, becoming much more flush than previous generations but maintaining strong tactile feedback. Additionally, the power button is said to be relocated to the side of the device, making one-handed use easier, which is particularly important when considering the predictions of two larger iPhones.
After receiving much criticism over the small, 3.5-inch and 4-inch screen sizes of its phones, Apple is now set to release two considerably large devices, predicted to have 4.7- and 5.5-inch displays, respectively, although the latter may not be released until later this year.
While many welcome this change, concern has been expressed that the larger screen sizes might impede one-handed use. However, between shrunken bezels and possible software enhancements – such as a keyboard that only consumes ⅔ or so of the screen’s width – the iPhone 6 may very well maintain support for one-handed use in most situations.
Another notable aspect of two differently sized phones is that the larger 5.5-inch device will have a considerably larger internal storage space for hardware components. This could mean that Apple has some exclusive features reserved for the larger Phone 6, including Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), a hardware component for the camera that reduces motion blur in photos and videos.
Apple’s interest in sapphire glass displays has been evident ever since they partnered with GT Advanced Technologies to open a plant in Arizona for producing the material in massive quantities. While we’ve seen sapphire in previous Apple products, it has been limited to small parts such as the camera lens and home button on the iPhone 5s. Now, the iPhone 6’s screen is reported to be made of the extremely hard gemstone in with other components, resulting in a nearly indestructible front display.
Under the highly durable glass are sure to be considerably more pixels. Exactly how many pixels, and how dense they will be, is still up to speculation. Possible screen resolutions include 1472×828 for the 4.7-inch model and 1704×960 for the 5.5-inch model.
Additional speculation suggests that Apple could use either single resolution on both devices, as is the case with the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display. While both alternatives would class the two displays as “Retina” per Apple’s 300ppi rule, using the 1704×960 resolution would leave both devices, and particularly the 4.7-inch phone, with extremely high resolution displays.
The iPhone’s camera has been an area of intense focus for Apple since the iPhone 4s. While previous reports stated that the iPhone 6’s camera will still have 8-megapixels with upgrades focusing on optics, more recent rumors indicate that Apple’s next generation smartphone will feature a 13-megapixel Exmor IMX220 camera sensor from Sony. Although the precise number of megapixels remains a mystery, the camera in the iPhone 6 is certain to be a vast upgrade in the way of optics at least.
Along with the usual sensor upgrades is rumored to come OIS, a hardware component built into the camera that works to reduce shakiness in videos and blurring in photos. However, this feature may be exclusive to the 5.5-inch iPhone, which could be due to price or even hardware constraints of the smaller model.
With the introduction of the iPhone 5s, Apple demoed Slo-Mo, a slow-motion camera mode exclusive to the device. Although iOS 8 is bringing Time-Lapse this fall, perhaps we’ll see an additional camera mode that’s exclusive to the iPhone 6.
Coinciding with reports that Apple is developing a mobile payments system to be integrated with Passbook this fall, rumors of the iPhone 6 containing a Near-Field Communications (NFC) chip have been prevalent. Together with Touch ID, which Tim Cook admits was developed in part with mobile payments in mind, NFC technology would work to streamline the process of securely making payments from an iPhone.
A recent rumor suggested that Apple is working with NXP to bring NFC to the next iPhone. To corroborate this report, noted iPhone hardware leaker Sonny Dickson posted several photos of an iPhone 6 logic board containing an NFC chip made by NXP.
While NFC technology has been in Android phones for a while now, it hasn’t gained much traction among the general public as a popular way of paying for items. As is often the case with Apple, should NFC be included in the iPhone 6 as a payment method, it will very likely become a normality.
Also displayed in the leaked logic board photos is Apple’s A8 chip, which is suspected to reach 2.0GHz or more per core. This is a massive increase over the A7’s 1.3GHz (iPhone 5s) and an incredibly fast mobile processor in general, especially when considering its 64-bit architecture.
Additional information surrounding the A8 chip suggests that it will be built using the 20-nanometer process, which, compared to the A7’s 28nm process, makes for a smaller chip with faster performance while requiring less energy.
Little has been said about any improvements Apple may introduce to its M8 co-processor, but reports claim that the iPhone 6 will include a barometric pressure sensor, either inside or separate from the M8 chip, which could be used for anything from indoor and outdoor navigation to crowd-sourced weather analysis.
Apple is known for its well-kept secrets, particularly when launching new hardware categories for the first time, and the iWatch is by no means an exception. Even the name “iWatch” is an uncertainty, and other names including iBand and iTime have been suggested as possibilities, but all we really know is that Apple is making a wearable with a focus on health tracking that runs a form of iOS.
As is the case with the iPhone 6, the iWatch has been said to feature a sapphire display, which is important considering its point of attachment will be on user’s wrist – one of the most external and exposed parts of the body. A screen made of highly scratch-resistant materials is vital to producing a durable device that is to be worn in such a vulnerable area.
Additionally, the iWatch’s display is reportedly curved in design, allowing a possibly long body to conform to a user’s wrist more comfortably.
Reports have also stated that Apple’s wearable will come in multiple designs, possibly either gender-specific styles, different colors, or for different purposes. An example of the latter might be a watch or fitness band for exercise routines and a second, fashionable version for more formal situations.
Whatever the specifics, at least one variant of this device is designed to be remarkably stylish and undoubtedly gorgeous, as Apple has invited several fashion editors to Tuesday’s event.
Such a statement as “multiple versions” could also indicate two different sizes of a smartwatch, with purported screen dimensions of anywhere from 1.3 inches to upwards of 2 inches.
It’s also possible that the smaller of the two potential sizes is geared toward women, while the larger is designed, or at least sized, for men.
Coinciding with the rumor of what would be a fairly large screen for a watch, a recent report claims that the iWatch will have a flexible display with a sapphire cover. This could suggest a variety of things, the most obvious being a Nike Fuelband-like device with an elongated screen, likely marketed as a fitness band.
Hardware and Sensors
A main area of focus for Apple’s wearable will be in matters related to health tracking and fitness. Judging from its hiring spree over the past several months, Apple is planning to incorporate technology for monitoring steps, exercise routines, heart rate, glucose levels, sleeping patterns, and very likely a variety of other health topics found in iOS 8’s Health app.
In total, the iWatch is said to feature over 10 sensors, which would work to collect the health and fitness data for display and analyzation. Aside from those, Apple is incorporating several components that work to make iWatch a smartwatch.
NFC is predicted to be included in the iWatch as well as the iPhone 6, making mobile payments even easier than pulling out a phone. Bluetooth will more than likely be the primary method of data transfers between an iWatch and its paired iPhone, as its Low Energy mode enables two devices to remain connected for long periods of time without a noticeable loss in battery life.
Health and fitness aside, the iWatch has an incredible amount of potential in ways of extending iOS functionality to the wearer’s wrist. To a large number of Apple users, this functionality is a deciding factor in measuring the usefulness of the iWatch.
Evidence that Apple will include vast amounts of synchronization between the iWatch and iPhone can be found throughout iOS 8. With the addition of Continuity, Apple can enable iMessage and SMS viewing and replying on the iWatch, as well as initiating and receiving phone calls. Interactive notifications bring the ability to not only see but deal with notifications from one’s wrist, and third-party keyboard support makes any necessary typing on the iWatch easier with keyboards like Fleksy and TouchPal.
The level of integration that can be achieved is remarkable, and many of the additions in iOS 8 reflect precisely what can be done on a smartwatch. Although Apple advertised Continuity as bringing iOS and OS X together even more, the real underlying significance may not be at all in synchronization with the Mac, but with the iWatch.
One more thing…
Even more exciting than what we know is what we don’t know.
Still a lot remains a mystery about September 9. Apple has rented the Flint Center for Performing Arts in Cupertino as a venue for holding the event. The Flint Center seats around 2,400 people, which is several times the amount Apple normally hosts at iPhone announcements. Previous event locations such as the Yerba Buena Center and the Apple Campus Town Hall hold around 750 and 300 people, respectively.
In addition to the massive seating arrangements, Apple is constructing some sort of building of its own on the Flint Center grounds. The structure, which is covered in a white material obviously designed for keeping its nature a secret, could be purposed as a mock house for a HomeKit demonstration, a hands-on area for iWatch and iPhone 6, or even a catwalk for an Apple fashion show.
Wish we could say more.
If Apple only introduced the iPhone 6 on Tuesday, it would be an incredible event. From the new design to the larger displays, the next generation of Apple’s smartphone will undoubtedly please countless users and satisfy many enduring complaints. The addition of NFC pumps new life into mobile payments, and the considerably faster A8 processor will ensure that iOS remains snappy for versions to come. As always, the camera improvements, and particularly OIS, are certain to excite iPhoneographers and casual photo takers across the globe.
With the iWatch included, Apple has a lot invested in this Tuesday, more so than they have in any recent event. As was the case with the iPhone and iPad before it, the iWatch could quite easily define an entire category in consumer electronics. With its many health and fitness sensors, the iWatch is sure to attract an enormous amount of attention from people with health issues to athletes and fitness-centric users. The addition of a fashionable piece of technology that could easily allow replying to messages, taking phone calls, and dealing with notifications expands the potential audience to virtually any iPhone user.
Apple’s level of confidence surrounding September 9 hasn’t been seen out of the company for an incredibly long time. Their certainty that this is the best product pipeline in 25 years leaves users in fervent expectation for what will be unveiled this Tuesday. Beyond that, the secrecy involved in the launch of that product is enough to make the next little while seem like an eternity. This Apple event may very well be the biggest since the introduction of the original iPhone.