The wait is over. Apple just took the wraps off two new iPhones, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and although the rumor mill did a pretty good job churning out accurate predictions, Tim Cook and Co. managed to sneak in a fair number of surprises (not the least of which was the Apple Watch, but that’s a topic for another day).
As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the iPhone 6 will have a 4.7-inch screen, while the 6 Plus stretches to a phablet-like 5.5 inches. Both will incorporate Apple’s new A8 processor, and both rely on iOS 8-powered tweaks to help you operate certain features with one hand — answering a common complaint among users of big phones.
All those elements were expected. But here’s a look at six decidedly surprising things about the iPhone 6:
NFC - Sure, Apple Pay will be getting all the buzz in the weeks (and months and years?) to come, but let’s not overlook the underlying technology: NFC. Short for Near-Field Communications, this wireless standard started appearing in Android phones years ago, offering electronic mobile payments and a super-simple way to pair a phone with other devices (like speakers).Some observers predicted Apple would develop its own, competing tech for mobile payments, but voilà: NFC. That’s awesome, and it should help drive phone-powered pay systems into the mainstream. What remains to be seen is whether this NFC implementation will also work for other purposes. It should, but there’s also the possibility Apple will lock it down for financial-security purposes.
Finally, a 128GB option — but no more 32GB! - The longer you own a phone, the more digital stuff you collect: apps, music, videos, and especially photos. Sure, you can offload some of it to the cloud, but many users have clamored for more than just 64GB of storage. With the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, there’s finally a 128GB option (at $399 and $499, respectively).But here’s where it gets weird: You can get a 64GB model for $100 less, or a 16GB model for $200 less. Um, what? I’m no math expert, but it seems like the next step down should have been 32GB. Nope: Apple will not be offering a 32GB option for either model, for reasons I can’t begin to fathom. Indeed, a 16GB iPhone 6 seems nearly pointless, as the fancy panoramic photos and super-slow-mo videos you capture will fill that space in no time.
Wi-Fi calling - Wi-Fi calling iconIn my house, I’m lucky to get 1-2 bars from my carrier (cough, Sprint, cough), and that often leads to garbled or even dropped calls. But the Wi-Fi, as you might expect, is strong. So why can’t my phone leverage that connectivity instead of spotty cellular?That’s what Republic Wireless has been pushing heavily for the past couple years, and now Apple is doing likewise. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will give you the option of leveraging Wi-Fi and even 4G for calls. That has the potential not only to improve your call quality, but also to lower the number of voice minutes you consume every month.
Optical image stabilization - As most photographers know, digital image stabilization gets you only so far. The best way to compensate for a shaky shutterbug is with optical image stabilization, a feature rarely seen in smartphones. But the new iPhone 6 Plus has it (the smaller iPhone 6 has digital image stabilization), and that should translate to sharper snapshots. And the feature extends to video as well, offering what Apple calls “cinematic video stabilization.
Burst-mode selfies - With the iPhone 5S, Apple introduced a burst mode for rapid-fire picture taking — a great way to ensure you capture the perfect shot. With the iPhone 6, the front camera inherits that capability as well. Which, when you think about it, perfectly suits our selfie-snapping culture. Now you can fire off five or ten shots in near-instant succession so you’re more likely to get everyone (or just yourself) looking good.
U2’s new album. For free. Just because - U2 Songs of InnocenceIt wasn’t that unusual for Tim Cook to trot out U2 at the end of today’s launch event. Last year, Elvis Costello closed the show, and other musical guests have appeared on Apple’s stage as well.No, the real surprise was that iTunes users in 119 countries found U2’s new album, “Songs of Innocence,” in their libraries immediately afterward. Free of charge. Apple’s gift to the world. Why? Because Apple loves music, of course. And has more money than probably 112 of those countries.