During a highly anticipated launch event, Apple unveiled the next generation upgrades to the iPhone 6 and launched a new program to help consumers pay for the devices as carriers phase out subsidies for new phones.
The forthcoming iPhone 6s and 6s Plus – which will go on presale Saturday and will become available Sept. 25 – will include a host of new features, including a newer, faster 64-bit A9 chip, Apple’s new 3D Touch technology, a new 12 megapixel iSight main camera, a 5 mp HD FaceTime camera with retina flash and all-new Live Photo technology. The 6s will feature a 4.7-inch screen, while the 6s Plus will feature a 5.5-inch screen.
“No product is more about innovation than the iPhone,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said. “What we have to show you today is really awesome and while they may look familiar, we have changed everything about these new iPhones. These are the most advanced smartphones in the world.”
According to Apple’s Craig Federighi, the third-generation A9 chip will enable the new phones to function much faster than their A8 predecessors – 70 percent faster on CPU tasks and 90 percent faster on graphics tasks. An M9 co-processor will be built into the new chip, allowing for more “always on” features, including an upgrade to Siri that lets users ask her a question without having to initiate the conversation with the press of a button.
The phone will also include 3D Touch, a Force Touch technology upgrade that will allow users to “peek” through and “pop” into apps without having to fully open them. Thanks to an embedded taptic engine, the phone will also be able to recognize different levels of force, allowing for greater tapping variability and gesture recognition.
A new 12-megapixel camera will offer more pixels without degrading image qualit, thanks to new engineering that helps the camera retain accurate color rendering, depth of field and exposure levels. The camera will also be able to shoot both HD and 4K video, while new Live Photo technology will bring still photos to life by shooting 1.5 seconds of footage on either side of the image you capture. The Life Photo feature will be on by default, and will be supported across all Apple products.
Another photography upgrade comes in the form of a new retina flash feature on the 5-megapixel FaceTime camera that will use a white screen on the phone’s display to create a Truetone flash for selfies.
Apple has also upgraded the phone’s LTE capabilities by providing compatibility for 23 LTE bands. The phone will also offer faster Wi-Fi at 866Mbps.
The phones will be available in four finishes – gold, rose gold, silver and space grey – with 16, 64 and 128 GB memory options. As a peace offering to those hoping for the elimination of the 16 GB memory option in favor of more storage, Apple also announced a downward revision to its iCloud storage. Users will now be able to get 50 GB of cloud storage for 99 cents per month or a full terabyte for $9.99 per month.
With a 2-year contract, the iPhone 6s will cost between $199 and $399, depending on memory level, while the iPhone 6s Plus will run between $299 and $499.
Apple also responded to a growing movement in the wireless industry to kill smartphone device subsidies with the implementation of new device payment programs. According to Apple, consumers will be able to obtain the new iPhone 6s for as little as $27 per month or the 6s Plus for $31 per month depending on the carrier.
Not content to leave the fate of their new devices to the carriers, Apple also instituted its own iPhone Upgrade Program that will allow users to get a new, unlocked iPhone every year. The program will allow customers to choose their carrier and will include Apple Care with each device. Payment plans will start at $32 per month.