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Exploring Apple's iPhone 6

10 Sep 2014  | Brian Dipert

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Two weeks ago, I wrote, "One advantage to a larger phone surface area is that the total battery volume inside the phone can be "spread" throughout it, thereby decreasing the required battery thickness (all other factors being equal)." Indeed this has seemingly occurred. Both iPhone 6 flavours' thicknesses—the base iPhone 6 at 6.9mm and the Plus at 7.1mm—are less than the 7.6mm iPhone 5S. However, Apple claims that they'll both deliver equivalent if not better battery life than their predecessor.

Back to processors (specifically coprocessors); in my earlier writeup, I chose to not speculate as to any evolution beyond the "sensor fusion" M7 found in the iPhone 5S. But in the back of my mind, I wondered if Apple would finally add an atmospheric sensor to its products, as many Android smartphones and tablets have long already done, and if so whether we'd see an M8 coprocessor as a result. Indeed this has happened. Pressure sensors find two main uses: as barometers for assessing weather conditions and trends, and as altimeters for measuring altitude. The former is likely not the primary motivation here: after all, always-connected mobile devices already have access to current (and current-location) weather conditions from Yahoo, Weather.com, and elsewhere.

Altitude measurement, specifically for exercise and other activity- and health-related applications, is a more likely motivation. As a long-time user of an altimeter watch for mountain climbing, skiing, and other related purposes, I'm intimately familiar with their limitations: Every time the weather changes, you need to re-calibrate them to avoid getting inaccurate altitude readings. A constantly connected mobile device neatly solves this problem, since up to date barometric pressure is always available, and can be compensated for in the altitude-discerning algorithm.

Neither the front or rear camera has seemingly received a resolution bump, although they have enhanced low light sensitivity and other attributes. Instead, leveraging the increased "muscle" of the A8's various processing resources, they offer additional software-enabled capabilities, like autofocus, "selfie" face detection, 30fps and 60fps video recording at 1080px, and improved slow motion video capture (120fps or 240fps). And, befitting its larger (harder to hold steady) size, the iPhone 6 Plus augments traditional digital image stabilisation with optical image stabilisation support.

Also as I prognosticated, both iPhone 6 variants support the 150Mbit/s LTE-Advanced option, as well as VoLTE (voice over LTE) for cellular VoIP (voice over IP). The other thing I wondered about, but didn't bother mentioning two weeks ago, was whether Apple would finally add long-rumoured NFC (near field communications) capabilities to the iPhone. Long-time cell phone market followers know that NFC has been offered by other manufacturers (and supported by other operating systems) for a long time now. Apple finally joins them with an NFC chipset rumoured to be supplied by NXP, and an associated Apple Pay application.

The iPhone 6 will ship in 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB variants, neatly addressing my seemingly contradictory forecast for increased storage, the retention of the low-cost 16GB option, and Apple's longstanding desire to not offer too many options. The 16GB model will cost $199 (all prices are contract-subsidized; off-contract i.e. "unlocked" pricing was not announced); the 64GB version will cost $299, and the 128GB model will set you back $399. The iPhone 6 Plus comes in the same capacity options, with a $100 adder over the iPhone 6 in each case ($299, $399, and $499).

As I wrap up this writeup, I'm aware that Apple's also announced a smartwatch. I'll share my thoughts on this in a separate post, to come shortly. For now, I welcome your thoughts on what I've published here.


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