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At long last, iPhone 6 is here. Callied "the biggest advancement in iPhone history," by Apple CEO Tim Cook at its unveiling, the latest version of Apple's popular smartphone comes in two versions: the iPhone 6 and the larger iPhone 6 Plus. So what's so special about these phones, and what can they do? Read on for a rundown of the most significant features.
Recent models of the iPhone had been going for a more angular look, but both versions of iPhone 6 feature a smoother, more rounded design. Apple points out that the phone has no distinct edges; the front glass display curves around the sides to smoothly transition to the anodized aluminum rear casing. In stark contrast, the iSight camera is not smoothly integrated into the design this time — rather than being flat against the case, the camera extends ever so slightly from the back of the phone. The new iPhones are also even thinner than their predecessors; whereas the iPhone 5s is 7.6mm thick, the iPhone 6 is only 6.9mm, and the iPhone 6 Plus is 7.1mm. As with last year's iPhone 5s, though, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will be available in gold, silver, and space grey. Overall the design hasn't changed a lot from before — they're still clearly recognizable as iPhones — but this year's models have a form factor distinctly their own.
Judging by Apple's screen choices this year, big is in. The iPhone 6 screen boasts a diagonal measurement of 4.7 inches, while the iPhone 6 Plus comes in at 5.5 inches. (This is compared to the 4-inch display of the iPhone 5s.) Both phones feature "Retina HD" screens: the iPhone 6 offers 1334x750 resolution (slightly better than 720p), and the iPhone 6 Plus is 1920x1080 (full 1080p). The displays provide a higher contrast level than previous iPhones and feature dual-domain pixels for increased viewing angles. Although the screens do not utilize sapphire glass as had been previously rumored, they are "ion-strengthened" for extra protection. So what do you get from that extra screen real estate? When it comes to the iPhone 6 Plus, the answer is easy: landscape view. Not only will you be able to view many apps in a wider landscape mode, but you can use your home screen in that orientation as well. It's expected that many apps for iPhone 6 will also more closely resemble iPad apps than traditional iPhone apps.
Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are powered by the new Apple-designed 64-bit A8 processing chip. According to Apple, the A8 offers longer sustained performance and better energy efficiency, so it can run games with better, smoother frame rates; it's also said to offer up to 25 percent faster processor speed and 50 percent faster graphics. The A8 will work in conjunction with the Metal graphics technology in iOS 8 to offer the best-looking iPhone visual capabilities yet. Working in conjunction with the main processor are the M8 motion coprocessor (specifically designed to measure data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass) and a built-in barometer that will be used to measure air pressure and elevation (primarily in health apps). Alongside the CPU, internal storage is getting a boost as well. Both versions of the iPhone 6 will be available in 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB configurations, but internal RAM remains at 1GB for both the 6 and the 6 Plus — just like in last years' model.
The iPhone 6 (and iPhone 6 Plus) features an 8-megapixel iSight camera with 1.5-micron pixels and a f/2.2 aperture. A new sensor offers capabilities such as Focus Pixels (which provide better and faster autofocus), exposure control (the ability to lighten or darken a photo as you're taking it), better face detection, and automatic image stabilization. The iPhone 6 Plus exclusively features optical image stabilization, in which the A8, M8, and gyroscope work together to compensate for hand-shake and allow for better photos in lower light. And if you're into selfies, you'll probably appreciate the burst mode (taking 10 quick, continuous shots) added to the front-facing camera on both the iPhone 6 and the 6 Plus. But the biggest changes might be to video: you can now capture 1080p HD video at 60 fps, or even opt for slo-mo videos at 240 fps. Continuous autofocus and cinematic video stabilization promise to make your recordings look better than ever.
If you're like most people, you use your iPhone for downloading, streaming, and web-surfing than you do for phone calls. And to help you in that endeavor, iPhone 6 features faster LTE than iPhone 5s and support for up to 20 LTE wireless bands (which Apple points out is more than any other smartphone out there). If you do actually use your phone to make a phone call, you'll benefit from Wi-Fi calling (for when you're experiencing bad cellular connection) and voice over LTE. The iPhone 6 also supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi, for a connection that's up to triple the speed than that of an iPhone 5s.
The iPhone's long-hoped-for NFC (near-field communication) capabilities have finally become a reality in the iPhone 6, and those capabilities are an important part of Apple's new mobile-payment service called Apple Pay. Used in conjunction with Touch ID and a data-storage system dubbed Secure Element, the NFC features will allow you to use Apple Pay to quickly, easily, and securely buy goods in retail stores without having to use your actual credit card. It remains to be seen how widely adopted Apple Pay will be, but Apple's already got the top credit card companies onboard, as well as a large list of major retailers including McDonalds, Toys R Us, Macy's, Target, Starbucks, Disney, and Whole Foods — and the Apple Store, of course! Some of these businesses let you perform actual NFC payments in their stores, but others are only for online purchases through apps. Here's a complete overview of Apple Pay with more details.
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are available now, but in some cases they're still hard to come by. The devices hit the US, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Australia on Sept. 19, 2014, followed by Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates on Sept. 26. The phones will be available in more than 120 countries by the end of 2014. As for the price, the iPhone 6 costs $199 for the 16GB model, $299 for 64GB, and $399 for 128GB. The iPhone 6 Plus runs $100 more: $299 for 16GB, $399 for 64GB, and $499 for 128GB.
All those features are well and good, but what's it like to actually use the iPhone 6 and carry it around on a regular basis? It's all here in our review. (Spoiler: We liked it.)