Apple goes bigger on iPad, touts force on new iPhones

And revamps Apple TV during what CEO Tim Cook proclaims a 'monster roll-out'

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Like Cook, he talked up the app angle for the Apple TV and tvOS, briefly showing stills of the HBO, Netflix and Hulu apps, as well as the Guitar Hero game. Cue then handed things over to several developers who demonstrated upcoming games, several of which originated on the iPhone.

The new Apple TV will be priced at $149 and $199 for 32GB and 64GB storage models, respectively, and will slide in above the existing $69 device. Developers will receive a preview of tvOS today; the new Apple TV goes on sale next month.

The new iPhones

Ninety minutes into the event, Cook finally got around to the new iPhones. "How do you follow the success of [the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus]?" he asked, acknowledging that he "had been asked that question a few times," referring to Wall Street's skepticism that Apple will be able to reproduce the strong sales of the 2014 models.

iPhone 6s and 6s plus Apple

Apple's new iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus

The new smartphones, tagged as the iPhone 6S and the iPhone 6S Plus -- following the usual "off-year" monikers -- are completely new, Cook maintained, even though externally they look identical to last year's versions.

Back on stage, Schiller introduced 3D Touch, iOS's name for something similar to the Force Touch trackpad that debuted earlier this year on the new 12-in. Retina MacBook. Like Force Touch, 3D Touch is pressure sensitive and features some limited haptic feedback.

3D Touch works on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus home screen, and with some first-party apps, like Mail and Calendar. Firmer pressure on the side of the iPhone, for instance, shows active apps for quick switching, eliminating the double-press of the Home button. A few third-party apps, like Instagram and Dropbox, will also support 3D Touch off the bat.

The phones are powered by the new 64-bit A9 SoC, which is 70% faster than last year's silicon, said Schiller, and includes an integrated motion coprocessor. The camera has also been beefed up to 12-megapixels able to take 4K video -- a first for the iPhone -- that produce massive files. At 8 million pixels per frame, 4K video will quickly exhaust the meager 16GB of the entry-level 6S and 6S Plus phones.

One new feature, dubbed Live Photos, got wows from the analysts in the audience. Because the camera takes snaps slightly before and after the actual displayed image, a press on a photo animates it, showing, say, water flowing in a shot of a waterfall. "Live Photos will demo very well to friends and family," tweeted Ben Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies. "Helps make the new devices more desirable."

"Live photo is awesome. Nothing else to say," added Ben Thompson, the independent analyst behind

As expected, Apple priced the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus at the usual subsidized prices starting at $199 and $299 for 16GB models, with $100 step-ups with more storage space. Last year's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, meanwhile, drop by $100 each, to $99 and $199, respectively.

But in a nod to the rapid changes in mobile carriers' strategies -- under which customers are pushed to pay for their smartphones on installment plans, freeing the operators from supporting subsidies -- Apple also priced the new devices in that fashion at $27 (iPhone 6S) and $31 (iPhone 6S Plus) monthly during a 24-month stretch.

Apple's iPhone Upgrade program

Apple also announced its own payment plan, the iPhone Upgrade Program, that offers the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus at $32 and $37 per month, respectively, with AppleCare+ thrown in the deal and the right to get a new iPhone annually.

The upgrade program, said Dawson, is important.

"Carriers may be kicking themselves, because by moving to installment plans they're training people that they don't need carriers to subsidize the iPhone," Dawson said. "They've handed Apple this huge opportunity," he added, to eliminate the carriers from the smartphone-buying equation.

"That's a very powerful lock-in. People who want an iPhone may never go into, for example, an AT&T store, and many customers would rather deal with Apple than with their carrier."  

Because the program is available only in Apple's own U.S. stores, it removes the influence of the carriers, who in <i>their</i> stores pitch alternatives, primarily those running Google's Android. Getting a customer onto the upgrade deal locks them even more effectively into Apple's universe.

Preorders kick off Saturday, Sept. 12, with sales starting Friday, Sept. 25. iOS 9, which will be pre-installed on the new models but available for download on older iPhones, will release a week from today, Sept. 16.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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