Apple charts new course with large iPhones, smartwatch10 september 2014, 15:56
Apple moved to recapture its role as a dazzling tech trend-setter on Tuesday with its first smartwatch and two large-screen versions of the iPhone, AFP reports.
Apple added in a new mobile wallet that will allow consumers to simply tap their phones to pay retailers.
The Apple Watch, a sleekly designed wrist device which links to the iPhone, "will redefine what people expect from this category," chief executive Tim Cook said at a launch event in Apple's hometown Cupertino, California.
"It is the next chapter in Apple's story."
The iPhone 6 models shown off at the event boost screen sizes in what some see as the company catching up to a "phablet" trend combining features of smartphones and tablets.
Apple's main rival Samsung has long had a range of larger handsets and has tried to market a smartwatch of its own.
The iPhone 6 will have a screen of 4.7 inches and the 6-Plus will be 5.5 inches, allowing Apple to adapt to consumers' apparent preference for bigger displays.
Cook said the new handsets represented "the biggest advancement in the history of iPhones."
Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller the new iPhones were "simply stunning" with polarized glass displays and bodies that are "thinner than ever before."
"These are the best phones ever made," Schiller said, as he described the new devices at a major set-piece event streamed live online.
The new iPhone 6 will start at the same price of existing iPhones at $199 for US customers while the iPhone 6 Plus will be at $299 with a two-year contract.
Schiller said the devices would be available in at least 115 countries by the end of the year. Apple will begin taking orders for iPhone 6 models on Friday.
Apple's move, expanding the latest iPhone with a four-inch screen, comes as consumers are switching to handsets with bigger displays to watch videos and browse the Internet.
Paying with a tap
Cook said the Apple Pay system would replace an "antiquated payment process" with "an entirely new payment system" that allows consumers to touch their phones to retail terminals.
The new payment system will be built into the new iPhones and the upgraded Apple's operating system called iOS 8.
Cook said that in the United States alone each day, "that's 200 million times that we scramble through our credit cards and go through what is a fairly antiquated payment process."
Cook showed a video of a consumer tapping a phone on a payment terminal, commenting, "it's so cool."
Cook introduced Apple Watch with the "one more thing" introduction that was a trademark of iconic Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
"It is the next chapter in Apple's story," Cook said of the first new product category to be entered by the company since the death of Jobs in 2011.
"We invented intimate ways to connect and communicate directly from your wrist; it works seamlessly with iPhone and it is also a comprehensive health and fitness device."
The watch comes in two sizes and an array of choices of interchangeable, fashionable wrist straps, and will also work with Apple Pay.
Apple watch will start at $349 when it is released early next year, according to Cook. The smartwatch will work with iPhone 5 models and newer.
While Apple Watch has touch-screen capabilities, many controls were designed into a "digital crown" button so fingers do not block screens.
Sensors can detect a wearer's pulse, and the devices tap into location-sensing features in iPhones to provide a "comprehensive picture of activity" and help work toward fitness goals, according to Apple senior vice president of design Jonathan Ive.
Applications for the watch include map software that guides people to destinations with gentle "taps" on the wrist.
Apple showed off programs for checking into American Airlines flights, unlocking Starwood hotel room doors, and even controling home lighting or temperature.
"It is amazing what you can do from your wrist," Cook said.
He touted the potential for Watch activity and pulse tracking capabilities to promote fit lifestyles.
'Bold, risky' category push
Market tracker IHS saw Apple as aiming to reset the wearable computing market the way it transformed the world of smartphones with the release of the iPhone.
"But moving into a new category is a bold, expensive and risky effort," IHS said in an initial analysis of the Apple announcements.
Despite an array of smartwatch releases, no one seems to have found the key to the market, according to analyst Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies.
Synching Apple Watch capabilities to iPhones also means that the overall cost of strapping one on could near $1,000, Kay noted.
"I'm not getting the impression that Apple has nailed the category," Kay told AFP.
by Glenn CHAPMAN