iPhone 6 and 6 Plus announced

Once upon a time, Apple used to announce one iPhone at a time. Since last year’s iPhone 5S and 5C launch, we’re now getting used to two. Today the latest generation of iPhones were revealed to the public, with an all-new design that’s bound to divide opinion.

The front and back of iPhone 6The standout feature compared with the iPhone 5 and 5S is the increased size. The iPhone 6 has a 4.7″ display with a resolution of 1334 x 750px, marketed as ‘Retina HD’. The iPhone 6 Plus has a huge 5.5″ 1920 x 1080px display. They are both LED-backlit IPS LCDs which should improve image quality in addition to increasing resolution.

The battery of the iPhone 6 has been increased to a huge 1810 mAh which is necessary to drive those extra pixels. It’ll be interesting to see if it provides longer life away from a charger, or whether the bigger display simply acts as a counterweight.

Aside from the physical changes, there’s been precious little to improve upon the iPhone 5 and 5S and make it a compelling upgrade for users of those devices. The rear facing camera is still 8MP, still records videos in 1080p, and it sticks out like a wart on the back. In the same vein, the plastic antenna at the back simply looks nasty.

Normally the latest iPhone generation can be proclaimed as the best iPhones ever made – even when they’re a little boring – but this time I’m not so sure. iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are indeed good iPhones, but the design of the rear just doesn’t match up to the standard of the beautiful black iPhone 5. No doubt it’ll be a commercial success, but it marks a departure from the attention to detail that Apple has stuck to rigidly in the past.

iPhone 5 sleep/wake button repair

Many users have reported the intermittent and eventual total failure of the sleep/wake button on the iPhone 5. For the past few months I’ve been forced to use the accessibility settings to lock my phone.

Always keen to maintain its excellent reputation for customer services, and frightened that customers might make the leap over to a Samsung Galaxy S5 rather than endure a long summer with a broken phone, Apple have announced they will be repairing the sleep/wake button for eligible devices from the 2nd May.

iPhone 5s and 5c announced

An update to the iPhone 5 was announced today, and as expected it has been named the iPhone 5S. Similar to the iPhone 3GS and 4S, the new phone has a near identical chassis to its predecessor, with a few minor changes.

iPhone 5s

The biggest change is on the front – there is a new ‘Touch ID’ sensor which supersedes the old home button on the iPhone 5. This has a fingerprint sensor which can be used in place of a passcode to unlock the phone, and also to authenticate App Store and iTunes Store purchases. On the back there is a new dual-LED flash which can compensate for different white balances.

The new phone comes in three colours: ‘Space Grey’ (which replaces the smart black option), white and silver, and a brand new white and champagne gold.

Inside there’s a new A7 64-bit processor, and a new motion co-processor. The camera aperture has been increased, and a new slo-mo 120fps capability has been added.

The biggest surprise of the day is that the iPhone 5 is being discontinued after just one year. Previously, the last generation phone becomes the budget option as stocks are gently run down. This year, the iPhone 5 has been given a funky or cheap (depending on one’s opinion) plastic case and is being marketed as the iPhone 5C. The hardware is almost identical to the iPhone 5.

iPhone 5C

There’s no doubt the iPhone 5S will be a commercial success. It’s a significant upgrade from the iPhone 4 and 4s. iPhone 5 users, however, will be disappointed but then in turn relieved their phone is not obsolete. There’s not really a ‘killer feature’ on the iPhone 5S. The camera’s been improved, but it’s hard to tell the difference in practice. The processor’s been improved, but there’s no increase from the 1GB RAM found in the iPhone 5. Touch ID is an interesting feature, but it doesn’t (yet) add anything which can’t be replicated by entering a password.

Now the wait for the iPhone 6 begins…

Apple announces iPhone 5

At today’s media event in San Francisco Apple have announced a new iPhone as expected, which is to be known as the iPhone 5.

From the outside a number of changes are immediately obvious. The new phone has a new taller 4″ display running at 1136×640 – the first time the screen size has been changed since the introduction of the original iPhone back in 2007. This will cause problems for existing apps, of course, as they’re not designed for the new aspect ratio. For now, apps will run in the centre of the screen with a black border until they’re updated. This is very similar to the introduction of the Retina class display on the iPhone 4 two years ago, where apps had to be modified back then to take advantage of the extra pixels. The multi touch sensor and the display itself are now the same, which should hopefully provide better image quality as there are fewer layers for light to refract.

On the bottom of the phone is a new connector, which has been named ‘Lightning’ – presumably a pun involving the Thunderbolt connector and Queen’s famous song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. This port will allow cables to be plugged into it either way up, which will bring an end to having a 50/50 chance of getting it right when the light level’s low. To help combat obsolescence, Apple will be selling an adaptor which fits onto the end of existing cables. The headphone port has been moved to the bottom for the first time, and the speaker grilles have been redesigned too.

The iPhone 5 uses a nano-SIM which is even smaller than the micro-SIM in the iPhone 4 and 4S which will cause problems for upgraders at launch, just as we had two years ago when we transitioned from the SIM cards used in the 3GS. It’s surprising, in fact, that Apple haven’t yet worked out a way of implementing the data held on a SIM in software – perhaps that’s something to work on for the next generation! With all the small size and weight shavings combined Apple claims the iPhone 5 is 20% lighter and 18% thinner than the iPhone 4S, which is still surprising given that the display is larger.

On the inside, the phone has a new A6 processor, which is claimed to deliver performance up to twice as fast as the iPhone 4S. Battery life remains similar to the previous generation – thankfully it’s something which was actually remarked upon as a positive, rather than being swept aside.

The iPhone camera has been upgraded yet again – something I expected to see remain the same, since it was one of the unique selling points of the iPhone 4S. It’s apparently better in low light and faster at capturing images, and it’s now possible to take photos while recording a video – something which would have come in handy while watching the Olympic torch relay, for example. There’s a new panorama feature which replaces some third party apps offering similar features.

During the keynote it was announced that the iPhone 5 will work with EE’s new 4G network. It’ll be very interesting to see the pricing from the new carrier in the coming weeks.

The new phone will be available to pre-order from the 14th, and available to buy in stores from the 21st. Surprisingly, there is no new 128GB version as I expected, which means users will have to choose between 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models as before.

For users of the 3GS onwards, the upgrade to iOS 6 will be launched on the 19th.

Although some people may say that the iPhone 5 is similar to the previous generation, the sum of the changes is more than just a minor refresh, as it has a brand new screen, faster performance, and an all new design. Judging by the demand we saw last year for the iPhone 4S, which was indeed just an incremental upgrade, it looks likely that the iPhone 5 will be a commercial success.

Apple announces media event

At last!

Apple has finally announced a media event in San Francisco at 6PM UK time on the 12th September, where the next generation iPhone is likely to be revealed.

As always, Apple likes to tease people with event invites, and today’s is no different. At first glance, it’s easy to miss – but if you look closely, you’ll see that the shadow that the ’12’ makes is actually a ‘5’. This could mean that the new device is called the ‘iPhone 5’, rather than following the lead of the iPad and being called the ‘new iPhone’ instead.

Much of what we may expect to see next week has already been covered on this blog, including a taller display, a new dock connector and an all new case design. However, there could still be other new features such as NFC for small payments and 4G support for UK phone networks, such as the one Everything Everywhere is launching a day before Apple’s event.

It’s possible there’ll be a new iPod Touch announcement in time for Christmas, and it’s also rumoured that the iPod Nano will be receiving an update too. However, I’m not expecting a ‘mini iPad’ to be announced – in fact I’d be surprised if one were to be announced at all, considering that the iPhone’s screen size is being increased.

The countdown has begun!

iPhone battery replacement

Considering Apple’s history of obsolescence, the iPhone 3GS has had an incredibly long lifespan.

The first iPhone, launched in 2007, came with iOS 1 (then called iPhone OS), and it received upgrades for the following two years to iOS 3 before being cast into the shadows. The iPhone 3G launched with iOS 2 and was dragged into the 4.x era before Apple finally gave up trying to solve the performance issues dogging the device.

From past evidence, therefore, it appears that iPhones generally last about three years before being unsupported.

First launched in the summer of 2009, the 3GS came loaded with iOS 3 and over the past three years it’s been kept up to date to the present day with iOS 5.1.1. History tells us that it should be coming to the end of its life, with iOS 6 only being released for the iPhone 4 onwards.

In fact, the iPhone 3GS is different. A small icon at the bottom of Apple’s iOS 6 Preview microsite shows that the phone will be receiving the new update this autumn. I guess as it’s still possible to buy one from an Apple Store, the company is forced to continue support, else they’d be selling something which would already be obsolete.

However, this long lifespan will start to present some difficulties for users. As most people know, lithium rechargeable batteries only last for around three years before the cells start to break down and become unusable. For anyone who bought a 3GS in 2009 – or perhaps owns a second hand device purchased then – this may already be causing a problem, with instant shut downs, slow performance and a battery percentage which skips numbers as the battery discharges through the day.

Apple offers a solution to this problem with its own battery replacement service, although it has a huge problem – it means you’ll be without an iPhone for a week. For anyone who uses a phone regularly, being without one for more than a few hours is just impractical. For this service, Apple will charge you £55 – which is about a quarter of the phone’s current value.

Recently, I found a company called Lovefone which can replace 3GS batteries while you wait. For this, they’ll only charge £34 and since having my phone serviced, it’s been much better. Perhaps it also has something to do with the amount of dust inside which had built up over three years!

As for the future of the 3GS, iOS 6 will almost certainly mark the end of the device. I wouldn’t be too surprised if the 3GS doesn’t survive the whole of the iOS 6 era, as the iPhone 3G was dropped after 4.2.1 while other devices continued up to 4.3.5 before iOS 5 was released. There are already rumours suggesting that stocks are running low, as Apple prepares to replace its low budget option with the iPhone 4 instead.

iOS 6 is scalable to taller displays

In a discovery which almost guarantees a larger display on the iPhone, 9to5 Mac have found that when the iOS Simulator is tweaked to run at a resolution of 640 x 1136, iOS 6 displays five complete rows of icons, while iOS 5.1 displays only four.

As previously mentioned, apps are already expected to be slightly flexible vertically (most applications have scroll bars) and so increasing the resolution in one direction only is a very viable solution. From this evidence, I fully expect to see a taller display on the next generation device.

Apple WWDC keynote announcements

Today’s keynote presentation at the WWDC in San Francisco has brought a huge number of announcements, addressing both Apple’s hardware and software range.

As expected, iOS 6 was launched at the event, with several new innovations.

Apple has a whole new Maps app, with a new 3D flyover feature for large cities – providing far greater detail than a satellite image. The new Maps app also supports ‘turn by turn’ navigation, as seen on traditional satellite navigation devices. Whether Google Maps will be downloadable from the App Store will be very interesting to see.

FaceTime will now be permitted over mobile networks – video calling is something that 3G networks were originally marketed for, before the explosion of the mobile web.

Siri has been greatly expanded in iOS 6, and is now being introduced to the new iPad for the first time. It’s now possible to tweet and post Facebook updates and launch applications directly with the tool.

Shared Photo Streams allow users to share photos easily from the Photos app. If the other user is using iCloud, they are delivered automatically.

A new Passbook app allows barcodes and coupons to be stored safely in one place, rather than having to locate them amongst several hundred emails at the ticket barrier, or having to print them out unnecessarily. This could be really useful for theme parks such as Thorpe Park, which uses a bar code system to grant access to the attraction. The app uses geolocation to determine when the user is close, and can pop up a notification on the home screen.

The Phone app, which has been almost untouched since the first release of the iPhone, is now being updated in iOS 6. There’s a new ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature, allowing users to schedule a ‘Quiet Hours’ period where all notifications are suppressed. Anyone who has been woken by a call or text in the middle of the night (almost everyone) will welcome this feature. It’s possible to define a ‘Favourites’ list who are allowed to call during this period.

Support for the original iPad has been dropped with this release, although the older 3GS will be offered the upgrade. This is because Apple is still selling the 3GS in its stores, while the first iPad has been discontinued. iOS 6 will be released this autumn, almost certainly around the time of a new iPhone.

On the hardware side, the MacBook Air is being updated with faster Intel processors and a new 512GB solid state drive option. It’ll now come with USB3 ports, in addition to Thunderbolt.

There’s an all-new MacBook Pro with a 15″ 2880×1800 Retina class display, while the current generation has been granted faster processors and graphics. Interestingly, there’s no optical drive in the new version. It appears Apple isn’t interested in supporting Blu ray on the Mac, though that’s understandable (if not excusable) as they’d rather customers purchase HD content through iTunes instead.

Mac OS X Mountain Lion will be made available next month in the App Store for just £13.99, and free for any customers who purchase a new Mac from today. Siri’s voice recognition feature will be included, though it won’t be able to process any requests such as creating calendar events. The other features, such as Notification Center have already previously been announced.

It’s interesting to take a step back and examine just how wide Apple’s portfolio is now. We’re in for a great year of new releases – now we’re just waiting on solid news of the new iPhone.

Potential iPhone 5 case design

Leaked images of the case for the next generation iPhone have recently been published by 9to5Mac, which seem to suggest that the new device will have a completely different design to that of the iPhone 4 and 4S.

From this image we can tell that there could be a number of changes. Most importantly, the screen appears much larger, and now appears to be sporting a 16:9 widescreen display. Many people have questioned if the screen size could ever be increased without affecting the layout of on screen elements. However, apps are already expected to be slightly flexible vertically (most applications have scroll bars) and so increasing the resolution in one direction only could be a very viable solution. The screen resolution is reported to be 1136 x 640, up from 960 x 640 on the current generation.

Interestingly, the case seems to have no room for a traditional 30-pin dock connector, which has been standard on all of Apple’s products in recent living memory. Instead, there seems to be a much smaller hole for a potential smaller connector. This could leave more room for higher quality, stereo speakers. External audio is something which has always been a disappointment on the iPhone so this would be most welcome. However, changing the dock connector would mean any device or cable which currently uses this type would become obsolete, unless Apple produced a form of adaptor.

It appears that the headphone socket may be moving from the top to the bottom of the device, taking some of the room saved by having a smaller connector.

Finally, it seems that all the speculation about a phone with no SIM card will come to nothing for now. The images above clearly show a SIM card tray with space for a slot.

It’s been speculated that the iPhone will simply be known as ‘the new iPhone’, just like the ‘new iPad’ which was released earlier this year. If it does indeed have a larger screen and an all new design which these images suggest, offering something to both iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4/4S users, then I expect it to be hugely successful.

iPhone 4S availabilty

It appears that although the iPhone 4S has few tangible changes compared with its predecessor, it has been a commercial success. We’ve seen the usual queues at Apple stores across the world, and after selling out immediately online, dispatch dates for orders of the phone have now been pushed back to 1-2 weeks at the least.

Apple has taken an unprecedented step of launching a new system which allows customers to reserve a new iPhone from 9pm and collect it in store the next day.

Sometimes the store list and the ‘Next’ button appears, but very often it doesn’t. The reservation system seems quite buggy at the moment, and not conforming to Apple’s usual polished standards. Pressing ‘refresh’ in the browser doesn’t seem to make any difference. You may need to go backwards and forwards between this page and the previous one a few times. Whatever would Steve think?

Eventually, you’ll be presented with a list of Apple stores, which are all located in areas of dense population. Apple official resellers aren’t included in the list.

When you click ‘Next’, you’ll most likely be presented with the following screen, with ‘Unavailable’ starkly written in red six times:

I’ve only once been able to find some availability, and that offered me a time slot which I couldn’t reach due to other commitments. I was expecting that the service would be a Currys or Argos style ‘pick up anytime’ system, and I’m disappointed to see fixed times. However, I guess this way allows Apple to sell a phone to someone else, perhaps once morning timeslots have passed. This makes commercial sense, considering that it is a highly sought after gadget yet one with a short shelf life, considering that a new model will perhaps be out in twelve months or less.

Hopefully the availability problems will be resolved shortly, though Apple only has a short amount of time until potential customers decide that they will be waiting for bigger upgrades on the iPhone 5 instead.