Tim Cook: Apple iPhone 6s, 6s Plus look familiar but 'everything' has changed

You asked for it (or maybe not). Regardless, the next generation of the iPhone is here.


Image: CNET

The first few days of September are often a slog for those going back to school or trying to recover from Labor Day celebrations.

Nevertheless, there is usually one now-annual event on the calendar that gets people excited for the next year (or at least few days and weeks) to come.

A new iPhone.

With a much more spacious venue in San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (think rock concerts, massive public high school graduations, etc.), expectations were just as big going in to Wednesday for a gob of new hardware -- primarily new iPhones, iPads and the long-awaited next installment of Apple TV.

How much Apple rises to meet those expectations will be debated for weeks to come -- or at least until the tech titan publishes first weekend sales results or its next quarterly earnings report.

Until then, we can dissect the next iterations of the iPhone based on what Apple unveiled on Wednesday morning.

While they look familiar and follow the same naming pattern, Apple CEO Tim Cook insisted "everything" has changed with the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, positing they are the "most advanced smartphones in the world."

zdnet-cnet-iphone-6s-plus-smartphones-2.jpg

Among the new exterior elements are 3D Touch technology (previously known as "Force Touch") for more responsive controls to hand gestures and pressure, durable glass displays and four metal finish options in silver, gold, rose gold and space grey.

3D Touch is at the heart of this upgrade, woven into the fabric of Apple-made and third-party apps alike. Apple executives suggested users could even take actions on apps without having to open them. For example, users can change songs in iTunes by pressing the icon from the home screen and select an action from a pop-up menu.

Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple and a stalwart fixture at company events for years, promised that 3D Touch would change the relationship customers have with their smartphones.

The new iOS 9-based devices have a lot to live up to after the successes of the previous generation.

Touting the iPhone 6 as the most popular phone ever, Cook boasted the iPhone vertical grew at a rate of three and a half times compared to the rest of the worldwide smartphone market.

In China alone, Cook continued, that growth rate was 75 percent while the rest of the industry saw declines.

"iPhone has changed the world," Cook asserted.

zdnet-cnet-iphone-6s-plus-smartphones-1.jpg

Beyond 3D Touch, Apple has significant bolstered the iPhone interior as well, starting with the A9 64-bit third-generation chip. Marking the first time the M9 motion co-processor has been baked directly into the chip, performance increases include a 70 percent faster CPU and 90 percent faster GPU.

Touch ID for fingerprint identification has also said to have doubled down in responsiveness as the new 12-megapixel iSight camera has 50 percent more pixels and faster autofocus adjustments. The front-facing FaceTime camera comes with a 5-megapixel HD lens.

Apple is looking farther down the line with video enhancements through the addition of support of 4K video recording. The rear flash is also borrowing from Apple's trademark Retina Display technology for brighter levels but truer color tones in low-lighting situations.

Sharing all of these photos and videos with other devices and social networks should be a bit easier too as Wi-Fi access speeds are up to twice as fast as the previous generation on top of support for up to 23 LTE bands.

But just like with the naming scheme and form factors, pricing and availability for iPhone 6s and 6s Plus will be familiar to consumers as well.

With two-year service contracts, the 16GB version of the iPhone 6s starts at $199, jumping to $299 for 6s Plus.

The iPhone 5s is the new entry-level (and free on contract) model, while the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus drop $100 respectively.

However, Apple did respond to some recent pricing structure changes that carriers have been trying out this year, including referencing installment plans for unlocked devices starting at $19 per month for the iPhone 5s.

Apple is also starting a new program of its own in its retail stores starting in the United States. Dubbed the iPhone Upgrade Program, consumers can get a new iPhone every year, choose an unlocked device and carrier, paying $32 per month over 24 months.

Eager beavers can pre-order the next generation of the iPhone starting Saturday, September 12 and the next models will become available in select countries starting on September 25. iOS 9 becomes available on September 16.