Donald Strachan, The Daily Telegraph, September 10, 2014
On September 9, Apple announced two new iPhones, the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. With Apple, beautiful design is a given. The major change was the release of two phones with different screen sizes. The current iPhone 5S has a 4-inch screen. The new iPhones have screen sizes of 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, matching rivals at the top end of the smartphone market whose screens generally measure 5 inches or more.
But for travellers, screen size is mostly a sideshow. The new models are also thinner than current iPhones. But my iPhone is already thin and light: there were more important new features to look out for. How do these add up for travellers?
Longer battery life?
I probably tap and swipe more than the average user, but my last-generation iPhone rarely lasts a full day on a single charge when I'm checking apps, maps and review sites on a city break.
The contrast, when I road-tested the HTC One (M8) on a recent trip to Rome, was stark. Its 2,600 mAh battery did not once run out before bedtime. Sony's recently announced Experia Z3 will have an even bigger 3,100 mAh battery.
The new iPhone 6 is an upgrade on the 5S. By how much? Alongside increases in raw battery capacity, the iPhones' faster A8 processor offers improvements in power management. Apple data suggests the iPhone 6 will last 25 percent longer on 3G browsing than the iPhone 5S. Standby times are identical, however. It's an improvement rather than a sea change. The larger iPhone 6 Plus promises a bigger boost in battery life.
A removable battery would be even better, so I could carry a spare on my travels. The LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy S5 both have one, but that was never likely to be on the agenda for Apple.
A better camera?
Camera quality was long one of the iPhone's strengths, but rivals have matched and even surpassed Apple. They make carrying a compact camera redundant, saving space in your hand luggage. Sony recently announced the Experia Z3 with a 20.7 megapixel (MP) camera, 4K video recording and image sensitivity equivalent to ISO 12,800, making low-light shooting easier. Nokia's 41MP Lumia 1020 currently leads the way in smartphone photo performance.
Did the iPhone 6 camera match these? On the face of it, not quite. The new iPhones still have 8MP cameras. But camera quality is about more than just megapixels. Both iPhone models have a new sensor, faster, more precise autofocus, and improved image stabilization for sharper photos. They can also shoot creative slo-mo video at up to 240 frames per second. Without a detailed hand-on test it's impossible to be certain, but the camera looks like a significant upgrade on the iPhone 5S.
Improved protection against the elements and accidents?
Travel dishes out serious punishment to a smartphone, and accidents happen. Pre-launch rumours suggested that new iPhone screens could be made from ultra-tough synthetic sapphire. Instead, the new iPhone comes with what Apple calls an “ion strengthened glass” screen. And rivals already make fully waterproof phones. The new Sony Experia Z3 is waterproof under 1.5 metres of water for up to 30 minutes, for example.
More and better apps?
Apple's iOS platform sets the benchmark for breadth and quality of travel apps, though gone are the days when an iPhone app would appear long before the Android version. An upgraded operating system, iOS 8, has already been announced, and will be available from September 17. The new operating system is free on iPhones from the 4S onwards. Among the new features are enhanced photo editing and HomeKit integration, which will enable travellers to control connected security and other so-called “smart home” devices while they are away on holiday.
A secure mobile payments system?
Several phone networks and banks are launching mobile wallets. These are designed to replace credit and debit cards with tapping your smartphone to pay, in any shop that accepts contactless cards. Apple's launched its own version yesterday, known as Apple Pay. It will be available from next month, initially in the US only. Both new iPhones have a Near Field Communications (NFC) antenna for making contactless payments, which shoppers authenticate using their iPhone's Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
Apple Pay could offer a safe and convenient way to pay when we travel. Travel apps including Uber (for private hire cabs) and OpenTable (for restaurant bookings) have already announced Apple Pay integration services. The payments system will also work with the new Apple Watch.
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This article was written by Donald Strachan from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.