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November 7, 2014

iPhone 6

We were eagerly anticipating the release of Apple’s newest offering, the iPhone 6 (and its big brother, the iPhone 6 plus). Apparently many other people had the same thoughts, since an estimated 10 million iPhone 6 phones were sold in the initial launch weekend. The total number sold in the first month is estimated at 20 million units. Now we know why.

These new iPhones are incredibly thin (6.9mm), with both models sporting smoothly rounded edges and corners. The iPhone 6, with its 4.7" screen, cradles comfortably in our hand and has the power/lock switch located quite naturally under our index finger (or thumb if holding it in our right hand). The icons on the Home Page menu give the appearance of floating just under the screen glass and above the Main Menu Wallpaper. We found this gives a nice 3-D effect, although some people did find it disorienting.

The larger iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5" screen and is only slightly thicker than its smaller sibling (7.1mm). Both models have a new, faster processing chip, Retina display, and a motion graphics co-processor that creates smooth video motion even while displaying HD. This will be a boon to video watchers and especially gamers.

The screen resolution for the iPhone 6 is 1334 x 750, which is an improvement over previous versions. Considering the increased screen size, however, and the improved color reproduction, power efficiency and faster performance, the display in the iPhone 6 is clearly an overall improvement over the previous versions.

The big brother iPhone 6 Plus has boosted screen resolution to 1920 x 1080 to compensate for the increased screen size. The results are a clear, bright display while still maintaining the energy efficiency and longer battery life found in the smaller iPhone 6.

The keyboard on both models has been improved by increasing the spacing between keys, allowing much easier and more accurate entry. The “type ahead” word prediction feature is faster and more accurate and can speed up text entry dramatically. Apple has also added a key for selecting the additional alternate keyboards, including an Emoji keyboard, and you can have a lot of fun using the symbols to decorate your texts or emails. The combination of improved keyboard function and larger screen size make text entry a breeze, even for those new to this option. The voice-to-text option has been retained for ease in entering large amounts of text.

The front facing camera resolution remains at 8MP (megapixel) but uses a new improved image sensor that incorporates Focusing Pixels, a technical feature that results in faster and more accurate focusing for sharper still photos and improved continuous focusing for videos. Videos can be recorded at 1080 HD (high density) or at 60 fps (frames per second). A new feature called SloMo adds slow motion video at 240 fps producing an incredibly smooth near professional effect. Another new feature is the ability to change exposure on the fly just before taking a picture. Just tap on the point in the picture where you want to change the brightness or darkness, and use the on-screen slider to adjust. Great for keeping shadows or white-outs from obscuring areas or subjects of interest. It took us a little practice to use, but it does work well. The rear facing camera (think selfies) is largely unchanged from the iPhone 5S except for the addition of Focusing Pixels technology.

TouchID, the fingerprint scanner, is built into the Home Button. Its software has been improved for more accurate fingerprint identification. Apple is looking to incorporate fingerprint identification into its new Apple Pay service, which works like this: tap your iPhone on the Apple Pay cash register terminal and verify your fingerprint. Select payment option such as credit card, direct withdrawal, or other methods, and “accept transaction.” That’s it. Cool.

A new addition to the iPhone 6 is a barometer. It is anticipated that this will be used in some of the upcoming Health Apps to record stairs or hills climbed. Stay tuned for this one.

And, of course, the iPhone 6 (and Plus version) are communication devices with the ability to make and receive calls, text messages and emails. This shouldn’t be news to anyone, but what is improving with each iteration of the iPhone is Siri, Apple’s voice command feature. Ask Siri for just about any kind of information, such as “where is the nearest drug store?” You’ll get a text and/or a voice answer Or “what time is sunset today,” “Who was the 13th President of the United States.” Better yet, you can turn the questions into voice commands, such as “navigate to the nearest gas station.” Siri will open the Maps App, showing the route marked, and begin voice directions. Or “send a text message to Sara and tell her I’ll be 30 minutes late.” Siri will look up Sara’s number in your contacts and text the appropriate message. We are continually surprised that more people aren’t taking advantage of these capabilities.

And lastly (for now), the iPhone 6 Internet browser, Safari, is easier to navigate by using the larger and clearer screen. Ooops - another final, final: the current Apps count exceeds one million, so there’s bound to be something there to make life easier, more fun and who knows what.