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Apple Watch steals show from biggest iPhone ever

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 10, 2014
CEO Tim Cook leads biggest product rollout since the first iPhone to trumpet new smartphones, a digital payment service and a foray into fashion.

Apple has added support for VoLTE, or voice-over-LTE, which Schiller said would make calls clearer, and Wi-Fi calling, so that calls begun within range of a Wi-Fi network will seamlessly hand off to a cellular network -- or vice versa -- as an owner moves.

"This was a bunch of expected, expectable refinements," said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research. "It was pretty much what you can expect from most any smartphone introduction.... This is a mature technology now. But it was enough to make them attractive and make some noise."

Gottheil said he was looking forward to trying the Wi-Fi calling -- he called it "important to me" -- because cellular signals are weak where he works.

Prices for the iPhone 6 will be the same as last year's iPhone 5S -- $199, $299 and $399 with a two-year contact -- although Apple has doubled the mid- and top-end models to 64GB and 128GB of storage.

The larger iPhone 6 Plus will, as analysts bet yesterday, be priced $100 higher, or $299, $399 and $499 with a carrier commitment.

Off-contract prices for the iPhone 6 will start at $649; the iPhone 6 Plus begins at $759.

Because of the introduction of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple will again modify its long-standing practice of retaining previous-generation models, which it has sold at $99 with a contract for the past year's phone (n-1), or for $549 sans commitment. In the case of the two-year-old model (n-2), Apple has asked for zero down when customers sign a two-year contract, or $449 for an unlocked phone.

The iPhone 5S will take the "n-1" spot, while the iPhone 5C will hold down the "n-2" place. Apple has dropped 2011's iPhone 4S from the line-up, contrary to some experts' predictions.

The new iPhones will go on sale Sept. 19, and Apple will start taking orders Friday, Sept. 12. iOS 8, as anticipated, will be available for download to existing iOS devices on Sept. 17.

Money, money, money
Cook also outlined his company's first NFC-based digital payment service.

"This is exactly what Apple does best. And so we've created an entirely new payment process, and we called it Apple Pay," said Cook, who touted the service as faster, more secure and more convenient.

Cue, who took over presentation duties, said the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus would both support Apple Pay, meaning older models will not be able to pay by touching the smartphone to a specialized terminal at retail.

Apple will first roll out Apple Pay in the U.S., and has struck deals with the three largest American credit card companies -- American Express, MasterCard and Visa -- and has also notched agreements with retailers like Macy's, McDonalds, Walgreens and Whole Foods, all of which are in the process of installing terminals.

 

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