The Competition: Apple’s 2014 Smartphone Lineup, From Android Colored Spectacles


I find it difficult to remain impartial when I watch Apple's iPhone announcement because for the last few years, the presenter has increasingly, shall we say, embellished the truth. Expressions just a few words away from a lie. This year was no different, but let me look through the presented facts at the devices and what this might mean for the industry.

It's a sad fact of life that far too many people judge a smartphone by the box specifications and assume that if a device does not meet or exceed other device statistics, it is therefore inadequate. And the problem with paper inadequacies is that may be like benchmarks and so irrelevant to everyday use.

It's time for me to write about the 2014 Apple iPhone line up and this year, we again have two new designs, the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. The first thing to write about is the size of the screens: for years of claiming that the ideal screen size was 3.5-inch across the diagonal, then a couple of years with 4.0-inch as the new optimum, now Apple have increased the screen size to 4.7-inch (for the iPhone 6) and 5.5-inch for the iPhone 6 Plus. In most other respects, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are identical: the 6 Plus is bigger with a higher capacity battery, but they have the same specification and feature-set.

In common with other manufacturers, Apple have further refined and polished the iPhone design. Both models are built around the Apple A8 dual core processor, believed to be clocked at 1.4 GHz and paired up with 1 GB of RAM. Each device is available with 16 GB, 64 GB or 128 GB of onboard storage. They both get an 8 MP iSight camera on the back and a 2.1 MP camera on the front. Apple doesn't quote the battery capacity of their devices but we believe the iPhone 6 has a 1,810 mAh battery and the iPhone 6 Plus is somewhere closer to 3,000 mAh. As regards to the rest of the hardware specifications, that the processor is only a 1.4 GHz dual core is meaningless because Apple's priority is a smooth experience rather than impressing people with how many cores or the clock speed. Likewise with the amount of RAM available; one cannot compare a 1 GB iPhone with a 1 GB Android device.

The iPhone 6 has a screen resolution close to 720p and the iPhone 6 Plus has a 1080p screen; in some circles, this relatively low screen resolution is seen as a bad thing but the difference in sharpness between the Nexus 4 (4.7-inch, 720p) and HTC One M8 (5.0-inch, 1080p) is not noticeable at a normal viewing distance. Instead, color, vibrancy and viewing angles is important and Apple have traditionally used good quality screens. I don't expect a meaningful difference between either of these iPhone models and say that One (M8).

One of the big new improvements is the adoption of NFC combined with Apple's infrastructure, called Apple Pay. This might kickstart the NFC industry and widen the audience and this will be beneficial for everybody. I am disappointed that Apple's control of NFC is kept deliberately tight, meaning that things such as file transfer and even NFC Bluetooth pairing are unavailable with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

From a productivity perspective, the larger screens will make life easier with the iPhone if you browse the Internet, use email or messaging, but the biggest difference is in the software as Apple are also releasing iOS 8 (available for the iPhone 4S and upwards). There are a lot of new features such as support for interactive notifications and lockscreens, custom keyboards, the ability to change default applications, better document management and inter-app connectivity. Some of these features make iOS 8 much more appealing compared with earlier versions but I'll reserve my personal assessment until I've used it for a time.

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