Apple has today announced what CEO Tim Cook claims to be “the biggest advancement in the history of iPhone.”
The new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are now bigger than their predecessors at 4.7 and 5.5 inches respectively. The phones come with nearly 40% more pixels than the 5S and are thinner than previous incarnations with their cover glass curving around its sides to meet the frame. And for photography enthusiasts, the two new models will come with all-new sensors and faster autofocus.
The camera is an 8MP iSight with a new generation sensor that uses 1.5-micron Focus Pixels, allowing for Phase Detection Auto Focus for the first time in the iPhone.
While the cameras still have an f/2.2 aperture like that in the 5S, the sensor upgrade means the phones can take high dynamic range shots with one click, rather than a series of shots.
The iPhone 6 Plus also offers Optical Image Stabilization technology with a “five-element lens” that is able to move in four directions – up, down, right and left – to compensate for hand movements and create better-looking long-exposure shots.
In just a few years, Apple’s iPhone has become the world’s most popular camera – with various versions occupying the top four spots on Flickr’s Most Popular Cameras chart.
“People love taking photos with their iPhones with good reasons,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing at today’s Apple press event. And with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple expects users will now take better photos than ever before, he added. “It’s no surprise we don’t see a lot of [dedicated point and shoot cameras] anymore,” he added.
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus’ new camera features will complement software upgrades that will come when iOS 8 is released. In the latest version of its mobile operating system, Apple introduces iCloud Photo Library, an automated back-up option for photos and videos.
The update also adds new photo editing tools to the native Camera app – with controls from brightness, contrast, exposure, highlights, shadows and colors – a new Time-lapse mode and the possibility to use App Extensions to use third-party filters and tools directly from the camera’s photo library without switching to another app.
With iOS 8, users will also be able to search their images more easily according to date and location, with Apple offering Smart Suggestions. “Just tap the search icon and you’ll get choices based on what’s important to you,” Apple explained. “One more tap gives you immediate access to photos taken nearby, photos taken the same time last year or your all-time favorite photos.”
iOS 8 will be released on September 17 with the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus having a shipping date of September 19. Prices start at $199 with a two-year contract.
Apple also unveiled a new smartwatch at the even, the iWatch, which is expected to appeal to a teenage market. The new customizable Apple Watch will come in different colors.
Richard Conway is reporter/producer for TIME LightBox