This year's edition of Apple's now-famous annual smartphone release introduced two exciting devices: the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. Apple made no bones about the fact that this year's updates were the biggest improvements yet, but what’s in it for travelers? We’ve distilled the 2+ hour keynote into a few ways the new features can enhance your jetsetting lifestyle.
The iPhone 6 offers a 4.7-inch screen (up from 4 inches on models from the past two years), while the iPhone 6 Plus boasts a 5.5-inch panel. As travelers increasingly lean on their smartphones as in-car navigation devices, more screen real estate means easier visibility while on the road. Plus, those who would prefer to leave their laptop at home for short trips can now spring for a 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, which has oodles of space for more serious computing tasks -- split-screen email being a token example.
If you go on a trip and have no photos to show for it, did it really happen? All joking aside, travelers will be able to rely on their smartphone as cameras more than ever. A new sensor brings faster autofocus, better details throughout, and a larger aperture (which translates to better photo quality in low-light situations). For the serious shooters out there, you'll finally have some exposure control. And Apple didn't forget videos, either; you can now film in HD and automatically stitch together a time-lapse video. Finally, there are also a host of new editing and organizational photo tools -- a part of the iOS update, so they're also available to owners of older models.
WiFi calling (iOS)
This is perhaps the biggest boon for those who travel internationally with any regularity. This feature allows your existing U.S. phone number to be used for making and receiving calls even when you’re overseas. Just flip Airplane mode on, turn on WiFi in your hotel, and connect. Just like that, all of your calls will be routed over Wi-Fi instead of the conventional mobile tower. Even stateside, if you're vacationing in a remote area but again have WiFi at the hotel, you'll be able to make a receive calls. When you're in an area with reception again, the call will transition over without interruption. Unfortunately, only T-Mobile supports this functionality right now, but other carriers are apt to follow suit soon.
Battery life (iPhone)
Of course, none of these snazzy features matter if you run out of juice. Which is why Apple has improving longevity in every single metric it tests, for what should be "significantly" better battery life than the prior iPhone's, despite hardware enhancements. For travelers, one extra hour of Web browsing or three extra hours of talk time could surely come in handy when the power’s out or your unexpectedly stranded and forced to use your phone to arrange a safe exit.
More LTE bands (iPhone)
Both of the new models boast support for 20 LTE bands, up from 13 on prior generations. (LTE provides at-home levels of speed around 5-10 times faster than older 3G networks.) This means that you’ll be able to surf the Web at higher speeds in more countries when you hit the road.
Apple Pay (iOS)
This new function allows you to securely store your debit and credit cards on your phone to make purchases in stores and in app, with Apple's tap-to-pay network of merchants like Whole Foods, Macy’s, McDonald’s, and Bloomingdale’s. How does the function promise to protect you? The phone will generate a one-time number to use for payment, rather than sending out the 16-digit one that's actually on your card, so you wouldn't have to change your card even if one sale were compromised. And because you can wipe your phone remotely with Apple's Find My Phone function, losing your phone wouldn't be as much of a hassle as losing physical cards.
Both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus begin shipping in most countries September 19, with pricing to start at $199 and $299 respectively on a new two-year agreement.