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3 Surprises From Apple's iPhone 6s

By Daniel B. Kline - Sep 14, 2015 at 2:30PM

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The company did not shock its audience, but it still produced a few exciting moments.

Just because people knew an iPhone refresh was coming does not mean Apple (AAPL 4.01%) failed to create a few "wow" moments during its September Event.

In general, the company announces a major overhaul of its phone lineup every other year, and a milder update on the alternate year. This was an off-year and Apple, as expected, only introduced new "s" versions of its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

The iPhone is now offered in a new color, Rose Gold. Source: Apple.

That did not stop CEO TIm Cook from playing up the changes as massive.

"iPhone has changed the world. And while they may look familiar, we have changed everything about these new iPhones," he said. "The only thing that's changed is everything."

That seems like a bit of overselling for what are essentially exactly the same phones with better processors, enhanced cameras, and a few surprises (one of which is not related to the phone itself, but how it's sold). Still, while it's not nearly as exciting as an entirely new model. Apple did manage to elicit some strong reactions during the event. 

Force Touch is not Force Touch
One of the more-anticipated expected additions to the 6s models was the inclusion of Force Touch -- Apple's system of using how hard you hit the touchscreen to affect what happens. Force Touch has already been introduced on some MacBooks, and its inclusion on the latest iPhones was a foregone conclusion.

However, instead of announcing Force Touch, the company introduced a variant it called "3D Touch," which the company explained on its website:

With 3D Touch, you can do things that were never possible before. It senses how deeply you press the display, letting you do all kinds of essential things more quickly and simply. And it gives you real-time feedback in the form of subtle taps from the all-new Taptic Engine.

3D Touch also introduces two new methods of interacting with your phone -- "Peek" and "Pop" -- which let users preview content and act on it without having to actually open it. "For example, with a light press you can Peek at each email in your inbox," the company wrote. "Then when you want to open one, press a little deeper to Pop into it."

It's a new way to use iPhone that actually lives up to some of Cook's "everything has changed" rhetoric. It may take some getting used to, but it's a major departure that seems intuitive enough for people to easily learn to use it.

Siri is now always on
Just adding a new processor to the updated iPhone is a bit ho-hum, but the addition of an embedded M9 motion co-processor allows for some surprising functionality. Because the M9 is always on, it allows users to access Siri without having to push a button on the phone. Simply say "Hey Siri," and the voice assistant will respond to your question. 

The M9 also allows for a number of other cool features that the company explained:

The M9 connects to the accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, and barometer for a wide range of fitness tracking capabilities. With iPhone 6s, you can now measure your running or walking pace in addition to your steps, distance, and elevation changes. 

This change makes iPhone more useful when you're not actively using your phone. Being able to interact with Siri without holding your phone is a major plus, and the other uses should be a boon for app developers.

Apple has an interesting finance deal
One of the biggest problems Apple faces in getting people to upgrade to its latest phone is that three of the four major wireless carriers have stopped subsidizing phone purchases. That forces people to either finance their phone or pay for it up front.

Inherently, the money being spent does not really change, as paying $199 for an iPhone on a two-year contract came with increased monthly service fees so the carrier could recoup the full retail value over the life of the deal. In perception, though, the death of subsidies could have been a big blow in that it forces consumers to actually think about what they are spending each month.

In theory, this could lead to people buying cheaper devices or waiting longer to upgrade. To counteract that, Apple has found a clever way to not only keep people on a regular upgrade cycle, but perhaps to make more money for itself.

The company is now offering two-year financing on unlocked iPhones with the ability to upgrade when a new model comes out. Apple will offer the 16GB version of the iPhone 6s for $32.45 a month for 24 months. If the user elects to upgrade the phone after a year, the payment clock resets, but the monthly charge remains the same.

In addition to the phone, which can be used with any carrier, the company is adding in Apple Care. It's not necessarily the cheapest deal that will be offered on the new phone, but it's an innovative program that essentially cuts the carrier out the loop, strengthening Apple's direct relationship with its customers.

The iPhone 6s will start at $649 for the 16 GB model and $749 for the 16 GB 6s Plus. Apple will begin taking pre-orders on Sept. 12 for a Sept. 25 launch date. 

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