iPhone 6 launch: can Apple fend off rivals in the war of the smartphones?

Pressure is on technology giant to dazzle consumers as  it prepares to unveil iPhone 6

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The Independent Tech

Next week in California, a new iPhone will be revealed. But while earlier iPhones left Apple’s rivals trailing, more recently companies such as Samsung, Nokia and HTC have upped their  game and provided handsets largely comparable for style and features.

Under Steve Jobs, Apple launches were quasi-religious events – but the company’s new chief executive, Tim Cook, has largely failed to recapture the buzz-generating magic of his predecessor.

LIVE: Apple iPhone 6 event

On Tuesday evening, the pressure will be on Apple to pull something out of the bag. Not by coincidence, but the past couple of days have seen Motorola, Sony, Huawei and others launch their flagship handsets which will go on sale in the business-critical run-up to Christmas. So what is the iPhone 6 likely to do, and will it help the firm to stay ahead?

Numerous purported leaks on the internet point at some likely features. First, it’s going to have a bigger screen. The iPhone 5S has a 4in display but rivals have been sporting much larger screens for years. The latest HTC phone, the Desire 820, has a 5.5in display.

The iPhone 6 will probably feature a 4.7in screen with a higher resolution than the current Retina display. However, whether Apple will seek to ape the 524 pixels per inch (ppi) of the new Samsung Galaxy Note Edge remains to be seen. The current 326ppi on the iPhone 5S looks terrific and arguably many won’t see much benefit of a higher resolution.

Next, it’ll look like a diddy iPad, with curved edges front and back instead of the flat edges on the current models. This will make it a smoother fit in the hand, especially important since it’s bigger. Most of the current crop of phones have curved backs.

The camera is likely to improve. But it’s unlikely Apple will want to match the 20.7 megapixels on the Sony Xperia Z3’s outstanding camera. It may stick with an 8-megapixel sensor or raise it to 13 megapixels and improve the lens. Expect the super-cool slo-mo video feature of the iPhone 5S to be retained, too.

Apple’s skill is not that it comes up with technology first, though it often does. It’s that it implements it so seamlessly you wonder how you managed without it. So the inclusion of a fingerprint sensor raised guffaws last year, but turns out to be a brilliantly executed system which nobody else has equalled – Huawei and Samsung phones have ID sensors but they’re not as intuitive to use.

All Apple’s rivals include a technology called NFC in their phones. Near-field communication works in the same way as contactless credit cards. But NFC payments in phones haven’t yet taken off. That could all change next week if Apple finally includes NFC and teams it with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor to offer a simple and effective way to pay for that latte, say. Such a feature would require the agreement of credit-card companies, which may initially limit it to the United States.

And there’s one other item expected to be revealed on Tuesday: an iWatch, which could potentially add this payment convenience to a gadget on your wrist as well. The iWatch won’t launch for months, though, while the iPhone 6 will probably hit the shops on around 19 September. When it does, it will have all the iterative improvements you’d expect, such as a faster processor and better battery life (oh, please). There may even be a higher-capacity model with 128GB of storage instead of the current top of 64GB, but there won’t be an expandable memory-card slot as found on most Android and Windows Phone handsets.

Will Apple match the heart-rate sensor found in the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge? Maybe. Or the humidity  sensor found on recent Samsung phones? Don’t hold  your breath. Will it be waterproof, like the Sony Xperia Z3? Sadly not.

Upwardly mobile: Latest models’ features

This week’s mobile-phone announcements in Berlin mean the battle lines are drawn. Here’s what Apple’s rivals are doing.

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

The glam Edge has a super-high-resolution 5.6in screen and extra sloping edge display which works independently. It delivers notifications, works as an alarm clock and even as a tape measure. The best-designed phone at the Berlin IFA trade show.

HTC Desire 820

This is an affordable smartphone that comes in a range of snazzy plastic colours with a 5.5in display and a very powerful processor. All the phones here have bigger screens than the iPhone 5S.

Sony Xperia Z3

Sony’s phone uses a 20.7-megapixel sensor from the company’s advanced compact-camera range. And this phone is waterproof!

Huawei Ascend G7

The Chinese phone manufacturer increasingly delivers strong phones at lower  prices than many rivals.  Although some components are lower-specced, the G7 will offer a lot for a little. Apple, however, has little  interest in producing a budget phone. Its iPhone 5C is more affordable than the 5S but far from cheap.

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