iPhone 6, iPhone 6 PlusApple made good on all the rumors and released two versions of the new iPhone this week – the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. As those who know me well, I’m not the biggest fan of Apple, primarily because of their all or nothing business practices, but I have to admit that they have done a good job with the lastest iPhone. I know that some will argue that it’s catch-up, or a welcome to 2012 as Ron Amadeo at Ars Technica pointed out, but it’s been done in the Apple way. In other words, the new iPhone 6 is well thought out, it’s polished, and, I suspect, it works.

Here are the big feature announcements in the new hardware that you should care about.

(By the way, if you’re looking for some advice on which iPhone to purchase, see this article on choosing between the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 5s)

Phone sizes

I know quite a few people who quit iOS over the last couple of years looking for a bigger phone. Apple could have stemmed a lot of market share loss if they would’ve bit the bullet and released a 4.7-inch device two years ago. The iPhone 6 Plus is on the large side, similar to a Galaxy Note, so I expect the iPhone 6 to be the more popular of the two devices – by a wide margin.

Apple Pay and NFC

Put simply, this is a game changer and the cornerstone of the announcement. A lot of people have tried mobile payments, but Apple may have finally cracked the code. Given their complete control of the hardware and software stack, they are in a unique position to change the dynamic in mobile payments, and they just might have done it with their Apple Pay implementation.

Apple PayIn addition, there are all kinds of other features they opened up by including NFC (Near Field Communication) technology in the iPhone 6. A couple were shown off during the demo, including the ability to open up hotel rooms with your iPhone instead of a room key.

Wi-fi calling

Apple has finally added the ability to make and receive calls using Wi-fi. It’s a big deal if your home or work location doesn’t get good carrier coverage. It’s been available in Android phones for quite a while, but carriers have been hesitant to enable the feature. I suspect their tone will change with the availability of the feature in the iPhone.

Improved M8 processor

The M8 is a processing chip in the iPhone that detects movement. It’s been improved from the iPhone 5s version to track movement in multiple dimensions, including elevation. Expect to see interesting new features added to apps, particularly fitness tracking apps.

Better battery life

The larger phone body has allowed Apple to put a bigger battery in the phone. Combined with component improvements, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will have better battery life than their predecessors.

And one more thing…

Apple WatchWhile not a complete surprise, Apple announced their version of the smartwatch to conclude the proceedings. True to form, Apple showed off a product that has the appearance of being more polished and better thought out than the Android Wear smartwatches that are available. Unfortunately, I’m just not sold on the concept yet.

I’m having a hard time understanding why I would want to do things on a 1.5-inch watch screen when all of the same functionality is available using the phone in my pocket. For example, do you really want to view photos on your smartwatch. I mean, seriously? There may be a place for notifications, but I’m having difficulty with a lot of the other functionality.

Outside of that, the biggest challenge facing smartwatches is best summed up in this article by Seth Godin titled “Functional jewelry”. Watches are more about form and status than function, so it seems to me that trying to cram all of the functionality of my smartphone into a watch is not the right answer. Of course, in ten years time I could be completely wrong. For example, if you would’ve have told me ten years ago that leaving my phone at home would be a bigger problem than leaving my wallet there, I would have called you insane, to put it politely. And look where we are now….

(For a more in-depth discussions of smartwatches and wearables, you can read this piece I recently wrote about the technology and its future direction by clicking here)

Anyway, while I may hate to admit it, Apple has done a great job with the iPhone 6, at least on paper. I’m interested in getting my hands on one and seeing if it is as good as advertised. I may even consider switching sides. It’s a long shot that I wouldn’t bet on, but who knows?

Either way, it’s definitely going to make for an interesting end of the year with regards to mobile phone market share. Apple is going to sell a ton of iPhone 6 devices between now and Christmas. It will certainly slow down, if not reverse the trend, of Android’s growing market share.