Sleek iPhone 6 and 6 Plus feature big displays, NFC payments and new chips inside

Apple has taken the iPhone into the sixth generation with the launch Tuesday of the widely anticipated iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, it's thinnest -- and largest -- phones ever, running on a new 64-bit chip.

Apple is also moving into the payments business with ApplePay, incorporated into the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which feature a built-in NFC radio antenna.

Payment card information is stored and encrypted in what Apple calls the Secure Element; in the U.S. credit and debit cards from American Express, MasterCard and Visa will be supported.

The iPhone 6, with a 4.7-inch screen displaying 1 million pixels, is just 6.9 mm thick, while the 5.5-inch 6 Plus is 7.1 mm thick and displays 2 million pixels.

The new A8 processor is billed as 25 percent faster than its predecessor, while the graphics processor is 50 percent faster.

The iPhone 6 and 6 plus also feature a new motion co-processor, the M8, that can distinguish between different activities such as walking, cycling or running, the company said, and can estimate distance and elevation. There's also a new barometer sensor in the phones.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus use 150Mbps LTE and support 20 LTE bands, which Apple claims is more than any other smartphone.

The iPhone 6 starts at US$199 under a two-year contract in the U.S., while the Plus is priced at $299 for a 16GB version, $399 for a 64GB version and $499 for a 128GB version.

The phones are due to be available on Sept. 19 in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, Germany, Australia and Hong Kong, among others.

Both phones have an 8-megapixel iSight camera with an f/2.2 aperture. Both can record 1080 HD video at up to 240 frames per second for slow motion effects.

The phones will run Apple's iOS 8 operating system. Users of other Apple mobile devices can download iOS for free starting on Sept. 17.

People can pre-order the Apple 6 and 6 Plus phones starting this Friday.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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