Category Archives: Gadgets

Apple Music: Streaming Service Unveiled

 

Apple has announced its long-awaited music streaming service, promising subscription access to tens of millions of tracks.

CEO Tim Cook revealed Apple Music – seen as a rival to the likes of Spotify – at the company’s annual developers conference.

“It will change the way you experience music forever,” Mr Cook told the audience.

Users will be able to stream songs or save them for offline listening.

Apple Music will also feature a 24/7 global radio station called Beats One, broadcasting from LA, New York and London.

Former Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe is one of the figures involved in that project.

Apple Music will also recommend songs.

The company boasts the suggestions will be curated by the “world’s leading music experts”, rather than relying solely on a computer algorithm.

The price in the US will be $9.99 (£6.50) per month, with the first three months free. UK pricing has not yet been announced.

Unlike Spotify, it will not offer a free service supported by adverts

It launches on Apple devices on 30 June in more than 100 countries, and on Windows and Android devices in the autumn.

A Connect feature, designed to let musicians share photos, music and other updates with fans, is also a key part of the service.

Apple Music will appear as an update to the existing Music app on iPhones and iPads.

Rapper Drake and Beats headphones co-founder Jimmy Iovine were among the music industry big-hitters who appeared on stage to promote the new service.

Apple bought Beats Electronics and online music streaming service Beats Music for $3bn (£1.8bn) last year.

The San Francisco event also saw Apple announce that its Pay system is coming to the UK in July.

It means people will be able to tap their iPhone, Apple Watch or iPad to instantly purchase goods.

More than 250,000 individual outlets will support the system, including M&S, Costa, Waitrose, the Post Office and Boots.

The system will work with nearly 70% of UK credit and debit cards by the autumn.

HSBC, NatWest, Santander, TSB, Lloyds, Nationwide and Royal Bank of Scotland are among the banks on board.

Passengers on London’s transport network will also be able to use it to pay for travel.

Apple also revealed the new version of its Mac operating system, El Capitan, and announced a raft of new features for its latest mobile operating system, iOS9.

These include split screen apps for iPad and a more intelligent Siri ‘personal assistant’ that Apple says is 40% faster and more accurate.

Apple’s recently launched Watch is also getting a boost.

Apps will now able to run ‘natively’ on the watch itself, rather than a linked iPhone doing most of the work.

The company says it will allow developers to come up with more sophisticated, powerful apps that take full advantage of the device.

Apple’s news aggregation app was also shown off at the San Francisco conference.

It curates a personalised version of the news based on a user’s interests and will launch first in the UK, US and Australia.

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WWDC 2015: iOS 9, HomeKit, Apple Pay and more announcements to expect

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Analysts, investors and all eager Apple fans are gearing up for the Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC, from June 8-12 in San Francisco. The company plans to reveal many interesting products, be it hardware or software. Apple has now confirmed that the keynote will be streamed live from Moscone Center. According to the invitation, the event is about to become ‘The epicenter of change.’ Here’s a closer look at what we can expect at WWDC 2015.

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1. iOS 9

There’s a lot being said about iOS 9 and how it might be the clear-cut star of the event. As per rumours, Apple’s biggest addition will include taking on Google Now with a new iOS initiative internally called Proactive. According to 9To5Mac, Proactive will leverage existing features such as Siri, Contacts, Calendar, Passbook, and third-party apps ‘to create a viable competitor to Google Now’. The company also has plans to introduce a new smart home app for iOS 9 called ‘Home’. The new app will allow a user to set up new smart home products such as Wi-Fi garage door openers, smart thermostats akin to Nest’s Learning Thermostat, and wireless door locks with iPhones and iPads.

Additional features included may revolve around a new security system called Rootless, that is called a huge kernel-level feature for OS X as well as iOS. It is aimed at preventing malware, improving safety of extensions and will prevent administrative-level users from accessing certain data on the devices. It is also said to be huge blow to the jailbreak community.

For Apple, iOS 9 is all about change. The company has penned down a new strategy as well, as it expects to widen the time/life span of support for its older devices including the iPhone 4S. Needless to say, this will help the company maintain a foothold in emerging markets where people don’t really replace a high-end device every time its new variant arrives. All in all, Apple isn’t worrying about designing a flashy new OS, but will rather focus heavily on improving stability and optimisation for their yet to release iOS 9.

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2. Apple Watch

It’s been over a month since we witnessed Apple’s smartwatch, but it seems like the spark for the device has already dialed down. As of now, Apple has only only released its first OS update which include a few bug fixes and new language support. But apart from this, developers see the watch’s main benefits as saving time or the labour of frequently taking out a phone. In conversation with 9to5mac, Apple’s senior vice president of operations Jeff Williams revealed that a software development kit designed to create Watch-native apps would be released during WWDC.

This implies that we can expect third party apps which will not find the need to be paired to the iPhone at all times, but will able to run independently on the Watch itself. Rumour has it that the company also has plans to replace its favoured font Helvetica Neue across iOS 7 upwards with a custom-designed San Francisco typeface, according to this report.

3. Apple’s new streaming music service

Apple’s upcoming music streaming service, which is based on the recently acquired Beats, will reportedly be dubbed Apple Music. What is rather interesting is that this new service will be resemble Apple’s now-defunct Ping social networking system, which was officially closed on September 30, 2012 and replaced with Facebook and Twitter integration in iTunes. Apple is most likely to unveil the new streaming music service at WWDC, according to the Wall Street Journal and is said to cost $10 per month and provide unlimited listening as well.

Re-branding the acquired Beats Music service, the new service could be built into iTunes and the iOS Music app. According to the report, Apple also plans to augment its free, ad-supported Internet radio service with channels programmed and hosted by human DJs. The service is said to debut at WWDC and might launch a few weeks later.

4. Apple’s new television service

Speculation is mounting that Apple’s take of the future of TV is going to be focused on delivering a new type of service, rather than a new piece of hardware. Wall Street Journal had reported that the new service would have about 25 channels, anchored by broadcasters such as ABC, CBS and Fox and would be available on Apple devices such as the Apple TV. The recent announcement of HBO Now also supports rumors that Apple is interested in streaming TV content. The service’s retail price is expected to be $15 a month.

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5. Apple Pay

Apple Pay, which was a hit with over a million activations in 72 hours, may have a few announcements lined up at WWDC. Apple is expected to introduce a new rewards program for the payments service. The company could finally announce its expansion plan for Apple Pay to more countries such as India, Europe, Middle East and Africa, as rumoured last year. Details on Apple pay announcements for WWDC and scarce.

6. HomeKit

Apple may finally officially launch its home automation platform, HomeKit and WWDC. HomeKit is a set of tools in Apple’s iOS 8 software designed to work with smart home devices. The company announced the home automation platform at its conference for developers last year, but devices compatible with the software have yet to appear in stores.

According to a report, accessories for Apple’s HomeKit will hit stores this month. The HomeKit app called Home may also be introduced as part of iOS 9. Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said in a statement last month that, “HomeKit has been available for just a few months and we already have dozens of partners who have committed to bringing HomeKit accessories to market and we’re looking forward to the first ones coming next month.”

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7. OS X 10.11

The potential name for Apple’s next OS X operating system codenamed OS X 10.11 Gala is most likely to have a preview at WWDC. The OS X 10.11 will most likely focus heavily on bug fixes, optimization improvements, and security enhancements, much like the iOS 9. According to rumours, Apple may convert many IMAP-based applications like Notes, Reminders, and Calendar to its own iCloud Drive system, improving communication in these apps between devices and increasing security.

A trusted Wi-Fi feature will allow Macs and iOS devices to connect to authorized wireless routers without additional security measures. It would add more heavily encrypted wireless connection for non-trusted routers.

Source: FirstPost

 

The truth about Google’s famous ‘20% time’ policy

One of Google’s most famous management philosophies is something called “20% time.”
Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin highlighted the idea in their 2004 IPO letter:

“We encourage our employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google,” they wrote. “This empowers them to be more creative and innovative. Many of our significant advances have happened in this manner.”

Tech AnnouncementHuge 20% products include the development Google News, Gmail, and even AdSense.

However, whether or not 20% time actually exists anymore has been a matter of debate. In 2013, Chris Mims wrote for Quartz that 20% time was “as good as dead” because it became too difficult for employees to take time off from their normal jobs.

Yahoo CEO and formal Googler Marissa Mayer once bluntly denied its true existence.

“It’s funny, people have been asking me since I got here, ‘When is Yahoo going to have 20% time?'” she said on stage during an all-employee meeting at Yahoo. “I’ve got to tell you the dirty little secret of Google’s 20% time. It’s really 120% time.”

So, what’s really going on with 20% time?

Only about 10% of Googlers are using it, last time the company checked, but it doesn’t really matter, as long as the idea of it exists, according to Google HR boss Laszlo Bock in his new book, “Work Rules!”

Bock says that the use of the concept has “waxed and wanted,” over time. It’s not technically something that gets formal management oversight – Googlers aren’t forced to work on additional projects and there are no written guidelines about it. Typically, employees who have an idea separate from their regular jobs will focus 5 or 10% of their time on it, until starts to “demonstrate impact.” At that point, it will take up more of their time and more volunteers will join, until it becomes a real project.

“In some ways, the idea of 20 percent time is more important than the reality of it,” he writes. “It operates somewhat outside the lines of formal management oversight, and always will, because the most talented and creative people can’t be forced to work.”

 

The Lock Has Evolved: Open Doors With Your Phone

You’ve probably opened your car without sticking a key in the door for at least a decade. So why do we still use old-fashioned keys on the locks at home? Electronic locks, around for years, are a paradox. They seem so obvious in cars, hotel rooms and offices, yet alien at home.

Now a crop of smart home deadbolts propose a different approach: Turning your smartphone into the key.

This is still a horrifying idea to many people, including most of my family. There are so many what-ifs. What if your phone dies and you’re forced to sleep in the backyard? What if it goes haywire and lets in murderers?

Two smart locks I’ve tried answer enough of the scary what-ifs to make me consider retiring my trusty brass keys. My favorite is the $250 August, an automated device in stores this week that attaches easily to the inside face of most existing deadbolts. My runner-up is the $220 Kwikset Kevo, which replaces an entire lock with more sophisticated technology, but is a little harder to make work.

Tech Announcement 3When your deadbolts take commands from a phone, some magical things become possible. With August and Kevo, you can order the door to open automatically when your hands are full of groceries, or you just want to show off. You can travel light, because a smartphone can now replace both your keychain and wallet (thanks to services like Apple Pay). You can send virtual keys to tenants, house guests and plumbers that expire before anyone wears out their welcome.

Smart locks can be safer than traditional ones because keys can’t be lost, shared or copied, and there’s a record of the comings and goings of keyholders. The biggest threat is old-fashioned lock-picking.

But an electronic lock requires a bigger leap of faith than an Internet-connected thermostat, security camera or light bulb. Can you trust it to open and close every time? I tested three smart locks in my home—August, Kevo and the $180 Lockitron.

It took a week to get comfortable enough to leave home without a physical backup key for August. Kevo was a bit harder. One time, it locked me out, so I had to climb in through a window. (The cause was a software error, which has been patched.)

I never totally trusted Lockitron, the only one of the lot with a Wi-Fi connection. It didn’t fit one of my doors, and its maker has yet to deliver on several promised features.

Tech Announcement 2August and Kevo get the balance between reliability and functionality mostly right. Both leave an old-fashioned keyhole on the outside, so residents without smartphones (or, with ones whose batteries have died) can still come and go using keys. And since your phone connects directly to the locks with Bluetooth, they have fewer points of failure. Others, such as the $200 touch-screen smart lock made by Yale, connect your phone over the Internet to a potentially flaky smarthome hub.

August is the best-designed home technology I’ve used since the Nest thermostat. Free iPhone and Android apps allow you to dole out virtual keys to permanent residents or guests and track their activity. The hardware, which hooks onto many existing deadbolts by replacing the inside-facing latch, took me under 20 minutes to install.

Inside the chunky aluminum cylinder August attaches to your door, there’s a Bluetooth radio, batteries and a motor strong enough to turn the lock. To lock up manually inside the house, turn the August cylinder just like a latch. (Lockitron attaches a motor to your existing deadbolt latch, which is why I had a problem with the fit.)

When an authorized phone is within Bluetooth range, August can lock or unlock the door. If you use the app, it takes a few seconds to load. You can also set it to auto-unlock without touching your phone: An optional setting lets the app know when you’re approaching your door from the outside. (It isn’t quite as smart about automatically locking when you leave, but can be set to lock on a timer.)

Kevo, whose inventor appeared on the reality show “Shark Tank,” replaces your entire lock, eliminating compatibility problems. It takes a Kwikset deadbolt and adds a motor, batteries, Bluetooth radio and a touch sensor. This extra hardware lets it do a helpful trick: To lock or unlock, just touch the deadbolt with your finger when an authorized phone (or included key fob) is nearby. You never have to take your phone out of your pocket, let alone futz with an app.

There’s also an iPhone-only Kevo app that helps you manage virtual keys and track who comes and goes. You can hand out as many 24-hour temporary keys as you’d like, but Kevo charges you $2 each for more than two permanent digital keys. Any guest would have to download the app, too.

Still, installing Kevo isn’t for the timid. I spent more than an hour working through 24 steps and was frustrated placing two screws in particularly hard-to-reach spots.

Tech Announcement 4And then there’s calibration. Kevo, which has Bluetooth antennas on both sides of the door, is designed to unlock only when it senses an authorized person outside the house. (This security feature prevents the door from unlocking when you’re peering out from inside.) But Kevo failed me when its sensors thought I was inside. The company says that happened to less than 1% of owners—usually on doors with glass. A software patch fixed the problem for me.

Other what-ifs to consider:

• What if your phone’s battery dies? The physical key will still work, so keep one handy. Kevo includes a wireless key fob. August plans to soon work with other secure Bluetooth devices and unlock in their proximity.

• What if your lock’s battery dies? Both August and Kevo come with four AA batteries that should last a year. Their apps will warn you before they die. If they do fail, there’s always that spare physical key.

• What if you lose your phone? You can borrow another phone or computer to log in to your smart lock account and stop your lost phone from working as a key.

• What if the lock’s motor fails? The motor in Kevo is built to last for at least 50,000 uses; August says its can surpass 100,000. An old-fashioned key can override a dead motor.

August did fail on me when it couldn’t quite seal my old door. I’m glad I didn’t just walk away—the motor’s loud whirring told me there was a problem. The company’s fix? Replacement deadbolt locks tapered to work with doors that don’t quite shut all the way.

• What if a hacker breaks in? That would be hard. Both August and Kevo only connect to the Internet via a phone that can unlock it, so some hacker in a basement couldn’t just open your door. (Systems like Lockitron—which connect directly to the Internet—attempt to minimize risk with encryption.)

Someone could steal your account password and attempt to get a virtual key. August alerts you whenever your credentials are used on a new device, and texts or emails you a code that’s required to unlock a door for the first time on a new device.

I’ve gotten over the what-ifs that kept me up at night. August and Kevo are a serious option for homeowners, particularly those who host a lot of guests, roommates or Airbnb tenants.

But this is just a first step. My ideal deadbolt would come with a camera and be able to alert my phone when anybody enters with a key (metal as well as virtual). It should be smart enough to lock up at night if I forget. To be a compelling enough front-door upgrade, smart locks still need to make a quantum leap forward in peace of mind.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

iPhone 6 release date, news, rumours, specs and price

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iPhone 6: Everything you need to know
The iPhone 6 is finally official. After months of leaks and near endless rumours, Apple’s latest smartphone has been unveiled ahead of a September 19 iPhone 6 release date.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 rival is not alone either. As many had predicted, the iPhone 5S follow-on has landed alongside a big brother – the iPhone 6 Plus. While the iPhone 6 runs a 4.7-inch display, the 6 Plus packs an LG G3 rivalling 5.5-inch screen.

What’s more, the new iPhone had to share the stage with Apple’s first wearable. The Apple Watch will not hit retailers until ‘early 2015’ but it already looks set to stomp over rivals such as the Samsung Gear Live and Motorola’s Moto 360.

Packing a completely new design, iOS 8 operating system, a faster processor and improved camera optics, the iPhone 6 is a sizeable improvement.

Read on for everything you need to know about the iPhone 6

iPhone 6 Release Date: When can I buy the iPhone?
Keeping with tradition, the iPhone 6 release date will be held just 10 days after the phone’s formal unveiling. That means the device will hit retailers on September 19.

Coming as something of a double act, the iPhone 6 Plus release date has been confirmed for the same day.

The September 19 iPhone 6 release date will see the phone hit 10 territories on day one. As well as the UK, the new Apple phone will hit the US, Australia, Canada and France next week. Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico and Singapore will also be among the first to get the iPhone 6.

Heading for a more comprehensive release later in year, Apple has confirmed that both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available in 115 countries by the end of the year.

For those who just can’t wait until September 19 to secure their own iPhone 6, Apple has revealed that iPhone 6 pre-orders will open this Friday, September 12. iPhone 6 Plus pre-orders will be held at the same time.

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iPhone 6 Design: What’s new?
Visually, the iPhone 6 is a whole new beast. Slimmer than its predecessor, the phone packs a refined, rounded edged design. Both new Apple phone’s follow this design principle.

However, while the iPhone 6 is just 6.9mm thin, the iPhone 6 Plus is a slightly beefier 7.1mm thick. This, though, is still slimmer than the 7.6mm iPhone 5S. The iPhone 6 lines up at 129g in weight, the 6 Plus weighs 172g.

“Today, we are launching the biggest advancement in the history of the iPhone,” Apple CEO Tim said in unveiling the device.

As well as shaving off millimetres, the iPhone 6 looks totally different. The phone’s rounded corner look has been finished with an anodized aluminium back. The Apple logo, although not illuminated like some had suggested it might be, is made from a stainless steel inlay.

There will be three iPhone 6 colours available at launch. These echo those of last year’s phone, with silver, space grey and gold hues set to be available. The same colour options will be available on the iPhone 6 Plus.

Another design difference sees the phone’s power button relocated. Unlike past iPhone’s which have hosted this physical control up top, the iPhone 6 moves the button to the device’s side. This sees the phone closer mimic some of its leading Android-based rivals.

The biggest iPhone 6 design change, however, is the arrival of two handset sizes. This move had long been expected though.

Months before launch, Topeka Capital analyst Brian White stated: “The next iPhone will offer customers more choice in terms of screen size.”

He added: “The Company has never offered multiple screen sizes for a single model, we believe this is about to change with the next iPhone offering different screen sizes that we believe will allow Apple to better bifurcate the market and expand its reach.”

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iPhone 6 Specs: The Screen and Processor
The iPhone 6 isn’t just about looks. The phone features improvements under the hood, too.

Up first, display. While the phone had been tipped to feature a Quantum Dot display coated in scratch resistant Sapphire Glass, neither point came to fruition. Instead the iPhone 6 packs a 4.7-inch LCD Retina HD display with an Ion-strengthened glass layer.

Although falling a little short of the rumour mill expectation, the iPhone 6 screen looks set to be capable of more than holding its own against the competition.

While the traditional iPhone 6 screen benefits from a 1334 x 750 pixels resolution, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus is a little more detailed. It adds a more traditional 1920 x 1080p Full HD panel. Both displays offer fingerprint-resistant oleophoblic coatings, wide viewing angles and 500 candela brightness levels.

Things have been rejigged beneath the surface too.

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The iPhone 6 is the first Apple phone to run the new 64-bit A8 processor. This component features 2 billion transistors on a 20-nanometer process. It is 13 per cent smaller than last year’s A7 chip and offers 25 per cent faster processing speeds – according to Apple that is.

Despite also boosting the iPhone’s graphical abilities, the A8 is not alone. The CPU is partnered with Apple’s new M8 ‘motion coprocessor’.

This is a chip dedicated to health and motion tracking. Packing the usual array of sensors (accelerometer, altimeter, barometer, digital compass, gyroscope), the iPhone 6 – thanks to the M8 – is capable of accurately turning your movements into reliable fitness data.

Combine this with the iOS 8 introduced HealthKit apps and the iPhone 6 is shaping up to be a personal trainer in your pocket. With relative elevation measurements, it can even let you know how many stairs you’ve climbed.

The iPhone 6 packs the same Touch ID sensor as the iPhone 5S. Thanks to a few software tweaks, however, the applications of this are now far more expansive. The iPhone 6 will now offer biometric authentication on third-party apps.

This fingerprint scanner will also come in handy when using Apple’s new in-store mobile payment service, Apple Pay.

Battery wise, Apple is claiming the iPhone 6 offers staying power equal, if not better than, the iPhone 5S. It is being tipped to offer 14 hours of 3G talk time so those nightly trips to the charger will still be required. The exact capacity of the phone’s battery, however, is still unclear.

The same can be said for the iPhone 6 Plus, a device which is tipped to run 24 hours of 3G talk time on a single charge.

Apple has mixed things up on the capacity front with the iPhone 6. With microSD card expansion missing as always, the company has confirmed it will introduce a 128GB iPhone for the first time. This oversize option has come at the expense of the 32GB offering though. Bizarrely, the phone will be available in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities.

On a connectivity front, as you would expect, the iPhone 6 is 4G, LTE compatible. Supporting 20 LTE bands, the iPhone 6 will also offer Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and Wi-Fi calling. EE will support this in the UK. For the first time on an Apple phone, NFC has made the cut.

The phone will come bundled with a pair of Apple EarPods headphones, and a Lightning charger. The handset requires a Nano-SIM.

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iPhone 6 Camera: iPhone 6 and 6 Plus compared
For those snap-happy smartphone owners out there, the iPhone 6 camera has also been on the receiving end of some updates.

The phone retains the 8-megapixel iSight sensor of its predecessor and pairs this with a TrueTone flash and a f/2.2 aperture. There are significant improvements on the camera’s performance though.

Apple has claimed that a new autofocus mechanic is faster and more accurate than on previous models. The phone using something the company calls Focus Pixels, a different name for phase detection focussing.

The two iPhone 6 models differ slightly in their camera options. White the larger iPhone 6 Plus benefits from optical image stabilisation – like devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – the standard iPhone 6 only features digital stabilisation.

There is the usual array of all-encompassing camera modes on both devices. Panorama shots have also been boosted to up to 43-megapixel in size.

For those who want their smartphones to tackle more than stills, the iPhone 6 has some pretty impressive video recording capabilities too.

Overlooking unnecessary 4K credentials, the iPhone 6 is capable of shooting 1080p, Full HD video at both 30fps and 60fps. Apple’s Slo-Mo mode makes a welcome reappearance with footage able to be captured at 240fps before being slowed down.

Selfie lovers, you’re covered too. A new 1.2-megapixel FaceTime HD camera features around front. It boasts a f/2.2 aperture and can shoot 720p HD video in its own right. With improve dace detection it is ideal for video calls or, more likely, those Facebook-bound vanity shots.

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iPhone 6 Software: What can you do?
Although existing iPhone and iPads will be running the software two days before the iPhone 6 lands, Apple’s latest phone will be the first to host iOS 8 direct from the box.

An iOS 8 update has been confirmed for September 17, with all Apple phone from the iPhone 4S up, and tablets from the iPad 2 onwards, all set to benefit from the patch.

Back to the iPhone 6 though, and some bespoke software additions are being thrown in.

The larger phones feature a new ‘reachability’ mode to aid single-handed use. These are being introduced through iOS 8 to both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. They compress on-screen content down for easier access with a single hand.

Further addressing ease of use, iOS 8 introduces an improved Notifications menu, as well as Mail improvements and new Safari features.

As Apple looks to offer solutions for monitoring your life and your home, the software brings HealthKit and HomeKit to the fore for the first time.

These software packages are set to collate data from all manner of third-party devices to offer a comprehensive understanding of your most intimate data in one location.

According to Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi: “HealthKit provides a single place where applications can create a comprehensive wellbeing and health.”

He added HealthKit will allow users to do “everything from monitoring your activity level, your heart rate, to your weight and chronic medical conditions like diabetes.”

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iPhone 6 Price
As with most things Apple, the iPhone 6 isn’t cheap. Prices for the phone kick off at a premium £539 for the 16GB model.

While the 64GB and 128GB capability handsets will set wannabe owners back £619 and £699 respectively, the larger iPhone 6 Plus will be even more expensive.

The three storage options on the 5.5-inch handset will be priced at £619, £699 and a whopping £789.