What we learned at the Apple event: Bigger iPhones, Apple Pay and Apple Watches ahoy

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CUPERTINO, Calif. (AP) — For the first time in years, Apple’s iPhones aren’t the star of the show. Apple unveiled a smartwatch on Tuesday, a wearable device that marks the company’s first major entry in a new product category since the iPad’s debut in 2010.

The device’s introduction upstaged the company’s two new, larger iPhones, which won’t just have bigger screens; they’ll have a new, horizontal viewing mode to take advantage of the larger display.

The iPhone 6 will have a screen measuring 4.7 inches, while the iPhone 6 Plus will be 5.5 inches. In both cases, app developers will be able to design apps that can be viewed differently when the phone is held horizontally.

Apple also introduced a system for using the phone to make credit card payments at retail stores.

Sun-Times technology columnist Andy Ihnatko will have a full analysis of today’s event soon. In the meantime, here is a quick breakdown of what we saw:

The iWatch

The audience erupted with cheers as Cook proclaimed that he had, “one more thing.” It was how Jobs used to close his keynote addresses.

It’s called the Apple Watch.

Much of the interaction would be through the dial on the watch, which Apple calls the digital crown. You use that to zoom in and out of a map, for instance, so you’re not blocking the screen, which would have occurred if you were pinching in and out to zoom.

The watch will require one of the new iPhones or an iPhone 5, 5s or 5c. It will be available early next year at a starting price of $349.

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

The iPhone 6 will have a 4.7-inch screen, while the iPhone 6 Plus will be 5.5 inches. The screen resolution on the Plus version will be sharper than previous iPhones, at 401 pixels per inch rather than 326.

Apple says the new phones will be faster and have better battery life than previous versions. The phones will also have a new sensor, the barometer, to estimate how much you’ve climbed stairs, not just how far you’ve walked or run.

The new phones will start shipping in the U.S. on Sept. 19, with advance orders to begin this Friday. Starting prices will be comparable to those in the past — $199 with a two-year contract for the iPhone 6 with 16 gigabytes of storage.

Software upgrades

Though much of the attention has been on new gadgets, the software powering those gadgets is getting its annual refresh. Apple considers iOS 8 to be its biggest update since the introduction of the app store in 2008.

Existing iPhone and iPad users will be eligible for the free upgrade, too. Apple takes pride in pushing existing customers to the latest software, allowing app developers to incorporate new features without worrying about abandoning existing users. With Android, many recent phones can’t be upgraded right away because of restrictions placed by manufacturers and wireless carriers.

Mobile payments

Apple is calling its new payment system Apple Pay.

You’ll be able to use your phone’s camera to capture a photo of your card. Apple will verify it behind the scenes and add it to your phone’s Passbook account so you can make payments at a retailer. Apple announced several merchants that will accept this system, including Macy’s, Whole Foods, Walgreens and Disney stores — and of course, Apple stores.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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