By Ian Bush

by tech editor Ian Bush

CUPERTINO, Calif. (CBS) — Apple’s big product announcements typically are nothing short of a spectacle, and today’s event was no exception.

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With U2 performing, Apple took the wraps off new phones, tap-to-pay technology, and a smartwatch.

What a surprise from Bono and company:  they’ve recorded a new album.

” ‘Songs of Innocence’ is going out for free to a half a billion people,” to anyone with iTunes, the U2 frontman said.

“We’re not kidding.  That just happened,” noted Apple CEO Tim Cook.

But it was more than the music, of course, taking the stage.

“These are the new iPhones: the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus,” Cook said. They have screens measuring 4.7″ and 5.5″ respectively — bigger than their previous handhelds, to better compete with Android, while being thinner and curvier.

The iPhone 6 comes in black, gold, or white, and starts at $199 with 16GB.  The iPhone 6 Plus starts at $299 for the 16GB model on contract.  Preorders for both start on Friday, September 12th; the devices begin shipping on the 19th.

The phones are equipped with near-field communication — what Apple calls “Apple Pay.”  It works in conjunction with the fingerprint reader and a secure chip to store credit and debit card information.

The company says it won’t know what you’re buying or where, and cashiers will never see your name or card details: a single-use payment number is used with a dynamic security code for transactions.

Apple says Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are on board in time for the October launch, along with big banks (including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Chase, and Citi).   Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Subway, Whole Foods, and McDonalds will accept Apple Pay, with the latter outfitting its drive-thru windows with technology.

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Cook demo’d the technology for web shopping, paying with one touch at Target.com — again, without sharing any card information.

(Cook:) “We have one more thing.”

Stealing the show, the Apple Watch: navigate the apps on its digital face by touch and with the crown.

“It’s a new, innovative, intimate way to communicate directly from your wrist, and it’s a comprehensive health and fitness device.  And it’s so much more,” Cook said.

There are three levels: Apple Watch (polished stainless steel case); Sport (anodized aluminum case); and Edition (18K gold).  Strap choices include stainless steel, mesh, leather, and “sweat-resistant sport.”

If you can swallow the $349 starting price, you’ll still have to wait until sometime next year to get one — and you need an iPhone to use it.

 

 

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