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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Key analysts changes to know about

Stocks were looking firm on Tuesday after Monday’s drop turned out to not be as deep as feared. Investors are proving able and willing to step in and look for opportunity in pullbacks and overlooked stock stories. Each morning 24/7 Wall St. reviews dozens of brokerage analyst reports for new investment and trading ideas for its readers. Some of these reports cover stocks to buy, but some also cover stocks to sell or to avoid.



These are this Tuesday’s top analyst upgrades, downgrades and initiations covered by 24/7 Wall St.

Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) was raised to Buy from Neutral and the price target was raised to $18 from $16 at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) was started as Hold with a $110 price target (versus a $100.11 close) at Jefferies. While this is a Hold rating rather than a Buy rating, note that the consensus analyst price target of $110.79 is less than $1 higher than this target issued today — and this target still implies 10% upside plus the dividend.

Computers Science Corp. (NYSE: CSC) was raised Outperform from Market Perform at Raymond James.

Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT) was raised to Buy from Hold at Stifel.

Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) was raised to Overweight from Neutral at J.P. Morgan.


Athlon Energy Inc. (NYSE: ATHL) was downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS. Canaccord Genuity downgraded it to Hold from Buy as well.

Century Aluminum Co. (NASDAQ: CENX) was raised to Buy from Neutral and the price target was raised to $30 from $21 (versus a $23.86 close) at Merrill Lynch.


Great Plains Energy Inc. (NYSE: GXP) was maintained as Buy but the price target was cut to $29 from $32 (versus a $24.29 close) at Argus, due to earnings pressure from increases in transmission and distribution expenses and higher generation expenses.

Kellogg Co. (NYSE: K) was downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight and the price target was set at $58 (versus a $61.81 close) at Morgan Stanley.

Mellanox Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ: MLNX) was raised to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray.

NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI) was raised to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse, on the heels of its spin-off news.

NuVasive Inc. (NASDAQ: NUVA) was raised to Buy from Hold at Brean Capital.

Patterson-UTI Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: PTEN) was raised to Equal Weight from Underweight at Morgan Stanley.

Raytheon Co. (NYSE: RTN) was raised to Buy from Hold at Stifel.

Seattle Genetics Inc. (NASDAQ: SGEN) was downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at Merrill Lynch.

Teekay Corp. (NYSE: TK) was raised to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank


Gilead is kicking more ass

Call it Gilead Sciences' (NASDAQ: GILD ) stealth play.

Gilead is the king of the HIV business. Its wildly successful Sovaldi launch is without a doubt the biggest biotech event of the year. But the company's experimental cancer drug pipeline is a different story, one that has encountered numerous setbacks.

Perhaps that's why the EU's recent approval of Gilead's targeted P13K inhibitor, Zydelig, flew mostly under the radar. Despite treatment for leukemia and other blood cancers being one of the fastest growing markets for cancer drugs, the event received little analyst attention. I believe that could be a mistake, because Gilead has been laying a foundation for oncology since 2011, with a savvy string of deals that set the stage for success even greater than Sovaldi and HIV drugs. Targeted oncology is entering an era where significant advances are being made, and while a ton of things could go wrong, Zydelig's approval is more than just an isolated stroke of luck. It's the first step in building a solid franchise.

The European Commission approved Zydelig (idelalisib) in mid-September; two months after the FDA approved the first-in-class oral treatment for several incurable blood cancers, including relapsed chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). CLL is a slow-moving disease that can require treatment over years, opening up a chance for billions of dollars in revenue.

According to EvaluatePharma estimates, the drug could generate $1.2 billion in peak sales by 2020. Stanford Bernstein analyst Geoff Porges sees a higher and faster growth curve, based on Zydelig's potential for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He predicts $1.5 billion in Zydelig sales by 2017.

In the United States, the FDA's green lighting of Zydelig extends beyond relapsed CLL to follicular lymphoma (FL), and relapsed small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL). Coming out of the gate with three indications in the U.S. and two in Europe (FL and CLL) could put the giant biotech on track to become a cancer powerhouse.

The real victory, however, goes beyond the numbers.

Fantastic results
Zydelig works by blocking overactive PI3K-delta signaling, cutting off a key contributor to cancer growth in B-cell leukemias and lymphomas. The drug's approval in the EU came from a placebo-controlled trial in 220 patients that stopped early, after the drug showed significantly longer progression-free survival.

Some of the responses seen with Zydelig were "incredible" and came within a week, according to Richard Furman, MD, from the Weil Cornell Medical College in New York City. Dr. Furman, author of the results for The New England Journal of Medicine, commented, "It is remarkable how quickly idelalisib (Zydelig) worked in this heavily treated group of patients, many of whom were resistant to chemotherapy... Their cancer quickly melted away."

The push into blood-cancer research has helped redefine the lives of people who have these diseases, said Hildy Dillon, senior vice president of patient services at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. "I've been in oncology for over 30 years, and people did not survive these diseases," Dillon said. "And now, as we develop newer therapies, we are extending the lives of these patients."

The results in blood cancer are heartening, but they're also in stark contrast to another Gilead oncology candidate, simtuzumab, which failed its Phase 2 study for advanced pancreatic cancer this month. Simtuzumab is still in clinical trials for other areas of unmet medical needs, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, but it has a lot to prove.

In fact, simtuzumab's failure with pancreatic cancer has left the company open to the criticism that it will end up being successfully cutting edge in everything except oncology.

Side effects and competition
In terms of Zydelig, targeted or not, patients could encounter numerous serious side effects. In the U.S., a black-box warning on the product that highlights the possibility of colitis, lung inflammation, and potentially fatal liver problems could slow acceptance.

Zydelig has formidable competition from Johnson & Johnson's (NYSE: JNJ ) and Pharmacyclics' (NASDAQ: PCYC ) Imbruvica (ibrutinib). Imbruvica doesn't have a black box warning. And there's more competition coming from AbbVie with ABT-199, which is in late-stage development.

Recognizing the challenge, Gilead has priced Zydelig slightly lower than Imbruvica, at $7,200 compared with $8,200. Another point in Zydelig's favor is that while the European Commission approved Zydelig quickly, Imbruvica has yet to receive EU approval.

With Sovaldi sales trouncing estimates, potentially reaching $10 billion this year, Gilead could easily achieve its goal of doubling its 2013 revenue. But having such a huge single contributor makes Gilead more vulnerable, especially given the pushback on the drug's $1,000-a-pill price tag. Despite the striking guidance and quarter numbers, it's wise not to lose sight of the rest of the company's pipeline.

Monday, September 29, 2014

10 sweet iPhone cases and who makes them. Will they protect the screen??

10 Awesome iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Cases
Smartphone cases have gone from a necessary evil that protect your phone from the inevitable bumps and bruises of everyday life to sophisticated fashion statements.
And the newest crop of cases and bumpers for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are no different. We’re talking about cases that range from beefy pieces of rubbery plastic to shells made of all-natural wood and leather, and everything in between.
In other words, if you’re looking for some new cases for your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, you might want to start with these.
iPhone 6 with Apple's leather case

Apple’s own leather cases for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are as simple as cases get. Priced at $45 and $49 for the 6 and 6 Plus, respectively, Apple promises that these leather cases will protect your phone without adding much bulk. 
Monoprice — Ultra-thin Shatter-proof Case for 4.7-inch iPhone 6

Monoprice’s ultra-thin shatterproof case for the iPhone 6 is available for just $5.60 and will protect your precious smartphone against the nicks and cuts that result from everyday drops. It won’t, however, protect your screen much. So if your iPhone face-plants, its screen is still at risk of shattering. But if you want a case for your phone and don’t want to spend $50, you can’t go wrong with this one.
OtterBox Defender series case for iPhone 6

OtterBox is known for offering super-sturdy smartphone cases, and its Defender Series is the company’s beefiest of all. Priced at $59.90 and $69.60 for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, respectively, the Defender Series packs three layers of protection, a built-in screen protector, and port covers to protect against dust. And for everyone stuck in 2009, the Defender also includes a belt holster that doubles as a kickstand. 
CandyShell Card Case from Speck

Want to protect your iPhone and ditch your wallet? The Speck CandyShell Card Case has you covered. Offering an impact-resistant outer coating and a raised bezel to protect your phone’s display, the Card Case is seriously durable. What’s more, its backside features room for three credit cards and some folded bills. Priced at $39 for the iPhone 6 and $44 for the iPhone 6 Plus, it’s a 2-for-1 special for your smartphone.
Case-Mate's Brilliance Case

If you want to add some extra pizazz to your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, look no further than Case-Mate’s Brilliance Case. At $80 for both iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models, the Brilliance Case’s back panel is covered in shimmering crystals. The Brilliance isn’t just a pretty face, though. It also offers dual-layer protection, and its bezel extends past the iPhone’s display to keep it from smacking against the floor if you drop it face-down. 
Stowaway [Advance] iPhone case from Incipio
The Incipio Stowaway [Advance] is what happens when you smash a phone case, a wallet, and a kickstand together really hard. Priced at $34.99 for either the iPhone 6 or the 6 Plus version, the Stowaway includes a slot for up to three credit cards, your ID, or cash. A kickstand situated above the credit card slot lets you prop up your phone to watch movies or TV shows. Oh, and it’ll protect your phone, too.
Radius v2 iPhone case from BiteMyApple

The folks at BiteMyApple call this case the bikini of iPhone cases, and for good reason. The Radius v2 uses the bare minimum of material needed to cover and protect your iPhone 6 ($79) or 6 Plus ($89) from drops, bumps, and bruises. Unlike most cases, the Radius v2 doesn’t completely cover up the iPhone 6’s beautiful shell. The trade-off is that it also leaves the phone more exposed, making it susceptible to scratches and nicks. That said, it certainly looks cool.
Griffin Technology's Identity Performance iPhone 6 case

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have taken some knocks for being a bit more slippery than their predecessors. Griffin Technology’s Identity Performance case ($40) seeks to solve that problem with a no-skid back panel. And if your phone does slip from your grasp, the Identity Performance’s shell will protect it from drops as high as 4 feet. An included reusable screen protector will also keep your iPhone’s display safe from scratches and nicks.
Grovemade Walnut and Leather iPhone case

Grovemade’s Walnut and Leather iPhone Case lets your iPhone go au naturel without you having to fear that it’ll break if it slips from your hand. That’s because, Grovemade’s cases are made using all-natural walnut wood. Get it, naturel, natural? … Anyway, the Walnut and Leather iPhone Case protects your iPhone from falls while also doubling as a stand thanks to its flexible leather cover. These handcrafted cases cost $129 for the iPhone 6 and $139 for the 6 Plus.
Tech21 Classic Shell case for iPhone

Tech21’s cases use a special D30 material that is both flexible and durable to help absorb impacts from falls. They’ve smashed the stuff with a hammer in demonstrations, and it doesn’t break. Available for $35 for the iPhone 6 and $39 for the 6 Plus, the Classic Shell offers protection for both the front and back of your precious smartphone. But please don’t try the hammer thing.

Invensense MPU-6500 sales to be lower due to issues; less iphones to be serviced

The MPU-6500 is the company’s second generation 6-axis MotionTracking device for smartphones, tablets, wearable sensors , and other consumer markets. The MPU-6500, delivered in a 3x3x0.9mm QFN package, is the world’s smallest 6-axis MotionTracking device and incorporates the latest InvenSense design innovations for MEMS gyroscopes and accelerometers, enabling dramatically reduced chip size and power consumption, while at the same time improving performance and cost. The new MPU-6500 addresses the market requirements for high performance applications such as pedestrian navigation, context-aware advertising, and other location-based services, along with supporting the specifications for emerging wearable sensor applications such as remote health monitoring, sports and fitness tracking, and other consumer applications. The MPU-6500 MotionTracking device sets a new benchmark for 6-axis performance with nearly 60% lower power, a 45% smaller package, industry-leading consumer gyroscope performance, and major improvements in accelerometer noise, bias, and sensitivity.

The single-chip MPU-6500 integrates a 3-axis accelerometer, a 3-axis gyroscope, and an onboard Digital Motion Processor™ (DMP) in a small 3x3x0.9mm QFN package. The new 6-axis device is the world’s first motion sensor to operate at 1.8 volts and consumes only 6.1mW of power in full operating mode; it incorporates breakthrough gyroscope performance of only ±5dps zero-rate-output and 0.01dps/√Hz of noise; and delivers dramatically improved accelerometer specifications including a typical offset of only ±60mg, 250µg/√Hz of noise, and only 18µA of current in low-power mode.
The MPU-6500 software drivers are fully compliant with Google’s Android 4.1 Jelly Bean release, and support new low-power DMP capabilities that offload the host processor to reduce power consumption and simplify application development. The MPU-6500 includes MotionFusion and run-time calibration firmware enables consumer electronics manufacturers to commercialize cost effective motion-based functionality.

Rosenblatt Securities is changing its stance on from bullish to cautious, and says there's a risk of the company losing 50%-100% of its iPhone 6 sales due to technical issues.

Specifically, Rosenblatt says the problem is related to the "technical instability" of InvenSense's 6-axis MPU-6700 gyroscope/accelerometer, something that possibly affects how it interacts with some iPhone features.

Baird downgraded InvenSense last week, while reporting a major smartphone OEM could be switching to a dual-source strategy for gyroscopes and other components.

Pac Crest took the note to suggest Apple is using a Bosch accelerometer in the iPhone 6 to go with InvenSense's motion sensor. The firm downplayed the importance of the move, arguing Apple simply wants to lower power draw by including a standalone accelerometer.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

3D systems gets huge deal???

3D Systems (NYSE: DDD) gained Tuesday on reports it may have entered into an unexpected Bluebird pact with General Motors (NYSE: GM) in Q3. The deal could be worth $6-$8 million, said Piper Jaffray analyst Troy Jensen, citing industry contacts.

"To our knowledge Detroit experienced significant rainfall over a short period of time and this caused a flood in General Motors Rapid Prototyping facility. The flooded facility was rumored to have up to 5 feet of water and the water had sewage mixed in with it. This ultimately ruined multiple machines and we believe General Motors purchased or ordered 11 iPro 8000s (list for roughly $600K) and a couple of SinterStation machines in the September quarter," said Jenson.

"Given this deal was likely not in 3D Systems pipeline, we believe it will provide a boost to the company's system revenues/backlog in the September quarter," he added.

This news gave a boost that DDD Really needed as the sector has been cold of late on positive catalysts and the stocks have been sufferred

Bed Bath And Beyond Earnings

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. (BBBY) today reported net earnings of $1.17 per diluted share ($224.0 million) in the fiscal second quarter ended August 30, 2014, compared with net earnings for the fiscal second quarter of 2013 of $1.16 per diluted share ($249.3 million).  Net sales for the fiscal second quarter of 2014 were approximately $2.945 billion, an increase of approximately 4.3% from net sales of approximately $2.824 billion reported in the fiscal second quarter of 2013.  Comparable sales in the fiscal second quarter of 2014 increased by approximately 3.4%, compared with an increase of approximately 3.7% in last year's fiscal second quarter.
During the fiscal second quarter of 2014, the Company repurchased approximately $1.0 billion of its common stock, representing approximately 16.9 million shares.  As of August 30, 2014, the remaining balance of the new $2.0 billion share repurchase program authorized in July 2014 was approximately $1.8 billion.
For the fiscal first half ended August 30, 2014, the Company reported net earnings of $2.09 per diluted share ($411.0 million) compared with $2.09 per diluted share ($451.8 million) in the corresponding period a year ago.  Net sales for the fiscal first half of 2014 were approximately $5.602 billion, an increase of approximately 3.0% from net sales of approximately $5.436 billion in the corresponding period a year ago.  Comparable sales for the fiscal first half of 2014 increased by approximately 2.0%, compared with an increase of approximately 3.5% in last year's fiscal first half.
The Company is modeling net earnings per diluted share to be approximately $1.17 to $1.21 for the fiscal third quarter of 2014, approximately $1.78 to $1.83 for the fiscal fourth quarter of 2014, and approximately $5.00 to $5.08 for the fiscal full year.  The timing and amount of the Company's share repurchases impacts the quarterly and full year diluted weighted average shares outstanding differently with the impact on the individual quarters being greater than the impact on the full year.  Therefore, the sum of the net earnings per diluted share for the four fiscal quarters of the year, representing the two fiscal quarters already reported, and the estimated net earnings per diluted share for the third and fourth fiscal quarters, are greater than the estimated fiscal full year net earnings per diluted share by approximately five to six cents.  The modeling of net earnings per diluted share is based upon a number of assumptions which will be described in the Company's second quarter of fiscal 2014 conference call. Information regarding access to the call is available in the Investor Relations section of the Company's website, www.bedbathandbeyond.com.
Cost Plus World Market was excluded from the comparable sales calculations through the end of the fiscal first half of 2013 and is included beginning with the fiscal third quarter of 2013.  Linen Holdings is excluded from the comparable sales calculations and will continue to be excluded on an ongoing basis because it represents non-retail activity. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Apple SMASHES NYC record


A record number of people waited (and waited) for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus on Friday at Apple's (AAPL) flagship Fifth Avenue location, suggesting that sales are off to a better-than-forecast start, according to a note from Piper Jaffray.

As of 8 a.m. ET, 1,880 people were in line for the launch, a 33 percent increase from the wait for the iPhone 5S and 5C and more than 240 percent higher than the wait for the iPhone 5. Some had lined up for days.

"It was a lot better than what we would have thought," senior Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said in a phone interview. "We kind of came in with some measured expectations because a year ago the lines were inflated because they didn't do preorders."

He cautioned about the implications of the better-than-expected numbers, saying: "It's an early way to get a pulse. We don't wait to overemphasize it."

Munster expects Apple to sell out of units this weekend.

Annaly's dividend

Annaly Capital (NYSE:NLY) just announced their common stock dividend for the third quarter. Annaly has declared the third quarter 2014 common stock cash dividend to be $0.30 per common share. This dividend is payable October 31, 2014, to common shareholders of record on October 1, 2014. The ex-dividend date is September 29, 2014. The dividend is in line with the first and second quarter dividend payments.

For an in depth article please see this piece

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pepsi starting war with NFL?

At this point even Roger Goodell must be questioning the very God who somehow deemed him worthy of being paid $44 million to sit at the head of the most powerful non-profit organization not based in Vatican City.
The NFL's day started with the Minnesota Viking's 12:47am announcement that Adrian Peterson had been placed on something called the Exempt Commissioner's Permission list. Peterson was later joined on the list by Carolina Panther’s lineman Greg Hardy as he appeals his July conviction on charges of assaulting and threatening to kill his girlfriend.
Don’t weep for Peterson and Hardy. Per the previously obscure terms of the ECP List players are paid their full salaries provided they do anything other than show up for work. That means Peterson and Hardy will collect a combined $24.87 million to stay home and spend time with their families.Hours later Arizona Cardinal running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested on domestic abuse charges.
None of this is sitting well with sponsors. Pepsi is the latest company to express concern in the form of a letter of quasi-support from CEO Indra Nooyi. In her letter Nooyi acknowledged that a cloud has fallen over the integrity of the league but expressed guarded confidence that the commissioner will do the right thing “immediately.”
Don’t underestimated just how conditional her support is and how much is at stake for the NFL in this. In 2012 Pepsi signed a 10-year deal worth an estimated $2.3 billion that makes the company’s suite of products everything from the official softdrink to chip and Oatmeal of the NFL. That deal is only with the league. Nooyi may say she likes Goodell as a person but she’ll throw him into an oil drum next to Jimmy Hoffa when push comes to shove.
In 2002 when Pepsi stole the right to be the official beverage of the NFL the league’s then VP of corporate sponsorships welcomed them by telling the Wall Street Journal the league “didn’t have a lot to lose either way.” It would seem that control dynamic is changing.
The League is the Rose of Tralee of sponsorship deals. It’s got so many partners it has a hard time even keeping their names straight. Microsoft is paying $80 million a year to make the Surface the office tablet of the league and the announcers on Monday Night Football called them iPads repeatedly in week one.
Coors (not Bud) is the official beer of the NFL. They’re paying a reported $300 million over 5 years and are completely overshadowed by Bud’s Super Bowl ads. Motorola is paying the league more than $20 million a year to be the official… something... but the NFL still signed a deal with Verizon to stream games. Most of the sponsors paying the NFL nearly $10 billion a year in fees are doing so just to be associated with the Shield and right now that’s the last thing any of them want.
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The real issue facing the league is whether or not associating with the league has ever been worth it. Last year Super Bowl ads went for $8 million for 60 seconds. The surprise winner of the night was RadioShack with it’s memorable “The 80s want their store back” campaign. 8 months later the chain is down to its $25 million and facing bankruptcy.
The NFL is a terrible partner. It's a sham. Goodell isn't the problem, or at least he wouldn't be, except for his declaring himself the moral enforcer years ago.
The ratings being up doesn't matter. Goodell will be gone before October 1st. Why then? Because that's the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness month during which players on all teams will wear pink on their uniforms.
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As calculated by Business Insider 5% of the proceeds from merchandise sold goes to fighting breast cancer. Not even Goodell can survive running a league seen as soft on domestic violence and presiding over a scam charity drive designed to sell jerseys

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Full iPhone 6 Review

Originally written by my friend David---Repost Approval- 9/17-

When Apple unveiled the iPhone 6 last week, it made the front pages of newspapers. It dominated Google Search and Twitter. It triggered an avalanche of sniping and worshiping on the Web’s comment boards.
About a phone? Really?
Well, that’s what you’d say if you were an alien. If you’re human, you know why all the fuss. The iPhone is not just a phone; it’s a symbol. The phone you own doesn’t just let you make phone calls; it marks you as belonging to a religion. Maybe a cult
Each year’s new iPhone is another test for Apple. The world wants to know if Apple’s still got it, even without Steve Jobs. The faithful want the company to hit another one out of the park. The enemy can’t wait for the company to fumble.
Well, this time, Apple hasn’t fumbled. Its two new iPhones are excellent. Beautiful. State of the art. Worthy heirs to the iPhone throne.
There’s nothing actually surprising about the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Partly that’s because in the post-Jobs era, Apple isn’t as good at suppressing pre-announcement leaks. And partly it’s because there’s nothing much surprising about any phones these days. They’re mature. These days, designing a phone is a matter of nips and tucks and playing catch-up and one-up — as attractively as possible.
Meet the familyThis year, there are two new models: the iPhone Bigger and the iPhone Bigger-er.
Reviewed: iPhone 6 Is a Thin, Sexy Phone with a Killer Camera
(Apple)
Their real names are the iPhone 6 ($200 and up with two-year contract) and the iPhone 6 Plus ($300 and up with contract). 
And yes, that’s the big news: They have bigger screens than any iPhone before them. Steve Jobs used to mock Samsung’s increasingly jumbo smartphones, calling them “Hummers.” But apparently big is what the public wants. So big is what we get.
Here they are: the new iPhones, posed next to last year’s model, so you can get an idea of the scale:
Size comparison of iPhone 5s, 6, and 6 Plus
And here, for your reference, are the new iPhones among their Android rivals:
Size comparison of iPhones and phones from LG and Samsung
What’s wild is that at first, the iPhone 6 doesn’t seem bigger than the iPhone 5. The first thing most people say when they pick it up is, “It doesn’t seem that big!” You have to hold an iPhone 5s next to it before you really notice.
Part of the explanation may be the Apple diet: These new phones are thin. About a quarter of an inch. Thinner than their rivals from Samsung, HTC, or LG. If you order one online, FedEx will probably slip it under your door.
Thickness comparison of iPhones and phones from LG and Samsung
The aluminum body has smooth, rounded edges — a more comfortable shape than the sharpened corners of the iPhone 4 and 5 era. The ring around the camera lens on the back protrudes about a millimeter; it’s no longer perfectly flush.
iPhone 6 camera
The screens are terrific. The smaller iPhone 6’s screen has 1334 × 750 pixels (326 dots per inch), and the Plus’s screen is 1920 × 1080 pixels (401 dpi), which is full high definition. Other phones have more dots or smaller ones, but at this point, everybody is just chasing unicorns; these screens have long since exceeded the ability of our eyes to distinguish pixels.
What to do with more screenThere’s a downside to having a bigger screen: You have to carry around a bigger phone. The small of hand won’t be thrilled about the added width. The iPhone 6 Plus, in particular, is a pocket-filler.
Apple is clearly aware of the drawbacks of gigantism. It has made some tweaks to make the size less awkward. The power/sleep button, for example, is on the side now instead of the top, so your thumb can reach it. (That’s a problem for people who use a volume key on the opposite edge as the camera shutter. Now when you grip the phone for photography, your thumb naturally falls on the sleep switch — and turns it off!)
The plus-sized 6 Plus, in fact, is well on its way to becoming an iPad Nano. As on an iPad, many of its built-in apps sprout extra panes when you turn the phone 90 degrees — like Mail and Calendar, for example:
iPhone Mail program in landscape view
Even the home screen rotates now, for the first time in iPhone history. (Some of Apple’s own apps rotate this way only on the 6 Plus, not the 6. Other software companies’ apps may rotate on both.)
iPhone home screen in landscape view
Also on the Plus: When you’re typing in landscape mode, there’s so much extra space that Apple has thrown in some additional on-screen keys. On the left: buttons for Cut, Copy, Paste, Bold, and Undo. On the right: Punctuation keys and actual cursor keys—a first on the iPhone.
On both phones, if there’s something at the top of the screen, too far away for your shrimpy little thumb to reach, you can touch the home button twice (touch, not click) to make the screen image slide down so you can reach what was at the top.
Screen sliding feature on the iPhone 6
With this larger phone now usable one-handed, what do you really get for all that size? There are some huge advantages to having a huge phone. The obvious one, of course, is more screen. Both models are much better for reading ebooks, answering email, watching movies, surfing the Web, and so on. The iPhone 6 Plus may look a little goofy when you hold it to your ear to make phone calls, especially if you’re small of head, but, wow, is it luxurious when you’re trying to consult a map.
A less-obvious advantage to huge is compensating for over-40 eyes. In Settings, you can specify whether you want your phone to show more, or to show the same thing bigger. Here’s the effect:
iPhone 6 in Standard and Enlarged view
Apple has moved the Adjust Type Size (and Bold Text) controls out of the buried Settings panel where they used to be. They’re now front and center on the Display Preferences screen.
The upshot: With some Settings tweaks, these phones can be godsends for anyone who puts on reading glasses to check her phone.
The gutsInside, Apple has been up to its usual tightening and polishing. There’s a new chip inside that Apple says is 25 percent faster. You wouldn’t notice it without testing the old and new phones side by side. Apps, for example, pop open about a half-second faster on the new phone.
Apple says that the radio circuitry inside can tune into 20 bands of LTE (fast cellular Internet), which means that this phone works on the high-speed Internet networks of many more countries than its rivals. (The Samsung Galaxy S5, for example, gets six bands of LTE.) That’s a perk only if you travel overseas, of course.
A bigger phone means there’s room for a bigger battery. The iPhone 6 gets slightly better battery life — 14 hours of reported talk time, up from 10; 11 hours of Web surfing on WiFi, up from 10. The iPhone 6 Plus gets substantially better life: 24 hours of talk time, 12 hours of browsing, and so on. You’ll still have to charge the iPhone 6 daily, but the iPhone 6 Plus might actually make it two days on a charge.
Battery life comparison for iPhone 5s, 6, and 6 Plus
The new iPhones still don’t have removable memory cards. But at least you can buy them with more storage than before: They come in 16-, 64-, and, now, 128-gigabyte versions. That’s a heck of a lot of text messages and photos, although it’s weird that the sweet spot — 32 gigabytes — isn’t in the lineup.
The cellular circuitry offers some really cool refinements, although you won’t see the benefits for a while. The iPhone 6 is among the first VoLTE phones (pronounced “VOLty”). It stands for “voice over LTE,” and it means super-clear, rich sound quality — like FM instead of AM — when you’re calling another VoLTE phone.
Unfortunately, VoLTE does nothing for you unless your cellphone carrier has upgraded its network. So far, only T-Mobile has done that nationwide. The other carriers are still experimenting.
The iPhone 6 can also place calls over WiFi. You call people the same way, but you get to use your indoor WiFi router, and you don’t use up any cellular minutes. In fact, if you start a call in WiFi and then walk outside into a cellular LTE area, you don’t even drop the call. To make this work, I had to change two settings in Settings and restart the phone — but it finally did work, and beautifully. These features, too, work only on T-Mobile at the moment.
Apple PayTwo years ago, I sought out a 7-Eleven near my house because it had a contactless payment terminal on its cash register:
Contactless payment terminal
I was testing Google Wallet, a feature of some Android phones that lets you pay for things without even pulling out your wallet; you could just hold the phone near that terminal thing. But it took a lot of steps, including tapping in a security code with every purchase.
I recently visited the same 7-Eleven. You know what the guy told me? That the last person he remembered using his contactless terminal was me, two years ago.
Almost nobody pays by phone-tapping in this country, probably because it’s slower and clunkier than just swiping your credit card.
Apple Pay, new in the iPhone 6, will be different, Apple says.
The iPhone 6 models have an NFC chip inside (near-field communications), just like Android phones. That makes them work on those same contactless terminals, of which there are 220,000 across the United States. But you won’t have to turn on your iPhone, open an app, or fool around with credit cards. You just hold your phone (screen still asleep) near the terminal with your finger on the Home button. The screen lights up, shows your preferred credit card, sends you a receipt, and the deal is done.
The Home button, of course, is also a fingerprint reader; no bad guy can steal your phone and then start buying stuff, unless he also chops off your thumb. There’s more security stuff, too; you can read about it here.
Nobody can try out Apple Pay yet, though, because Apple won’t be turning it on until October; at that point, we’ll get an iOS 8 software update that includes Apple Pay features. (One important one: You’ll be able to store your credit card details in the Passbook app just by taking a picture of your physical cards — no typing.)
CameraThe iPhone camera is getting scarily good. Here are a few samples:
Image taken with iPhone 6
Image taken with iPhone 6
Image taken with iPhone 6
There’s now ultra-smooth, ultra-slow motion video (see the watermelon-smashing test in my video, above). There’s phase-detection autofocusing, which compares incoming light from two pixels for fast, precise focusing — or quick, smooth refocusing while recording video (hallelujah!).
The Plus model has optical image stabilization — the lens jiggles in precise motion to counteract the handheld movement of the phone itself — that works supremely well. To test it out, I fastened an iPhone 6 Plus and an iPhone 5s to a bike on this rig so that they would film exactly the same thing:
iPhone 6 and 6 Plus strapped to a bicycle
Then I rode around rough roads, filming. In my video above, you can see the side-by-side comparison of the two phones’ stabilization.
Free features for allSome of the iPhone 6’s features — design, screen, camera — are truly stunning. But you don’t have to ditch your old phone to get all of them. 
That’s because tomorrow you’ll be able to download the newest Apple software for iPhones, iOS 8. Free.
You’ll be reading a lot more about iOS 8 here on Yahoo Tech, but trust me: Its ratio of useful features to glitzy ones is the highest in years. You won’t find many big-ticket items changed, but you will find loads of truly ingenious touch-ups that make phone life easier and less stressful.
A few of my favorites:
• When you tap the Add Photo button (to send a picture as a text message), you don’t have to burrow into your Photos collection; the last few photos you took present themselves immediately. Apple assumes that often, the photo you want to send is one of the most recent. (It’s correct.)
iPhone 6 Message app sharing photos
• You can use the fingerprint reader (iPhone 5s and 6 models) to do more than unlock the phone now. You can use it to log in to apps instead of remembering a password.
• There’s a Hyperlapse-style time-lapse video option.
• The keyboard is much better. Now you see the three words you’re most likely to type next, hovering just above the onscreen keyboard. (The video above shows it in action.)
• You gain the option to install other companies’ keyboards, like the popular Swype and SwiftKey keyboards.
• Siri’s command recognition (“Set my alarm”) has always been good, but now its dictation skills have been polished to a shine. It’s much, much more accurate — especially if you have an accent — and you see the words as you’re speaking them now.
• You can turn on hands-free, “always listening” mode for Siri whenever the phone is charging (for example, in the car). That is, even if it’s asleep, you can say, “Hey Siri” to make it listen to your next command.
A word to the armies of the faithful The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are absolutely terrific phones. They’re fast and powerful and well designed. There’s not a single component that hasn’t been improved. These phones are a delight to behold and to be held.  
But before we part, here’s a question that’s been the elephant in this room for years: If the iPhone is fantastic, does that mean that your phone is no good?
You will hear, for example — and it’s true — that Apple did not pioneer many of the iPhone 6’s big-ticket features. Other companies’ phones were first to introduce bigger phone screens; “always listening” voice commands; wireless payments; predictive keyboard words; phase-detection autofocusing; time-lapse video; optical image stabilizers; VoLTE calling; and so on.
That’s right: Apple has adapted features that first appeared on Android. Just as Google has adapted many features from Apple.
Why does it matter so much? If Apple is praised for doing good work, why does it so enrage Android fans — and vice versa?
The answer, of course, is that cellphones are deeply personal. When you buy a phone, you’re making an expensive bet. You can’t easily switch between the Google and Apple worlds; you’ve invested a lot in accessories, you’ve bought apps, you’ve learned that company’s software conventions. And you never want to think your phone is inferior, because then you might feel inferior.  
So you wind up taking a side in this phone duopoly. You join a very silly — and unwinnable — religious war.
Judge the iPhone not just for what it is, but for the entire world that Apple has built around it: the apps, the music/movie/TV store, the integration with the Mac and iPad, the built-in online services. Does Apple generally do an excellent job with all of this? Yes.
Judge your Android phone the same way. Does it have a huge, open, lively world of apps and community online? Does it have a well-stocked movie/music/TV store? Is most of it well designed — and free? Yes.
Celebrate the iPhone’s excellence, even if you’re not in the Apple fold. And celebrate the best work of Samsung, HTC, and LG, even if you’re not part of the Android family.
Because, in the end, competition is what will make your phone better this time next year, or the year after that. The perpetual refinement of ideas, and the necessity to think up new ones, will benefit you — no matter which army you march with.
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