New iPhone 4S: the voice-controlled gadget unveiled today looks just like iPhone 4.
Apple CEO, Tim Cook took to the stage at corporate headquarters in Cupertino, California to launch the company’s new iPhone range – iPhone 4S.
“This is my first product launch since being made CEO. I’m sure you didn’t know that,” Tim Cook joked.
iPhone 4S launch is Tim Cook’s first launch since he took over as CEO from Apple founder Steve Jobs – and seen as a significant test of his leadership.
The new iPhone is actually iPhone 4S, not iPhone 5 – looking very similar to the current model, iPhone 4, but voice-controlled and with other hi-tech features.
The new iPhone 4S launches on October 14.
Apple’s share price plunged 3% after it was revealed that the new phone would be the iPhone 4S, not an all-new iPhone 5.
iPhone 4S is a significant upgrade from the old phone, though, even if the casing and the Retina screen remain the same.
The new handset will have a dual core A5 processor like the one in iPad 2, and an eight-megapixel camera – all of which puts it back in competition with rivals such as Samsung.
The new camera will also shoot in full 1080p HD.
The most talked-about iPhone 4S feature, though, was the phone’s new “artificially intelligent” assistant.
The feature, called Siri, will allow you to “talk” to your iPhone like you talk to other people – for instance, you can ask the phone “What is the forecast today?” while holding down the Home button, and it will bring up a weather forecast.
You can also simply say, “Wake me up tomorrow at 8 am”, and the device will set an alarm for you. You can even dictate your messages to the phone. The idea is that you will speak to Siri as if to a human being. At launch, Siri will work in English, German and French.
Apple’s “Siri” voice control
Apple’s new “intelligent” assistant uses spoken English more akin to the language we use day to day – so you can simply ask it, “Find me an Italian restaurant”, and it will launch the maps application, and find you one nearby, complete with phone number, reviews and a link to their website.
Android phones have similar “voice control” functions, but you “talk” to them as if typing into a Google search box, rather than talking to another human being.
Apple’s virtual personal assistant has been described as a “world-changing event” – a machine that we can talk to in ‘natural’ language for the first time.
Apple is certain to have tested the software with its engineers – a process often called “dogfooding” after the myth that workers at dog food factories eat the product to ensure high quality – but whether it can digest the various accents, dialects and intonations of the whole world remains to be seen.
The battery life has been significantly improved – offering a reported 8 hours talk time. Tech insiders, however, seemed disappointed. There was no redesign, no 4G version, nothing to put Apple as far ahead of its competitors as iPhone 4 was.
iPhone 4S will be compatible with fast HSPA+ networks (not 4G, but offering faster data speeds than current networks). Only around 20 phone networks offer this service worldwide, however.
Tim Cook revealed new touch-friendly functions for iPod Nano – quashing rumours that the smallest of the iPod family would be killed off.
It will now be cheaper, and include watch-like faces to wear on your wrist. New white versions of iPod Touch and iPod Shuffle were also announced. Even the bulky iPod classic survived.
A new version of Apple’s iOS operating system, iOS 5, will release on October 12, Tim Cook recapped some of the features of the new operating system.
Apps such as iMessage – a messaging system that also lets you send picture and video – were confirmed for the new iOS 5 version of Apple’s iPhone software, as well as Notifications – an app which pulls system messages such as emails and texts into one message centre.
New “location aware” reminders will remind you of tasks when you’re near the place you have to do them.
Twitter users will also be able to “Tweet” pictures direct from their photo album on iPhone, and take pictures with one tap from the home screen.
A new music sharing service, iCloud, will allow users to “share” music between all their Apple devices, free – any music purchased from Apple Store will always be available, anywhere.
To use the new iTunes Match service, which also lets users share music they have bought elsewhere, will be a subscription-based service costing $24.99 in the US.
No launch date is confirmed for this service anywhere else in the world.
Tim Cook revealed that iPhone now accounted for 5% of the total world phone market, and a quarter of a billion iOS devices had sold.
Apple’s previous launches have often been at conference centres in San Francisco, rather than its HQ, which led to a heightened sense of anticipation around this launch – headlined, “Let’s Talk iPhone”, and showing four of the company’s phone icons.
Apple was also desperate to brand Tim Cook as a proper successor to Steve Jobs.
But some insiders such as uSwitch’s Ernest Doku described Cook’s performance as an “understudy” performance – and said:
“Others will be bitterly disappointed that what was announced was an upgraded iPhone 4 rather than a messianic new model.
“This was the stage once reigned over by Steve Jobs, the totemic former leader whose obsessive drive for perfection turned Apple products into global icons.”
It has been 15 months since the last iPhone launch, and expectations of the world’s largest technology company were at fever pitch.
Apple’s annual launch of new iPhones generates so much excitement it has the air of a technology Oscars – except it’s only one company that walks off with the prizes.
This year, however, the surrounding technology landscape is not as certain.
HTC, Samsung and Google are all to launch new flagship phones within the next week – boasting high-speed processors and touchscreens similar to the ones in Apple’s handsets. The days when Apple had the smartphone market to itself are very much over.
The iPhone’s U.S. market share in August was 28%, making it No. 2. Android was No. 1 with 43% of the U.S. market, Nielsen data show.
Every day, 550,000 new Android devices are activated.
Yet longer-term, investors are more focused on Apple’s international push, particularly in Asia – a push that could take Apple far beyond its “comfort zone” of selling relatively low volumes of extremely expensive products to a “captive market”.
The cheaper prices of some of the new models – the 3GS in particular – could be seen as an aggressive move into new markets.
Tim Cook has said China is a key market. The world’s most valuable technology company has mostly catered to the higher end of a booming market in those countries, but may now attempt to capture a larger market in emerging economies such as China and India.
Processor: Apple A4
Camera: 5 megapixel
Operating system: iOS
3G talk time: 7 hours
Processor: Apple A5
Camera: 8 megapixel
Operating system: iOS
3G talk time: 8 hours
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