Apple announces new iPhone 4S, adds Sprint, but no iPhone 5
Apple's anticipated announcement of the iPhone 5 produced no such thing, but rather it included an upgraded iPhone 4 named the 4S with a price drop on the original iPhone 4 and 3GS. The announcement also verified the rumor that Sprint would join AT&T and Verizon as carriers of the new iPhone, which contains both CDMA and GSM wireless radios for use on HSDPA wireless systems. All three carriers also will sell the original iPhone 4 in the 8GB size for just $99. AT&T will carry continue to carry the iPhone 3Gs which is now free with a 2-year contract.
The iPhone 4S is a major upgrade to the iPhone 4 with a dual-core A5 processor (the same used in the iPad 2) that runs up to 2X faster and has graphics performance up to seven times faster. The efficiency of the A5 chip also extends battery life:
- Talk time: Up to 8 hours on 3G, up to 14 hours on 2G (GSM)
- Standby time: Up to 200 hours
- Internet use: Up to 6 hours on 3G, up to 9 hours on Wi-Fi
- Video playback: Up to 10 hours
- Audio playback: Up to 40 hours
The new 8-megapixel camera has a custom lens that uses five precision elements and a larger, f/2.4 aperture for sharper photos in less light. An improved backside illumination sensor and auto white balance provide for better color accuracy. Autofocus with face detection on the still camera and a 1080p HD video camera with image stabilization round out the main features. On-board photo editing also is included and you can crop and rotate photos, enhance images and remove red-eye. Basic video editing is limited to trimming of clips, unless you purchase the iMovie app.
A new system using two separate antennas is one design change Apple says will greatly improve reception quality. The iPhone 4S is said to be the first phone to intelligently switch between two antennas for transmitting and receiving. Two antennas also doubles the maximum HSDPA data speeds to 14.4 Mbps for connections and downloads. A comparison chart shown during the announcement showed the iPhone 4S is capable of speeds equal to the Motorola Atrix 4G, the HTC Inspire 4G and the LG Thrill 4G. With both CDMA and GSM radios inside, the iPhone 4S is a true World Phone that can be used on GSM networks in 200 countries around the world.
The iPhone 4S comes with "Siri," a new voice detection search system that allows you to ask simple, conversational questions to get directions, the current weather, the definition of a word, etc...all in a matter of seconds. A demo of the system produced a weather forecast when it was asked 'do I need an umbrella today?'" Think Hal 5000 meets the iPhone ("What are you doing, Dave?"). The iPhone 4S also features a new dictation system and AirPlay mirroring for wireless and wired sharing of your iPhone screen on televisions and other displays.
Many rumors about the announcement predicted there would be two new iPhones, the 4S and the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5 was reported to be thinner and with a much larger screen. Those predictions may be true and could be revealed at a later date, but they were not realized today. The iPhone 4S has the same Retina Display as the original iPhone 4.
Black and white versions of the iPhone 4S will be available in 16GB ($199), 32GB ($299) and 64GB ($399) with a 2-year contract on one of the three carriers. Pre-orders for the 4S start this Friday, Oct. 7 and will be available on Oct. 14.
Overshadowed by all the hoopla about the iPhone 4S was the announced slight refresh of the iPod lineup. Beginning Oct. 12 the iPod Touch will be available in white and the entire iPod Touch line will ship with iOS 5. The iPod Touch didn't receive any hardware changes other than the added color, so any new features will be introduced by the jump to iOS 5. Prices now start at $199 for the 8GB model, $299 for 32GB and $399 for 64GB.
The iPod Nano received a little more love in the announcement, with a built-in "fitness experience" that can help you track your workouts without any added accessories. The multi-touch display now can use larger icons and a selection of new watch faces also is included. The Mickey Mouse watch face is sure to be a favorite.
iOS 5 and iCloud
Details about the release of iCloud and iOS 5 completed the announcement but offered little additional information as compared to the Worldwide Developers Conference announcement back in June. I detailed all the features in this post on June 6 so there's no sense in going through it all again. One new feature, called "Find My Friends," did surface. It's a mapping service you can use to see the locations of friends who have agreed to let you see them. There are parental controls and the option to share your location for a limited amount of time. This would be good for keeping track of someone when they're driving so you an verify they arrived safely or for kids walking home from school. Kinda cool and scary at the same time.
The iCloud service with iTunes Match, which I also told you about back in June, also was detailed. iCloud is the service that keeps all your data in sync wirelessly, from photos to contacts, to apps to ebooks. iTunes Match compares the iTunes library on your computer with a database of available songs, then only uploads the songs you have that are not already in the iCloud database. This saves you time and bandwidth.
The iOS 5 update and iCloud will be available for download on Oct. 12. iTunes Match will be available at the end of the month.
Many people, including myself, expected to see the iPhone 5 today and a lot of bloggers are calling today's announcement a disappointment. I don't see it that way because I think Apple accomplished what they set out to do which is what we have been talking about for months. They introduced a faster iPhone 4 with a better camera and some excellent new features. They dropped the price of their previous premium iPhone to $99 which makes it affordable for more people and they're giving away the 3GS which opens the door to a bunch of new customers who will want to buy apps. Yes, we thought the iPhone 4S was going to be the $99 phone for the masses but in the end, we still ended up with iPhones for $99 and less. The iPhone 5 likely was delayed to provide time for the whole 4G debacle to settle because surely the next iPhone will be a true 4G phone. My one disappointment is the screen size of the iPhone 4S. All the premium smartphones are coming out with these huge, beautiful 4.5-inch screens which really cater to the multimedia capabilities these phones now have. I guess we'll have to wait for the iPhone 5 for that too.