Apple just finished its keynote event an hour or so ago and we finally have the details for the next-generation iPhone. It has been speculated that Apple would introduce two new iPhones, one targeted towards the lower end of the market and one new flagship device with a larger screen, but it turns out that these two phones are one and the same – and it's called the iPhone 4S.
The iPhone 4S is basically an upgraded iPhone 4 in much the same way that the 3GS was an upgraded iPhone 3G. It looks the same and has the same screen size and screen resolution. The home button is still there, there's no edge-to-edge screen, and there's nothing to visually show you have the newer version.
On the inside there are quite a few changes, though. First off, the phone has the Apple A5 chip, the same chip that the iPad 2 uses. That means better performance throughout the phone, and game performance was in focus at the event. The 4S also has video out and wireless video mirroring capabilities just like the iPad 2, making it more home entertainment compatible.
The camera also got a massive update. It's now 8 megapixels, which isn't necessarily synonymous with better pictures, but Apple promises that the backside illuminated CMOS censor, the five element lens, and a few other new features will produce just that. Video recording has also been improved to 1080p, meaning that Apple finally caught up with the others on that point. Finally, the A5 chip is supposedly also helping with the camera quality through faster shooting, better white balance accuracy, and so on.
There's no 4G upgrade for the iPhone 4S, but the download capabilities have been doubled to 14.4mbps on HSDPA. US iPhone users will also be glad to hear that the iPhone 4S has both CDMA and GSM in one phone, so traveling is no longer an issue.
The big "one last thing" feature of the iPhone 4S was Siri. She (?) is an artificial intelligence living in your iPhone and she's Apple's version of voice control. The feature looks pretty impressive; support for natural speech and integration with a lot of iOS features makes this seem like the most advanced voice control system currently in a phone.
Instead of using predetermined words or phrases to, for example, ask for the weather, you can just ask if you need an umbrella and the system will understand. You can tell it to wake you at 6 to set an alarm, or tell it to remind you to call your wife when you leave work to add a reminder that is activated when the GPS tells the phone that you've left work. It's essentially a lot like what's in Android, Windows Phone 7, and even iOS 4 already, but with more of a natural flow.
US prices for the new iPhone will start at $199 for 16GB and go to $399 for 64GB. The iPhone 4 will remain on the market at a $99 price point, and even the 2.5 year old 3GS will get to live – $0 with a contract in the US.
Personally I was very underwhelmed by the entire presentation, partly due to the lack of an iPhone 5 and partly because I haven't cared much about cell phones at all since I got an iPad. I would like to have seen Siri on the iPad as well, but Apple is apparently keeping that feature 4S only. Considering that Siri is essentially an accessibility tool I'm not sure how well that decision will go over with iPad users who would benefit from it on a whole other level than the rest of us, and I think it's the kind of feature that should be implemented anywhere it's possible to implement it.
Either way, I won't be upgrading to the iPhone 4S, and not even the iPhone 4 unless it becomes really cheap here in Norway. I'm still on the 3GS, and for the things I use it for it works just fine. I guess that's why Apple decided to keep it and make it the cheapest choice, as development in the smartphone market has taken a different turn the last few years; away from adding must-have features and towards improving secondary features.
The event also had a couple of updates for the iPod line, namely the iPod Nano and iPod Touch. The Nano now doesn't require an adapter for workout features, has a new menu, and has 16 new clock faces in response to people putting those things in armbands and using as watches. No Bluetooth (which would have been mighty useful with the thing strapped to your hand) and certainly no major update to turn it into an Apple version of the Sony Ericsson LiveView, which many had hoped they would. They did drop the price, though: $129 for the 8GB version and $149 for the 16GB version.
The iPod Touch update was even more underwhelming. It now comes in white, and it can run iOS 5. That's it. No A5, no camera update, nothing. I guess that makes sense in creating a bigger gap between the phone and the MP3 player, but just repainting it is a bit too underwhelming. On the plus side, it now starts at $199 in the US.
The iPods are available now, and iOS 5 will be available October 12. The iPhone 4S will debut in the US on October 14th, a week after the preorders start. It will roll out to more countries on October 22 and finally to the rest of the world by the end of this year.
That's it for the iPhone this time, and I'm sure there will be rumors for an iPhone 6 by the end of today – if Apple decides to skip the number 5, that is. What's interesting is that if Apple waits as long with the next one as they did with this, the 3GS will have had a life span of 4 years.
Apple naturally wants you to buy the 4S instead, though, proudly stating that it's the most amazing iPhone yet. Tell me, Apple, would anyone ever make a successor that was worse than the predecessor? Just asking.[Apple | This Is My Next]