As many had suspected Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook took to the stage at their Cupertino Head Quarters to unveil their new iPhone. But it wasn’t the iPhone 5 that we had all hoped for – but a iPhone 4S – essentially the same phone on the outside, but a handset that has been completely redesigned on the inside.
Apple’s focus yesterday was quite clearly price; with Microsoft and Android closing in Apple needs to sell more phones and they clearly decided to make the iPhone a little less premium.
So from now on the 3GS will now be the budget iPhone – you’ll be able to get this handset for free on a 2-year contract. The iPhone 4 range will be scaled down to just a 8GB version which will set you back $99 (£70) and then the iPhone 4S will set you back $199 (£130) for the 16 GB version – rising to $399 for the 64GB version.
On the face of it the phone hasn’t changed at all, well that’s not entirely true as the phone has been completely re-designed from the inside. The first major difference is the new dual core processor and dual core graphics technology.
The phone’s workhorse is now the same chip that you can find in the current iPad 2. It means that games and apps will run up to 7 times faster than the current model and websites should load twice as fast.
Other major changes come in the form of two new antennae, which will switch on the fly – so there shouldn’t be any antenna problems that plagued the last phone. According to Apple the new Antenna design will allow for 4G speeds for the new handset without actually having 4G technology.
The phone will also come with a much improved camera, which has now been upgraded to 8 megapixels and comes with vastly improved lens’ – it should make picture taking one of the iPhone 4S’s best features.
With the new camera the iphone 4S will now be able to captured 1080p HD video. Other than that the design of the phone is remarkably similar to the current iPhone 4. Side by side you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart.
Apple spent a lot of time recapping what you can do with the iPhone 4S now that it comes with Apple’s latest version of their iOS software. Changes to the iOS included a few news apps too. So you will find Siri; a voice controlled concierge service. It allows users to compose SMS’s, diary dates, tweets and be able to ask the phone questions via your voice. Ask it to find Chinese restaurants and it will the list them on the phone and via speech.
Quite whether people are going to want to talk to their phone remains to be seen but from the stage demos it did look flawless, the voice that gives you the answers did sound a little bit scary though. It’ll only work in English, German and French to start with, with more languages to be added in due course.
Another app on show was Cards; its an iOS version of the greeting card-maker built-in to iPhoto, but with a twist – instead of printing and shipping cards to the user, who then has to buy stamps, address and mail the cards – Apple takes care of printing, mailing, and postage and sends the card directly to the recipient, with a push notification going to the senders iPhone upon delivery.
Users will take pictures, design the card (choosing from 21 different designs), customize the greeting and Apple takes care of the rest. Cards will cost $2.99 each when mailed within the US, $4.99 internationally. The Cards app itself will be a free download, launching October 12th, with iOS 5.
Apple’s “Find My Friends” feature was hinted earlier this year, and has now arrived as an App to locate (with permission) users’ friends and family with iOS devices on a map, much like Google Latitude or Foursquare.
Users will be able to easily set privacy controls including only sharing locations during certain times of day and more. “At the end of the day, location sharing stops automatically. Easily locate friends and family, with temporary sharing options, and has simple privacy controls.”
Elsewhere during the conference, Apple also detailed what to expect from iOS 5 when it launches on 12th October. The new operating system brings with it a refined Notifications system, a new messaging app called iMessage, a personal organiser called Reminders, enhanced Twitter integration, a magazine shop front called Newsstand, a few tweaks to camera functionality and tabbed Safari browsing on the iPad. Game Center – which now apparently has 67 million accounts – also gets an update. You’ll be able to add photos of friends, recommend games to them and see their achievement point totals.
There’s no doubt that Apple will sell loads of 4S’s over the next 12 months and from the looks of it will be a amazing handset – but once again Apple has gone down the route of evolution and not revolution, which many had hoped for.
But, you need to factor in this year’s shortages of components and Apple’s struggle with the iPad 2 availability – it’s probably the right decision to stick with the iPhone 4 design. It would have been a big risk to completely re-design the iPhone – especially if they couldn’t meet a massive demand – so the iPhone 4S is safe move for Apple.
The iPhone 5 will come next year and will be a generational leap in technology much like the 3GS was to the 4 – you’ll just have to wait another 12 months before you can get your hands on it.
The iPhone 4S can be preordered from the October 7 and purchased on October 14 – at the time of writing no UK provider is confirming contract prices.
What do you think of the iPhone 4S ? Are you excited or disappointed by what Apple announced ? Let us know.