Apple rolls out new iPhone, software [The Philadelphia Inquirer]
(Philadelphia Inquirer (PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 04--Weeks of hot and heavy iPhone buzz -- that is, rumor atop speculation atop shreds of evidence -- showed that even without Steve Jobs, Apple knows how to draw attention to its creations.
Tuesday's unveiling of the new iPhone 4S and its sharp new operating system, iOS 5, showed again that there is substance beneath all of Apple's sauce.
Tim Cook, who became Apple's CEO in August after the ailing Jobs resigned, took the stage at 1 Infinite Loop, Apple's geeky-cool headquarters address, and finally revealed the company's latest and perhaps best-kept secret:
There is no iPhone 5 -- yet. Just an iPhone 4S: a faster, more efficient handset that is largely an upgrade of last year's iPhone 4. Come Oct. 14, the new iPhone will be available for the first time on Sprint's wireless network, along with AT&T's and Verizon's.
But the star of Tuesday's show was the software it comes with: iOS 5, a new version of Apple's mobile operating system, and Siri, an impressive advance in voice control and interactivity that some observers call revolutionary. The new operating system -- but without Siri -- will be available as a free upgrade starting Oct. 12 to owners of the iPhone 4.
Telecom analyst Roger Entner called the new software "a huge step forward," and said it created a smartphone in which "the smart part is much more important than the phone part."
"The hardware is an incremental step, but it's not revolutionary," said Entner, of Boston's Recon Analytics. "This time, the software is really out front."
Entner said Siri, voice-assistant software developed by an app maker that Apple acquired last year, takes voice-recognition software further into the realm of artificial intelligence than virtually any other consumer product. Apple wasn't shy about touting the advance.
"A lot of devices can recognize the words you say," Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president for iPhone marketing, said in a video posted on Apple's website. "But the ability to understand what you mean and act on it -- that's the breakthrough with Siri."
Said Entner: "You basically don't have to type things anymore. You speak to your phone and it does it. You can ask your phone, 'Do I have time for lunch?' And then you can say, 'Reply back to Jeff that I have time.'"
Entner predicted that Siri would force other handset-makers to try to match its interactivity or lose market share, which Apple has lately been losing to phones that operate on Google's Android operating system.
"A year from now, if you have a smartphone and don't have that, it will really look like a 'dumbphone,' because it won't talk to you and find things for you," he said.
It wasn't clear Tuesday whether investors were equally impressed -- or perhaps missed Jobs and weren't comforted by Cook's rumpled-cool presence as his replacement at Apple's helm.
Apple's shares fell during the news conference -- albeit along with the Dow and other market indexes on a wildly turbulent day. Unlike the Dow, which recovered 400 points just before the markets closed, Apple ended the day down 0.56 percent. Some analysts said Apple's decision to forgo announcing a new iPhone 5 offered an opening to competitors.
One twist with the iPhone 4S is that Apple's hardware upgrade will benefit AT&T, its initial iPhone partner, more than Verizon or Sprint, because it will work on AT&T's HSPA Plus network but not on the LTE 4G network that Verizon is rolling out ahead of AT&T's version.
Entner said the difference could mean AT&T data speeds that are four or five times as fast as Verizon's. An AT&T spokeswoman was more restrained.
"What I can tell you is that our 4G network will let your iPhone download twice as fast as our competitors," said AT&T's Brandy Bell-Truskey.
Some other advances in the iPhone 4S and iOS 5:
The 4S is equipped with dual antennas -- apparently a belated fix to the interference with signal strength that users and testers complained about after iPhone 4's release.
It comes with an eight-megapixel camera and an improved lens.
Even without Siri, Apple says, iOS 5 offers more than 200 new features, including better integration with Apple's iCloud services and services such as a new "Notification Center" that gives users a single place to see new e-mail, texts, friend requests, and other incoming data.
Contact Jeff Gelles at 215-854-2776 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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