Many around the OWC offices have been waiting with bated breath for today’s iPhone announcement. Like most Apple announcements, there have been a lot of rumors swirling around this event: the iPhone 5, iPhones on Sprint, iPod Touch spec bumps, iOS5’s “Assistant” feature, and even the cancellation of the iPod Shuffle and/or Classic.
Well, now we’ve got the goods on what’s new, what’s coming, and what were just fantastic pipe dreams, So without any further ado, let’s take a look at what’s we saw.
This keynote started out similar to most others, with new CEO Tim Cook talking about Apple’s forward momentum, including bits about the new Apple Stores in Asia, Lion’s adoption rate compared to Windows 7, overall growth in the Mac market, iPod’s dominance in the PMP market, and iTunes remaining the number one music store in the world.
Cook then gave us a few numbers showing the increasing dominance of the iPhone and iPad in the market. We heard about how 5% of the world’s mobile phones are an iPhone, 74% of tablets sold are iPads and that over 250 million iOS have been devices sold.
This was vaguely interesting information if you’re an Apple shareholder, an “industry” reporter, or someone who just wants to sit there and go “Woooo!!!! We’re Number One!!!!” But the reason we most people tuned in to the various webcasts and liveblogs (bringing many of them down in the process) was for the new hardware and software that we’d learn about today.
The first thing Apple trotted out was the Cards app. Effectively, it allows you to create a greeting card from photos on your iOS device, similar to what you can do with photo books and calendars and the like in iPhoto. Once created, Apple prints out and sends the card, at a cost of $2.99 ($4.99 for International). Not a particularly exciting announcement for most, but it’s something that may be popular among the “send a picture of your kids as a Christmas card” set.
iOS 5 Features
Things then got down to business and they started to talk about iOS 5. For the most part, it was all about the stuff we heard before:
- Notifications that drop down in a menu, rather than showing as popups.
- iMessage, a messaging service between iOS users – pushed to all devices.
- Reminders – which has location-aware functionality (e.g.; pick up cat food on the way home from work…)
- Twitter Integration – no more logging in separately. It’s integrated into apps themselves.
- Newsstand – periodical subscriptions. Rather than an app for each magazine, this gives them a central repository for content.
- Updated Camera App – double tap on home button or volume up to take a picture.
- Game Center adds photos of friends, recommendations , achievement points to ake gaming more “social”
- Updated Safari – now has reader function and reading list similar to the OS X version. The iPad version gets full tabbed browsing, too
- “PC Free” – no longer needs to link to a computer to activate.
- iCloud, which allows you to sync documents, music, backup device info, and a myriad of other things. It also includes a “Find My Friends” feature which, somewhat creepily, allows you to see the location of your other iPhone-toting friends.
- iTunes Match, which works in conjunction with iCloud, which lets you store your ripped music as a streamable copy for $24.99 a year.
The big news—and the bit that everybody was waiting for—was when the software would drop. iOS5 will be downloadable on Wednesday, October 12.
While most of the iPod-related rumors centered around the possible elimination of the iPod Classic and/or the iPod Shuffle, those two stalwarts of Apple’s music player line are still available in the Apple Store as of this posting. That didn’t mean Apple didn’t have a trick or two still up its sleeve.
The largest number of changes in the iPod line went to the the iPod nano. The biggest change was the ability to switch the interface from the four smaller icons on the screen to a larger single-icon sliding view. It also did away with the need for the shoe sensor to measure your workout info and upload to the Nike+ Web site. In an interesting nod to a somewhat niche third-party market, Apple acknowledged those who like to wear their iPod nano as a watch and offered up 16 new clock faces, including a few “licensed character” watches, at least one featuring a particularly famous rodent.
Prices for the new iPod nanos come in at $129 for the 8GB model and $149 for the larger 16GB model.
The iPod touch, while rumored to get a severe overhaul, got relatively fewer updates than its smaller cousin. In fact, most of the iPod Touch’s “upgrades” seemed to be in that it will now run iOS 5. The only difference between the version Apple’s touting now and the one they were touting yesterday is that this new one is… wait for it… also available in white! Yeah…
At least they also reworked the prices; the 8GB model is now $199, the 32GB is $299, and the 64GB will run you $399.
As usual, the biggest rumors surrounding this event had to do with the iPhone. Rumors of a wide-screen iPhone with an elongated Home button, support for CDMA and GSM networks, and a slew of other features were bandied about, as was talk of an iPhone 4 revision for other networks. As it turns out, there was no iPhone 5, but we did get the iPhone 4S, which included many of the reported features, though not all.
On the outside it looks nearly identical to the iPhone 4, with a glass back and a retina display. On the inside, though its features come up a little more advanced:
- A5 processor, offering twice the speed and up to 7x the graphics performance
- 8 hours of 3G talk time; 6 hours of browsing (9 via wifi), 10 hours of video playback, 40 of music.
- “Intelligent” antenna switching, resulting in both a reduction of dropouts and a theoretical doubling of download speeds.
- Both GSM & CDMA – “World Phone”
Special attention was paid to the camera, which received many upgrades:
- an 8 megapixel. backside illuminated CMOS sensor
- improved optics with IR Filter, resulting in 30% sharper images and an aperture of f/2.4
- software improvements including better white balance and face detection
- 1080p video recording
Other software updates, apparently exclusive to the iPhone 4S, were also touted. Video mirroring (playing what’s on your iPhone on a larger screen) is now available either through a wired adapter or via an AirPlay enabled device.
They also showed off dictation functionality which allows you speak text into your iPhone, rather than type it in. While nice in its own right, this functionality really shone with the true star of the presentation, Siri.
Siri is an application that allows you to speak requests, and it will perform tasks like checking the weather, setting alarms, sending text messages, converting units on the fly, and other things. The interest there is that it recognizes multiple ways of phrasing a question, with Wolfram|Alpha-like accuracy. In fact, for some inquiries, it seems to go to W|A to retrieve some answers.
The big question, of course, was availability. It’ll hit US, Canada, Australia, the UK, France, Germany, and Japan on October 14th, with pre-orders starting on the 7th.
As for US carriers, it looks like Sprint is now officially added to the lineup of iPhone carriers.
Both the Black and white versions of the iPhones will be available with a 2-year contract:
- 16GB: $199
- 32GB: $299
- 64GB: $399
The new iPhone on the block doesn’t mean the older ones are going away though; the iPhone 4 is now $99 for 8GB and the 8GB 3GS will be free—provided you’re on contract..
No More Things
The only really disappointing thing was a lack of the “one more thing” we’ve all come to anticipate out of these announcements. Whether Cook is leaving it behind as part of Steve Job’s legacy as a presenter or whether there just wasn’t enough to go around this time, we don’t know. It just seemed like the presentation ended prematurely.
Whatever the case, though, it seems we’ve got a bit to chew on in the iPhone realm. Want to know more? Check out the streaming video from the event and feel free to chime in below.