Apple has taken the wraps off of its new iPhone, but the new device is not the long-awaited iPhone 5. Instead, Apple unveiled the iPhone 4S, a new phone that's an evolutionary upgrade to the iPhone 4, rather than a revolutionary new phone.
Key among the iPhone 4S's new features: a faster processor, a better camera, a new wireless system, and a new carrier offering service on the phone.
Price and Availability
The iPhone 4S will be available in three capacities: a 16GB model that will cost $199, a 32GB model that will cost $299, and a 64GB model that will run you $399. (Those prices all require that you sign a new two-year service agreement.) AT&T and Verizon Wireless will continue to offer the iPhone, and will be joined by Sprint, which had been widely rumored as a carrier for the new phone.
The iPhone 4S will be available for pre-order on October 7 and will ship on October 14 in the U.S.
The look of the iPhone 4S is very much like that of the iPhone 4: Apple says the new phone "has the same beautifully thin glass and stainless steel design." Like the iPhone 4, the iPhone 4S is available in white and black.
Perhaps the biggest improvement that the new iPhone will feature is its A5 processor, the same dual-core chip used to power the iPad. At the iPhone 4S launch event, Apple's Phil Schiller said this chip would allow the iPhone 4S to feature CPU performance that is twice as fast and graphics performance that is up to 7 times faster than the iPhone 4.
The camera on the iPhone 4S should be a major improvement over that found on the iPhone 4. Apple says its plan was to create an all new camera that could challenge today's point-and-shoot cameras. To that end, its resolution has been bumped up to 8-megapixels and features a new custom lens. The camera app is designed to launch more quickly, and Apple says the camera's shot-to-shot capability is twice as fast as the iPhone 4, which should mean you don't miss the photos you want to take. You'll also be able to access the camera right from the phone's lock screen.
The improvements extend to the iPhone's video recording capabilities, too: the iPhone 4S can record video in full 1080p HD and features an image stabilization feature.
Antenna Issues Addressed
Perhaps in an effort to address the antenna problems that plagued the iPhone 4 after its launch, Apple says that the iPhone 4S features a new wireless system that allows the phone to "intelligently switch between two antennas." This should result in better call quality and faster download speeds.
Speaking of download speeds, the iPhone 4S is not officially a 4G phone, but Apple's Schiller did say that the device could reach speeds that some companies describe as 4G: uploads at up to 5.8Mbps, and downloads at 14.4Mbps.
Your Own Personal Assistant
One of the key features that Apple highlighted at the iPhone 4S launch event is the phone's voice control functionality, which is used in the built-in Siri app. This app serves as a virtual personal assistant, which can help you "get things done just by asking," Apple says. Siri understands natural language, and allows you to speak questions and commands such as "Will I need an umbrella?" and "Remind me to call Mom."
iOS 5 on the Inside
Apple also announced an upgrade to its iOS platform, iOS 5. The iPhone 4S will run iOS 5 and the software will be available as a free update to users of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS. New features in iOS 5 include a Notification Center, which allows you to manage and view notifications without interrupting your other tasks, and iMessage, a new service that allows you to trade photos, videos, and text messages with other users of iOS 5.
iOS 5 also brings the launch of iCloud, Apple's suite of free cloud-based services, which include iTunes in the Cloud, Photo Stream, and Documents in the Cloud. These services allow you to wirelessly store content in iCloud, and wirelessly push it to all of your iOS devices and your computer.