Apple's new CEO Tim Cook and other company executives today introduced the new iPhone 4S, an upgrade to the existing iPhone 4 that features the same faster dual-core processor now used in the iPad 2.
"There wasn't a single surprise in the whole lot, but the entire package is really sweet," said Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, in an interview after the 100-minute presentation.
"This is a win for Apple, no doubt," Gottheil said.
Cook kicked off iPhone 4S launch, taking the spot that former CEO Steve Jobs has made famous, and like Jobs, introduced several top Apple officials to spell out details. Jobs, who resigned in August because of ongoing health issues, did not appear at the event.
The iPhone 4S will go on sale for certain markets at 8 a.m. local time Oct. 14 in Apple's retail stores, with online and phone pre-orders beginning Friday Oct. 7. The new smartphone will be priced at US$199 for a 16GB model, US$299 for 32GB and US$399 for a new configuration with 64GB of storage space.
Apple is also retaining the last-generation 16GB iPhone 4, and pricing it at US$99, a 50 percent reduction. In addition, it will continue distributing the 8GB iPhone 3GS -- the 2009 version -- for free, a departure from its usual practice.
All prices -- including the free iPhone 3GS -- require a two-year commitment to a mobile carrier. AT&T, Sprint and Verizon will carry the new smartphone in the U.S. On the outside, the iPhone 4S looks identical to 2010's iPhone 4, but it's "all new" on the inside, an Apple executive claimed, arguing that it was "the best iPhone yet."
Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Gartner, agreed, saying that the iPhone 4S has enough new features to entice consumers to upgrade, even those who now own the iPhone 4. "It's really about the whole ecosystem," said Milanesi. "And about the details, which Apple excels at."
But she expected that some will criticize Apple for not pushing the envelope with a bigger screen, by refreshing the exterior design of the smartphone or by naming the new device the iPhone 5.
"This will underline what kind of consumer you are," she argued. "If you're after the newest bling, and want the iPhone for its fashion statement, you may not appreciate the iPhone 4S. It will come down to what you're looking for in the device.
" Users more concerned about function than form will rush to the new model, she predicted. Initially, the iPhone 4S will be available in the Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the U.S. and the U.K., with 22 more countries following two weeks later. "It's our fastest roll-out ever," said Cook, confirming what some analysts anticipated. Philip Schiller, who leads Apple's marketing, promised that the new iPhone 4S will be faster -- up to seven times faster in rendering graphics -- thanks to the A5 system-on-a-chip (SoC) embedded in the device. Apple first used the A5 in the iPad 2 that it launched in March.
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