At 10am, Tim Cook - the fresh new Apple CEO - took the stage to announce what will change everything, again. Not wearing Steve Jobs' usual turtleneck, he instead wore a nice slate colored dress shirt - setting his own style. Tim delivered updates on what's happening in Apple retail, the iPod line, iOS 5, iPad, and the iPhone 4. Want to watch the keynote online? It's up now at Apple.com.
First up we got the usual statistics recap. Stats of course can be spun however the speaker wants, but here are some pretty solid and interesting bits. Apple now has 357 retail stores, has sold 300 million iPods. iPods have has a 70%+ marketshare the entire time they have been available. For reference, Sony took 30 years to sell 230k Walkmen cassette players. Apple sold 300 million iPods in 10 years.
iTunes now contains 20 million songs and in total has seen 16 billion downloads. Apple is reporting 500,000 apps in the app store -- as usual they are a bit premature on that as it's currently about 20,000 shy of that number. But there are well over 125,000 iPad apps available. The App Store has had 18 billion downloads with over $3 billion paid to developers, with 1 billion app downloads per month. That's billions, with a B, right there.
The really big number here, though, is that there are 250 million iOS devices now out there.
Let's skip right to what we are all came for, shall we? The new iPhone:
The new iPhone 4S - looks like the old iPhone
One of the worst kept secrets was that the iPhone 4 was going to get a bump in features to a new model, named the 4S. While there are only minor changes to the hardware case itself, this is a pretty substantial update on the inside. The main processor chip is now the same dual core A5 chip that runs iPad 2, increasing the speed and upping the memory. That means apps will have more resources to use and more apps can be run at the same time. In fact, Apple claims graphics can run at up to 7x the speed of the iPhone 4.
A killer new 8MP camera - the coolest hardware feature of the new iPhone 4S is the new camera. The camera has been upgraded to an 8MP backside illumination f2.4 camera. Meaning? This camera pulls in up to 73% more light per pixel - that means better pictures in just about all situations but especially so in lower light. Really a great camera on paper, better than most small cameras and even some DSLRs. Of course, we'll have to see how it does in real life situations.
The camera also includes 1080P image stabilized video recording, face detection for quick focusing, and quick image capture - 1.1 seconds to first picture, 0.5 seconds for successive images.
Siri - the intelligent assistant to get things done just by asking - The coolest new feature is the Siri assistant. This feature is rather hard to describe, but it truly is an assistant. It will allow users to interact with the phone with only their voice, getting responses via a computer voice. Things like reading your SMS messages, replying to them, setting calendar appointments, playing music, replying to email, and searching Wikipedia can all be done by voice. I think we're seeing just the tip of the iceberg here with Siri. I expect this to continue to expand with future iOS versions.
Take a look at the video below from Apple for more great examples of what you can do with Siri.
Siri launches only on the iPhone 4S. The processing power apparently required apparently is only available on the 4S. [Editor's note: what wasn't mentioned, of course, is the availablity of Siri on the iPad 2, which has the same processing power as this new 4S device]
Now on Sprint The iPhone 4S will be be available on three carriers simultaneously for the first time. AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint - all will launch at the same time.
More new iPhone 4S features Some other new features include a single dual mode phone, which can be used on all US carriers. Technically this dual mode feature is a huge deal. But in real life, not so much. Carriers will still have the device locked down so users can't easily switch between them. And even the unlocked phone version of this will apparently not work on the CDMA carriers anymore (Verizon and Sprint). It's a mess - and we can blame the carriers for that.
Barely mentioned in the keynote, the iPhone 4S will do Airplay Mirroring just like the iPad 2 - a feature that lets users see their device screen wirelessly on an Apple TV. Great for games, this sleeper feature will be huge one day, when Apple decides actually back the Apple TV more.
iPhone 4S Available on October 14th - the iPhone 4S will be available on October 14th in the US, Canada, Australia, UK, France, Germany, and Japan. Pre-orders will start on October 7th: this Friday. The price will be $199/$299/$399 on two year contract for 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB versions.
In addition, the iPhone 4 will be available for $99 for an 8GB model while an 8GB 3GS model will be available for free with contract.
New Applecare+ One great new options is the Applecare+. For $99, Apple will extend your warrantee to two years. One great new feature here is that Apple will replace an iPhone up to twice due to accident - dropped, submerged in water, etc. "Coverage for up to two incidents of accidental damage from handling, each subject to a $49 service fee."
Our Take on the iPhone 4S
While internally the iPhone 4S is a pretty decent jump, it still is lacking compared to some of the other devices (Android, Windows Phone 7) being released. Don't get the wrong idea, the iPhone 4S is still the best phone out there, but it may just lack the sexy features the some people will look for. Dual core processors are great, but the screen size is on the very low end these days.
If you have an iPhone 4, I'd say skip this upgrade. Wait for the next one and you should be out of contract and able to switch carriers if you wish. If you don't have an iPhone, it's the best iPhone we've ever seen, I'd say make the jump now.
Overall, this a good device, but there aren't enough compelling or new features to justify the 16+ month wait. We wanted more. A lot more.
The iPod touch didn't get an update at all this year. Oddly it's the same device, just slightly cheaper at around $30 less than last year prices. It is available in white now as well as black. But that's not really an upgrade.
Our Take on the iPod Touch Update - Or lack of update. Apple is now touting the iPod touch as the most used game device. And while it may be, it's not that competitive anymore. Without an A5 processor upgrade, the iPod touch is now quite a bit behind the iPhone 4. Not unexpectedly, as the iPod touch is usually a bit behind the iPhone; it got a retina display a couple months after the iPhone. Overlapping the upgrade of the iPhone with the iPod touch made me hope it would at least get an upgraded processor.
iOS5 Release - October 12
The iOS5 release was officially announced to be October 12th, a little over a week from now. It's a free upgrade. No real new features were mentioned beyond what was announced at WWDC. Refer back to our earlier coverage for more and we'll have a full guide for you on launch day.
Our Take on iOS5 - while we had hoped to see some further updates to some of the core apps and perhaps some new features, iOS 5 is a really solid upgrade. Lots of great new features and much needed improvements. Highly recommended if you have a iPhone 4, iPad 2, or iPod touch 4th gen.
Older devices may not fare so well with this upgrade. So if you have an older device and your device is officially supported, iPhone 3GS, original iPad, and iPod touch 3rd gen, let others try the upgrade first to see how it functions in real life.
iCloud and iTunes Match
As you may remember, iCloud is the name of Apple's new group of cloud based services. The basic level is free, and something everyone should use. For a quick overview, take a look at the video below.
No new features were announced beyond what we heard about at WWDC. But we did find out that iCloud will launch on October 12th with iTunes Match following up in late October. We'll have more on iCloud in a follow up article and expect this to be something that Apple iterates regularly. And let's hope so. Both products seem like they are a little unfinished and missing features - we had hoped for some finishing touches to be announced. We'll just have to keep waiting.
New Apps from Apple
Cards - is a new app from Apple that will allow you to create greeting cards on your device. Those cards will then be printed and mailed to whomever you choose for $3 in the US, $5 internationally. If you ship it to the US you can get a push notification when it's delivered.
Find My Friends -- Hinted at for a while, this is a feature that lets you share your location with your friends. Friends can request where you are and the app gives you some interesting control over how long and when they can get that information.
Both of these apps will launch on the App Store with iOS 5 on October 12th.
It's hard to really get too excited over this announcement. We only saw one really revolutionary thing from Apple, by the name of Siri. I think a lot of people assumed that with the delay in release of a new iPhone we were in for a huge set of announcements. Things like whole new maps app, Facebook integration, a truly new device, and hopefully a lot of things we hadn't even heard of.
Instead we got a really solid, but very safe phone. Some great announcements, but nothing revolutionary, and nothing that changes everything - safe. And nothing that seemed to tie up the loose ends that are iCloud and iTunes Match. They just seem like unfinished products.
The new iPhone 4S will sell well, but perhaps not as well as the iPhone we had hoped for.
The big question for me, and for anyone contemplating an upgrade, is when will the next iPhone come out. Apple has thrown out their usual calendars this year. The usual cadence of a new iPhone every summer is gone. We could see the next, expectantly revolutionary iPhone, anytime from next Spring to two years from now, which makes long term planning and contract scheduling hard. Rest assured, though, that we'll be here to help get the information out as it arises.