So much for all of those mockups and silicon case designs hinting at a teardrop-shaped iPhone 5 with a four-inch screen. Apple CEO Tim Cook indeed unveiled a new phone during his keynote at the Apple campus today, but the device was merely a souped-up version of the fourth-generation model—the iPhone 4S.
That’s not to say the iPhone 4S isn’t exciting. An A5 processor purportedly imbues it with twice the CPU performance and seven times the graphics performance of the iPhone 4. Both GSM and CDMA are supported, and the phone’s new wireless hardware is said to double download speeds. In spite of those improvements, battery life doesn’t seem to have suffered much, if at all. Apple says you’ll get an extra hour of 3G talk time (up to eight hours), although Wi-Fi browsing has fallen from ten to nine hours. As far as I can tell, other key run times are the same.
The iPhone 4S isn’t just faster. It also has a new, eight-megapixel camera with all kinds of improvements sure to please lazy photographers (or at least, those who don’t want to lug a proper camera around). Apple teased the new camera with a lot of numbers—numbers like "30% more sharpness," "73% more light," "33% faster capture," and "26% better auto white balance." The new camera supports 1080p video recording, image stabilization, and temporal noise reduction, so it’s not just good at stills.
Then there’s Siri. You might have noticed that most Android phones these days have pretty decent voice recognition built in. Siri is Apple’s answer to that, but it takes the concept a step further, allowing the folks to use natural language to get their phones to complete a cornucopia of different tasks. Users can send text messages, find out about the weather, locate businesses, set alarms, create calendar appointments, look up words in the dictionary, perform currency and unit conversions, and so forth. Siri is rolling out on the iPhone 4S in beta form with support for English, French, and German. Sadly, Apple hasn’t said whether iPhone 4 users will Siri goodness, too—I’m guessing not, since the feature isn’t mentioned as a part of iOS 5.
In any case, the iPhone 4S is coming out alongside iOS 5 on October 14. Pre-orders will kick off on October 7, and three variants will be on offer: $199 for 16GB of storage, $299 for 32GB, and $399 for 64GB. Cheapskates will be able to nab an 8GB version of the original iPhone 4 for a cool $99, as well.
Apple’s website appears to be down right now, but you can check Engadget’s picture-laden live blog of the keynote for all the details.