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It’s Apple’s iPhone 5 (Make that iPhone 4S)

 

Apple iPhone fans who were hoping to see the fifth generation of the hugely popular smart phone unveiled Tuesday may have been slightly disappointed, at least at first. What they ended up seeing was an upgrade of the iPhone 4, which Apple is dubbing the iPhone 4S. It’s the same transition the company used when going from iPhone 3 to iPhone 4 and the 3S phone was introduced in the interim.

By the way, the hype preceding Tuesday’s media event at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, CA generated so much interest that websites offering information about the new phone ground to a halt, apparently due to millions of people trying to see Apple’s latest gizmo.

This iPhone, by the way, was the first that wasn’t introduced by recently retired former CEO Steve Jobs, who debuted all previous versions of the smart phone. Instead, it was Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook and the company’s marketing director Phil Schiller who showed off the iPhone 4S to the world.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that the new iPhone looks exactly like it’s predecessor: it keeps the same Retina display, the same durable glass case on the front and back and has the same stainless steel band on its edge as the iPhone 4. But Apple says it’s what’s inside that counts.

For starters, the iPhone 4S uses Apple’s dual core A5 chip, the same one used in the iPad 2, which Apple claims makes the new phone seven times faster than the previous phone when viewing graphics.

The camera in the new phone has been increased to eight megapixels. It’s ready to shoot its first photo in just 1.1 seconds and a half-second later can shoot the second photo. Image quality of photos produced by the iPhone 4S is outstanding, according to Apple, which claims it can produce a near flawless 8x10 printed image. That’s not bad for a cell phone. The new iPhone can also shoot full HD video at 1080p with real time image stabilization and additional image enhancing software that’s not available on other cell phone cameras.

People who bought the original iPhone 4 likely remember problems involving cell signal drop-off due to the location of the antenna, which unless you added a case (Apple later provided them for free) your hand could block the antenna, causing dropped calls. The new iPhone has two antennas, which are said to dramatically improve reception and data transfers speeds, while ending the problems associated with the older antenna.

And battery life on the new phone has been significantly increased, according to Apple, with up to eight hours of talk time on 3-G networks, six hours of web browsing on 3G and nine hours of browsing on wifi.

But by far the biggest showstopper that came with the introduction of the iPhone 4S is the addition of some incredible new software known as Siri, which is being touted as the voice recognition software everyone has been waiting for.

Here’s the way it was demonstrated during Apple’s media event. Phil Schiller asked his iPhone what the weather was like today and the phone, thanks to Siri, understood the meaning of his words and displayed the day’s weather forecast. It can get even more refined than that: Ask Sira if you need to take a raincoat to work with you today and the iPhone again displays the weather.

When Schiller asked the phone for the time in Paris, Siri responded with a live clock. And when he asked to be awakened at 6 a.m., his phone’s alarm was instantly set for that time the next morning.

This new software doesn’t just listen; it also talks. You can ask Siri to read messages from the phone’s notification menu and it happens without you touching your phone. It can play songs from your phone’s music collection, read messages, manage your calendar, schedule reminders, get directions, email people, search your contacts and notes, and search the web, all without you touching or looking at the phone when you should be doing things, such as driving.

 Ask Siri for the five closest Italian restaurants and you’ll be provided with a list and driving directions. Tell Siri you need to call your wife when you leave work, and it can determine when you’re leaving work via the phone’s GPS, identify your wife from your list of contacts and make the call.

If this new software sounds somewhat familiar, it’s not the first time Apple has dabbled with voice activated software on an iPhone, but previous attempts have been pretty lame, in my opinion. If I asked my iPhone to play Eric Clapton’s unplugged version of Layla, it might, or it might play virtually any other song that’s on my phone. If I tell it to call my son Jimmy, odds are it will, but sometimes it dials another number. So I pretty much stopped using the Apple’s previous voice software, but maybe as Apple claims, this time we’ll be getting the real deal.

Siri, by the way, will only be available on the new iPhone. Apple’s upgraded operating system for mobile devices, OS5, which will be made available on Oct. 12, will run on previous phones as early as the 3GS. Apple’s OS 5 was highlighted earlier this year and will also be an upgrade for the iPad. It brings hundreds of new features and improvements to Apple’s mobile devices.

Another new iPhone feature that Apple unveiled Tuesday was an app called Cards that lets you turn photos on your phone into greeting cards that Apple will print and mail to anyone you select. Cost of printing and mailing is $3 to anywhere in the U.S. and $5 outside the U.S. The app will be available on Oct. 12.

There’s another new app that lets you see the location of your friends on your iPhone. It can be shut off when you don’t want friends to know what you’re up to, and only those people that you select will have access to your whereabouts when the service is running. There are enhanced controls for parents who want to know what their iPhone-equipped kids are up to, and this means the days of telling mom and dad that you’ll be one place, when you and your pals are actually somewhere else, are fast fading.

Apple also reviewed the features of its new iCloud service, which was also announced earlier this year and will be made available on Oct. 12. Apple’s iCloud is actually a huge network of servers that users reach via the Internet. Among its top features is the ability to sync or push items between your home computer, iPhone and iPad. This means if you buy music, a book or a movie on your iPad, it can instantly be pushed to your other devices. The new iCloud service can also provide wireless backups and sync contacts, calendars, photos, mail and reminders to all your devices. Basic iCloud service is free and provides 5GB of storage. (Photos and songs purchased at Apple’s iTunes store do not count when adding up iCloud usage). And for an additional $25 per year, customers can purchase a supplemental service called iTunes Match, which makes your entire music library (up to 25,000 songs), including songs not purchased on iTunes, available via iCloud to 10 devices. On the hardware side, iCloud only works with mobile devices running OS 5, a Mac running OS X Lion or a PC running Windows Vista or later. Outlook 2007 or later is recommended for Windows users wanting to access contacts and calendars on their PC.

Apple will begin taking pre-orders of its new phone on Oct. 7, with deliveries beginning on Oct. 14. Along with AT&T and Verizon versions, the new phone will also be available in a Sprint version for the first time ever. It’s available in both black and white and in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB configurations for $199, $299 and $399, respectively. All prices are based on customers purchasing a two-year plan with their carrier. If you have an existing iPhone and want to upgrade, you need to make sure you’ve fulfilled the terms of your existing plan.

So what do you do with that old iPhone? Apple, along with other companies, is willing to buy your old phone. Prices vary based on the condition of your phone. Apple will pay up to $180 for an iPhone 4 in pristine condition. Purchase offers are available online. You can find Apple’s buy-back information on its reuse and recycling web page.

And the advent of a new iPhone makes buying a new but previous version of the iPhone much less expensive. An iPhone 4, for example, can be purchased for as little as $99 for the 8GB model. The 3Gs, also 8GB, will be provided for free to customers who sign a contract with AT&T.

 

 

 

 


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