New model to launch Oct. 14

It was hardly a secret that Apple would be rolling out its next generation iPhone at a press event Tuesday, but the Cupertino-based company still managed to sneak in a few surprises.

The iPhone 4S, which will be available for pre-order on Oct. 7 and will launch Oct. 14, will look almost exactly like the current 4G model, but a number of under the hood enhancements could be noteworthy for the entertainment industry – as could the expansion of the iPhone’s retail footprint with the addition of Sprint to the carriers offering the phone.

The 4S will be the first iPhone that’s capable of shooting video in 1080p – and will include real-time stabilization and real-time temporal noise reduction. The phone will also boost its camera to an 8MP sensor (up from 5MP in current models), adding a CMOS backside illuminated sensor (which gets 73 percent more light than the iPhone 4 sensor and is one-third faster). It also has a high-end IR filter for greater accuracy and uniformity.

“For many customers, the iPhone 4S will be the best camera … and video camera they’ve ever had, and they’ll have it with them everywhere they go,” said Apple senior vice-president Phil Schiller.

The 4S will also use the A5 processing chip (the same used in the iPad), doubling the system’s computing speed and increasing its graphical capabilities seven-fold, said the company.

Apple also says the iPhone will no longer be border locked. The 4S uses both the GSM and CDMA standards, meaning the phone can be used anywhere in the world.

Content streaming companies are likely to cheer the improvements Apple claims to have made to the 4S’s antenna. The company now says data downloads can occur twice as fast as they do on the iPhone 4, making the 4S grab content as quickly on a 3G system as others do on 4G.

Apple also unveiled a new feature called Siri, which will allow iPhone owners to interact with their phones by speaking with them. Users can hit their home button and ask about nearby attractions, including restaurants (and presumably movies).

Despite the improvements and new features, the iPhone 4S’s battery life is higher than its predecessors. It will now last 8 hours for voice calls (a one hour jump). Users will get 6 hours of browsing time on 3G, with that number jumping to 9 hours for those who use WiFi . Video playback will run 10 hours and music playback will top 40 hours.

The iPhone 4S will come in black and white and will cost $199 for 16GB version, $299 for 32GB model and $399 for a 64GB version (the first time Apple has offered that much storage on the iPhone).

At the event, Apple also updated several of its sales figures. The iPod, it says, now controls 78 percent of the portable music player market and life-to-date sales have topped 300 million. The iPad has sold over 250 million units and the iPhone has seen 125 percent year-over-year growth.

In the app store, users have over 18 billion apps so far and are now downloading more than 1 billion apps per month.

Wall Street, which seemed to be expecting the company to unveil the iPhone 5, wasn’t particularly impressed with the announcements. Apple shares were off by half a percent at the close of trading Tuesday. In the past two-and-a-half weeks, the company’s stock has lost 7 percent of its value.

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