New iPhone Announced

Apple's annual announcement of the latest iPhone is always an event not to be missed, unless you don't care about iPhones, in which case it can be merely hard to avoid.

Still, for those who do care, today's presentation was a big deal, mainly because the world would finally be confirmed in its unflappable belief that the iPhone 5 was imminent, replete with 4G, which is now the G of choice. A number of manufacturers were so sure the iPhone 5 was coming that they had begun mass-producing cases based on leaked pictures of the new device. As it happened, there was no iPhone 5, and the world now faces an oversupply of cases that won't quite fit the new iPhone 4S, which was announced.

The mood following the unveiling has been predictably downbeat. For starters, the 4S looks just like the iPhone 4, which is fine but is not new. Nor is it 4G, and Apple's declaration that it will operate on GSM and CDMA is pretty ho-hum, especially for Australians. Apple has already suggested that including 4G would at this time entail too large a compromise on size and battery-life, but there remained a widespread hope that 4G would be included. A case of wishing hard enough not getting it done.

There was also a fairly broad expectation that the new device would feature Near Field Communications (NFC) functionality, which enables devices to interact with other devices nearby, such as PCs, electronic billboards, or credit card scanners, enabling 'wave and go' commerce, long-touted as the next big thing. There was no mention of NFC. There was an announcement that iPhones would available to US customers on Sprint, which was frankly stellar news for those of us in Australia. I couldn't be happier for Sprint customers.

That being said, the 4S will represent a fairly substantial upgrade to the iPhone 4. It features a dual-core processor, and a promise of significantly improved performance; Apple is trumpeting graphical performance about seven times better, as well as much faster downstream data transfer rates. Much has been made of an improved camera, and even more of Siri, which is a new voice-recognition based personal assistant app. To be fair, Siri does sound kind of cool.

The iPhone 4S will be available in Australia on October 14, with pre-orders commencing October 8. So far Telstra, Optus and Vodafone have all committed to selling it. It comes in black and white, and 16, 32 and 64Gb versions. The smallest costs $799 upfront.