Apple has officially announced the arrival of the iPhone 4S, which is definitively not the iPhone 5. The 4S does come with two big new changes. The first is an improved camera, which some are already calling a point-and-shoot killer. The second, and possible more epoch-defining, is the voice control system called “Siri,” which allows you to (among other things) ask your iPhone for the weather instead of tapping a few buttons or just looking outside. (Huzzah for the modern age!) Siri can be used in many different ways, and Apple was pretty confident in showing off the voice-recognition system — could be a gamechanger, could be incredibly annoying.
The other big news: The iPhone 4S will be available on Sprint, along with AT&T and Verizon. There was no announcement about the iPhone 5, which means the blogosphere has at least another six months to a year of passing around false rumors about the iPhone 5. Today’s iPhone summit was not streamed, but check out our play-by-play of the somewhat-underwhelming presentation below:
1:03 PM (ET): Let’s all start judging new CEO Tim Cook’s choice of big-announcement fashion. It’s not quite as iconic as Steve Job’s turtleneck with rolled-up sleeves, which screamed “I’m ready for action” and also “I won’t just kill you, I’ll erase you from history.” But it’s also classier than Zuckerberg’s gray t-shirt look, which quietly mumbles “They’ve already made an awesome movie out of me, why keep trying?” [Engadget]
1:10 PM: Cook is laying the groundwork, talking about opening stores in China and the success of Apple’s newest wild-cat themed operating system, Lion. My old rhetoric teacher would call this “The part of the speech where the person anxiously reminds the listeners why they liked all the stuff that Apple released before whatever disappointing thing they’re announcing today.” [New York Times]
1:13 PM: Nearly 1 out of every 4 computers sold in the US is a Mac. Did anyone else grow up with parents who were too lame to switch to PCs in the early 90s, so they had to deal with you complaining for years and years that you couldn’t play any cool PC videogames, and now Apple is super-cool again and your parents look like geniuses? Anyway, Mom and Dad, this is me apologizing. [Wired]
1:15 PM: Cook is now finally talking about the iPhone. The rest of the interview will be Centaur questions.
1:20 PM: Wait, but let’s also talk about the iPad! Cook is talking about the iPad’s role in education and…in cockpits? Also, now Scott Forestall (senior Vice Prez. of IOS software) is coming onstage to talk about the iOS. It’s kind of like when a university proudly tells a group of assembled alumni that they’re doing great in literally every college sport except for football. [Mashable]
1:25 PM: Did you know that you can print iPhoto cards straight from your iPhone! And also, how would you like to buy a Rolex? Very cheap, my friend, best price! [Ars Technica]
1:30 PM: There’s a new “Reminders” app in OS 5 that will give you location-based reminders — the example given is “Remind me to pick up my laundry when I leave work.” Look, I’m loving the fact that modern technology means I never have to remember anything, but shouldn’t the real goal be to create robots who will just do your freaking laundry already? Lazy robots. [AllThingsD]
1:32 PM: There’s a new app called “Newsstand” that will help you manage all your subscriptions. Also, the iPhone camera will be better and will feature red-eye reduction, thus moving the iPhone’s camera technology into 1996. [New York Times]
1:36 PM: The new operating system will be available for free download on October 12. And that’s our show, ladies and gentlemen! So glad you came out today for these exciting announcements. In the immortal words of Homer Simpsons, “It was the most I ever threw up, and it changed my life forever.” [AllThingsD]
1:37 PM: Just kidding! Now Eddie Cue — who is actually a senior vice president, despite having a name that makes him sound like a guy who killed a superhero’s parents — is talking about the iCloud. In his words: “It just works.” [New York Times]
1:42 PM: You know how Google has to pay George Lucas for the name “Droid”? Well, Apple should just man up and pay Lucas for the rights to “Cloud City,” which would be a way better name than “iCloud.” And the tagline could be: “You truly belong here with us among the clouds.” And the pitchman could be Billy Dee Williams! By the way, no one is saying anything about iPhones.
1:45 PM: There’s a new app called “Find My Friends,” which you can use to locate people you know and love via their iPhones. So now high school students will have to really plan their night around leaving their iPhones at their friend’s house before they go out for a night of carousing. Technology Will Never Defeat High Schoolers!!!! [San Francisco Chronicle]
1:49 PM: “iTunes Match” will automatically send your music library into the cloud, where you can listen to it from anywhere. Does that sound exciting? Now imagine Billy Dee Williams telling you that, possible while sitting in a golden throne wearing a purple velvet cloak, with a tiger on a leash. [Mashable]
1:51 PM: The iCloud will ship on October 12, so prepare for phone calls from your parents on October 13 asking you why the hell their computer is going up into the clouds now. iTunes Match will ship at the end of October. [New York Times]
1:53 PM: Phil Schiller, the head of marketing, is now onstage talking about the iPod Touch, which is now the most popular portable game player in the world. The new Touch will go onsale for $199 for 8 GB. Will the iPod Touch kill the Console Game Star? [San Francisco Chronicle]
1:54 PM: They’re talking iPhone again!
1:55 PM: Ladies and gentlemen, meet the iPhone 4S. [AllThingsD]
1:57 PM: The iPhone 4S will have an A5 chip, like the iPad 2, a dual core processor, dual core graphics. It apparently looks the same on the outside. The whole talk has taken a strange left turn — they’re mostly talking about how the iPhone 4S will making the game experience much better. Which, okay, but that’s not really the point. [San Francisco Chronicle]
2:07 PM: The new camera does sound pretty freaking incredible: Five element lens, better color filters, something called a hybrid IR filter, and the capture time has improved by 1/3. [Arts Technica]
2:10 PM: Comparing the speed of the iPhone’s camera to the Droid Bionic, Schiller says: “I don’t know what Droid bionic users do between pictures. Get coffee, I guess.” Face, Google, you just got faced! [AllThingsD]
2:13 PM: So there may not be an iPhone 5, but Apple might have just officially killed the point-and-shoot camera. Not bad for a Tuesday morning. Somewhere, that girl from English class who took all those Polaroids is crying. [Wired]
2:16 PM: And now, for the big announcement: The iPhone 4S will indeed feature a voice recognition system. Schiller just asked the iPhone for the weather, and it told him. Unclear if you can select voices, but I imagine that will turn into a minor cottage industry for voice actors/Mark Hamill. [San Francisco Chronicle]
2:22 PM: Thanks to partnerships with Yelp, you can ask the phone “Find me a great Greek restaurant in Palo Alto,” and it will say “I’ve located 14 Greek restaurants. Five are in Palo Alto. I’ve sorted them by rating.” As a Bay Area native, I can assure you that if the iPhone tells you there’s a great Greek restaurant in Palo Alto, it is a dirty hippie liar. [New York Times]
2:24 PM: But seriously, this is an incredible evolutionary step forward, even if we’re all going to spend the next three years finding reasons to be annoyed by voice control. This is some awesome Star Trek stuff. Which, by the way, wouldn’t it be awesome if they could get Majel Barrett’s voice on the iPhone? [Mashable]
2:26 PM: Basically, Siri is the personal assistant who will never leave your side and manage your entire life for you. Let’s just hope that this doesn’t turn into a Devil Wears Prada thing where the personal assistant learns to resent you, or else we might have a Skynet on our hands.
2:29 PM: If you ask your phone, “Who are you, Siri?” it responds “I am a humble personal assistant.” Well, that’s certainly charming, in a horrifying we-are-the-dystopia-our-parents-warned-us-about way. [AllThingsD]
2:36 PM: The iPhone 4s will come free with a 2-year contract. It’ll be available October 14. [Mashable]
2:37 PM: By the way, Siri’s voice is apparently exclusively female.
2:38 PM: The iPhone 4S will be available on Verizon, AT&T…and Sprint (loud cheers). [AllThingsD]
2:40 PM: And that’s it! Not sure how the general public will respond to this, but I know specifically how my friends who’ve been keeping their poor old iPhone 3G devices going on fumes will feel: Betrayed, disappointed, and angrily confused about whether they should buy the 4S or just go phone-free until the 5 arrives sometime next year.
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