Apple Inc. has unveiled a new, faster version of the iPhone 4 that takes voice commands.
The iPhone 4S will contain a dual-core A5 chip, the same one that powers the iPad 2, which will make it seven times faster than the original iPhone 4, the company announced Tuesday at an event at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.
A key new feature touted by Apple executives is an "intelligent assistant" called "Siri" that uses voice recognition to answer questions and pull up an appropriate app.
Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone Software at Apple, gave a demonstration. "Do I need a raincoat today?" brought up the response, "It sure looks like rain today" along with a weather forecast. "Give me directions to Hoover Tower" brought up a map.
Siri could also be used to check for schedule conflicts, schedule appointments, and set an alarm.
However, the feature was not listed among the Canadian specs for the phone — only those on the U.S. site.
The iPhone 4S is capable of download speeds of up to 14.4 megabits per second or double the speed of an iPhone 4 and will be able to operate on both GSM and CDMA networks. It also has an upgraded camera and promises a longer battery life.
It also has the ability to wirelessly transmit what is on its screen to Apple TV using a feature called AirPlay, which was first demonstrated on the iPad 2.
The new phone will be available in both black and white on Oct. 14 in the U.S., Apple said.
It did not indicate whether the phone would also be available in Canada on that date.
Lack of iPhone 5 disappoints
Technology watchers had hoped that Tuesday's announcement would include the launch of the iPhone 5, a new iPhone advanced enough to be considered a new generation of the device. But in the end, the iPhone 4S was the only new phone unveiled.
Technology consultant Richard Morochove said he thinks many people will be "a little bit underwhelmed" by the iPhone 4S.
"It is a better phone, there's no doubt about that," he said. "but I think people were expecting something a little bit more."
He added that the phone is almost identical in appearance to the iPhone 4: "The highlights are really hidden under the hood."
But CBC technology columnist Dan Misener said Apple hinted the announcement wouldn't be a huge one by choosing a smaller venue, and has made incremental announcements like this before. For example, in 2009, the company released an updated version of iPhone 3G called the 3GS.
The iPhone 4S comes with new mobile software, iOS 5, that includes such features as the ability to sync content wirelessly, without having to plug the device to a Mac or Windows machine. IOS 5 will also be available on Oct. 12 for existing devices — the iPhone 4 and 3GS, both iPad models and later versions of the iPod Touch.
Apple said Oct. 12 will also mark the launch of its new iCloud service, which will store content such as music, documents, apps and photos on Apple's servers and let people access them wirelessly on numerous devices.
Steve Jobs misses event
New CEO Tim Cook presided over Tuesday's announcements. Previously, this type of Apple event would have been hosted by Steve Jobs, who resigned as CEO in August after months of health problems. Cook wore a navy blue button-down shirt and jeans. He opened the event by calling his nearly 14-year tenure at Apple "the privilege of a lifetime." Those in the audience clapped as he entered, but the reaction seemed more muted than what Jobs had recently received, the Associated Press reported.
Cook said the latest iPhone, which came out in June 2010, sold more quickly than previous models, but the iPhone still has just five percent of the worldwide handset market.
Apple spent nearly the first hour of its event touting the popularity of its products and unveiling a new line of iPods, including a Nano model with a multi-touch display that promises to be easier to navigate. Apple made no mention of its Classic model, which many people had speculated the company might discontinue.
The event took place in Apple's Town Hall room, where the first iPod was launched a decade ago. Cook said Apple has sold more than 300 million iPods worldwide so far, including 45 million in the 12 months through June.
The iPhone came six years later and has gained millions of fans, thanks to its slick looks, high-resolution screen and intuitive software. There were 39 million iPhones sold in the first six months of this year.
Apple's stock fell $11.76, or 3.1 per cent, to $362.84 in afternoon trading Tuesday.