Apple announced details, features and availability of the iPhone 4S, the iCloud, and the voice-activated digital assistant Siri today, about five minutes before rumors about the iPhone 5 started to circulate.
The new addition to the iPhone family goes on sale Oct. 12. It is powered by a new iOS 5 mobile operating system and comes with Apple’s dual-core A5 chip, an improved camera capable of 1080p HD resolution video recording, and iCloud connectivity, the cloud-based services suite that stores and synchs everything in the iCloud and pushes it to all connected computers and devices. IOS 5 also will be available as a free software update for iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS users.
Also new is Siri, a voice-controlled intelligent assistant that uses natural spoken questions and context to make calls, send text messages or email, schedule meetings and reminders, make notes, search the Internet, find local businesses, get directions and more. Apple gave the example of saying, “Remind me to call Mom when I get home,” which Siri would know to look up “Mom” in the address book and send an alert when the user gets to where it knows is home.
The iPhone 4S is CDMA and GSM enabled. Other enhancements include the iMessage instant messaging service, which communicates with text and multimedia among all iOS 5 users, and Notification Center.
“IPhone 4S plus iOS 5 plus iCloud is a breakthrough combination that makes the iPhone 4S the best iPhone ever,” Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, said in a statement. “While our competitors try to imitate iPhone with a checklist of features, only iPhone can deliver these breakthrough innovations that work seamlessly together.”
Also on Oct. 12, iCloud will make available its suite of free cloud services, including iTunes in the Cloud, Photo Stream and Documents in the Cloud, that automatically and wirelessly store music, photos, apps, contacts, calendars, documents and content in iCloud and push it to all of an owner’s Apple devices. When content changes on one device, all other devices are updated automatically and wirelessly.
“ICloud is the easiest way to manage your content, because iCloud does it all for you and goes far beyond anything available today,” Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, said in a statement. “You don’t have to think about syncing your devices, because it happens automatically, and it is free.”
In an additional feature that may have controversial privacy and piracy implications, iTunes Match scans songs in the music library, including music not purchased on iTunes, and rather than upload them it matches them to the more than 20 million songs available on the iTunes Store. It then puts high-quality, DRM-free 256 kbps AAC encoded versions of those songs in the user’s iCloud, uploading only those songs that are not in the iTunes Store, and makes the entire library available on all connected devices.
Several businesses based on geo-locating people will not be pleased to learn about Find My Friends, a free app that lets users appear on each other’s maps as long as everyone involved gives permission, and users can hide their location with a tap if they wish. It can also be activated temporarily, like for meeting up with friends outside a movie theater or similar.
Contrary to the rumors of the past several weeks, Apple did not kill off the iPod Touch and iPod Nano. Instead it lowered their prices, made them available in more colors, and updated the user interface. The iPod Touch also includes iOS 5 and supports iCloud.