As expected, Apple unveiled its new iPhone Monday, along with new operating software that will be made available for all versions of the popular smartphone.
Available June 19, the iPhone 3GS will be virtually identical in exterior appearance to the existing 3G model. But the guts inside will be upgraded. Notably, the device will be significantly faster, with the “S” standing for speed, according to Apple senior VP Phil Schiller, who was keynoting at the company’s WorldWide Developers Conference in San Francisco in lieu of ailing Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
Besides faster web surfing and text-messaging, the third generation of the iPhone will also feature a video camera, as well as an improved still camera, which will be upgraded to 3.0 megapixels from 2.0.
Still available only to mobile phone users willing to commit to an AT&T subscription, the new gizmo will run $199 for 16GB version and $299 for one that stores a whopping 32GB of videos, photos, music and apps.
The current incarnation of the iPhone, which was released last July, will stay on the market, with the bottom-of-the-line 8GB model priced at $99 (was $199).
“We want to reach even more customers,” Schilling said.
Given the progress of fast-moving competitors including Blackberry maker Research In Motion and Palm — maker of the just-released Pre — that’s probably a sound business strategy.
Currently, the smartphone category — i.e. devices that combine such things as web browsing and email capability with a cell phone — has taken off in the last 18 months, with nearly a quarter of the U.S. wireless market buying in.
However, according to research company IDC, the iPhone had only a 19 percent share of the market in the first quarter of this year, with the Blackberry consuming 55 percent. Meanwhile, the Pre — which was released Saturday — is catching rave reviews from the tech press.
Besides introducing new hardware, Apple responded Monday by unveiling the 3.0 operating system, which will be available free June 17 to iPhone owners.
Besides a flurry of new features, including one that lets users cut, copy and paste text from emails and web pages — and for the first time allows the sync-ing of “notes” with iTunes — the new software also benefits those who’ve lost their iPhone.
Using a clip from “30 Rock” in which Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon character loses her phone, Schilling showed off a “Find My iPhone” application that lets users see where their phone is on a map using a personal computer. If the phone is really lost, there’s also a new “kill switch” feature that lets users wipe their phone of all data remotely.
In addition, Apple revealed that software from GPS device maker TomTom, featuring turn-by-turn voice navigation, will be available as an iPhone add-on app later this summer.
Interest in Apple’s WWD conference has taken off along with the number of applications that are being cooked up for the iPhone, for which there are almost 50,000 now.
Jobs, who has been on leave since January because of health reasons, was expected by some to make an appearance Monday, but was a no-show. Company officials said he is due to return from leave at the end of June.