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Apple Gods Descend from Mount Olympus with iProducts

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By HVtoys on October 4, 2011

At the first Apple event since Tim Cook took over the reins from Steve Jobs, Apple unveiled several new iProducts on fanboys and jaded vets, including the iPhone 4S.

“Today we’ll remind you of the uniqueness of this company as we announce innovations from our mobile OS, to applications, to services, to hardware, and more importantly the integration of all these into a powerful, simple, integrated experience,” Cook told the crowd.

Boy, based on the live-blogs (here or here) of the Apple event, Cook certainly knows how to toot Apple’s horn and draw out the anticipation of announcements. iPads, he claims, are being used in schools, hospitals, by pilots, in the boardroom, everywhere.

“And despite everybody and their brother trying to compete with iPad, 3 out of the 4 tablets sold in the US are iPads,” Cook notes, before handing the reigns over to Scott Forstall to talk about iOS.

Forstall announces a new app today: Cards. “Create and mail beautiful cards right from your iPhone or iPod touch.” Not exactly revolutionary, but Hallmark must be crapping themselves if Apple moves into their territory.

Ha ha ha, this has to be a joke, right? “It’s a new app that let’s you create cards on your phone, and we’ll do the rest. We’ll print them out, we’ll emboss them. You can choose between 21 designs,” he says. “We’ll print it out, put the address on it, and mail it. If you mail in the US, we can track it with the US Postal Service barcode, and we’ll send you a push notification when it arrives.” $2.99 in the US, $4.99 anywhere else. Oct 12th.

Bizarre. Anyway, looks like the iOS notifications system is getting an overhaul and they are introducing iMessages, which allows people to send free text, picture or video messages between iOS users.

Twitter is being deeply integrated into the software, as well as a reminders feature, which is basically a “to do” app.

As for the camera: “We know how popular the camera is on the iPhone,” Forstall says, “and we make it even easier to use. Now you can get to the camera from the lock screen. You can add grid lines. You can pinch to zoom. You can set the auto exposure and auto focus to lock.”

Users will be able to edit their photos right on the iOS software — crop, rotate, remove red-eye, that sort of stuff. Cool.

Sounds like Safari, Apple’s browser, has been given a feature called “reader” which sounds an awful lot like Instapaper. It also has tabbed browsing, which will be quite welcome.

iCloud is up next and it promises to turn all your Apple products into a PC-free environment. No more tethered syncing. Welcome to the future. Sometimes Apple takes a long time to incorporate a feature but when they do, they do it right.

iTunes in the cloud, done. Next: Photo Stream. You know, it’s like iTunes in iCloud, but for photos. Edit documents in Pages on the iPhone updated across devices. Similar to Google Docs, we suppose. Daily backups from your iOS devices, “easily restored right from iCloud.”

Finally! Something for the stalker in all of us. Apple announced a “find my friends” app, which lets users find the location of family or friends.

All of this is part of iCloud, which users get 5 GB of storage for free. Upgrades are available with 50 GB costing about $100 per year. Sucks for people with lots of music and stuff, but as Apple promises,  “a really great add-on to iCloud is iTunes Match.” Basically, you can access all your iTunes library from the cloud for $25 per year. Not a bad option.

iCloud ships October 12.

Now they’re talking about iPods, but does anyone care about iPods anymore? No, didn’t think so. The lineup has been reduced to the Shuffle, Nano and Touch, with the Touch becoming more and more like an iPhone without the calling capability. It’s getting the iOS 5 update, which includes iMessages. People will be able to stay in touch for free, and unlimited, so long as they have WiFi.

Yup, as rumored it’s the iPhone 4s. Body design is the same, but comes with a more powerful processing chip. “Dual-core CPU, 2x as fast at CPU tasks. Also dual-core graphics. Up to 7x faster in the previous iPhone. One area you really see it scream is in games,” says Phil Schiller.

Here’s an image from Epic Games. Wow! Absolutely incredible.

The images look every bit as amazing as last generation gaming consoles. That’s pretty hard to fathom. As is this nugget: “Now you would think if you put a processor that fast in a phone this thin you’re going to get worse battery life. But we’ve worked hard. We now have 8 hours of talk time, 14 hours of 2g talk time, 6 hours of 3g browsing, 9 hours of Wi-Fi browsing…”

They are also proud that they fixed the antennae system in this iPhone. Will probably be mocked, but that should count for something.

Data can now download up to two times as fast. The theoretical max performance used to be 5.8 up and 7.2 down — now doubles to almost 14.4Mbps down. Always be leery of proposed download speeds. The real world is a cruel mistress when it comes to that.

The iPhone 4S works on either the CDMA or GSM cellphone technology, making it a world compatible phone. Apple essentially opened themselves up to be the featured phone on every single cell carrier across the globe.

And now onto the iPhone’s new camera, which has an 8 megapixel sensor, a sensor that gathers more light and is much quicker.

Apple said they are trying to compete and surpass the point-and-shoot camera genre. The video recorder on the new iPhone promises 1080p video, real-time video image stabilization, and real-time temporal noise reduction. Solid, but not mind-blowing.

“For decades technologists have teased us with this dream that we can talk to our technology. But it’s never come true! It’s such a let-down! What we really want to do is just talk to our device!” Schiller proclaims. That means the rumors about Apple’s personal assistant AI are true!

Siri: the intelligent assistant to get things done just by asking will be incorporated into the new phone. Hopefully, we can get some video demos of Siri in action up here as it looks seriously impressive. Nothing from Microsoft or Google comes close to touching this, if it works as promised. That’s a big if — “Scott has to talk to the machine slowly, like you would to a child or a foreign language speaker,” reports This is My Next. Still, they call the tech “pretty amazing.”

“It’ll be built-in with support for English, French, and German. It will be beta at the start; by beta we mean we’ll add more languages and services over time,” Schiller says.

And with that, Apple is out. If videos hit, we’ll upload them. But as for now, it looks like pretty much everything we speculated upon came true. Not too shabby. The 3GS and iPhone 4 still going to be sold. The new phone runs $200 for 16 GB and $400 for 64 GB, with the 32 GB model coming at $300. Pre-orders begin on Oct. 7 with an Oct. 14 ship date.

The 64 GB model is new for the iPhone 4S, but seems like a curious choice, given there efforts to move all media to the iCloud, no?

As for overall impressions: doesn’t seem like anything that’s going to get people overly excited, but this event felt more like positioning Apple for the future. It was a pivot event. They are clearly lining up their ducks for the next phase of the company. iCloud, voice AI on a phone, a world-wide phone on every carrier, and more. That’s a tough sell to the public, but it does hint at the exciting direction Apple is heading in.

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