SAN FRANCISCO – Apple held an event in San Francisco during which it announced a new iPhone, capable of faster data speeds and sporting a taller screen. It also unveiled new iTunes software and new iPod devices.
The iPhone 5 will go on sale next week. It will work with fourth-generation, or 4G, cellular networks, something Samsung’s Galaxy S III and many other iPhone rivals already do.
Apple Inc. also is updating its phone software and will ditch Google Inc.’s mapping service for its own. The two have become rivals as Google promotes phones running its Android operating system.
In anticipation, several gadget makers refreshed their lineups last week, hoping to beat Apple on the buzz. Nokia Corp. and Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility division announced five new smartphones between them, while Amazon.com Inc. updated its Kindle Fire tablet computer and announced new stand-alone e-reader models.
Sales of Apple’s iPhones still are strong, though the company lost the lead in smartphones to Samsung this year.
Samsung Electronics Co. benefited from having its S III out in the U.S. in June, while Apple still was selling an iPhone model it released last October. A new iPhone will allow Apple to recapture the attention and the revenue. Analysts already are estimating that Apple will sell 8 million to 10 million iPhone 5s before the company’s quarter ends Sept. 30.
That said, the iPhone has been trailing Android phones in sales. On Tuesday, Google executive Hugo Barra declared on his Google Plus social networking page that 1.3 million Android phones are added each day, with 500 million devices activated globally. As of June, Apple has sold 244 million iPhones since the first one came out in 2007.
Apple’s event Wednesday took place at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, where Apple has held many product launches.
Here’s a running account of the event, presented in reverse chronological order.
Appearances are made by CEO Tim Cook; Philip Schiller, the senior vice president for worldwide marketing; Scott Forstall, senior vice president for mobile software; Eddy Cue, senior vice president for Internet software and services; and others.
• Before closing the event, the Foo Fighters dedicate the song “My Hero” to Apple employees. Lead singer Dave Grohl gushes as he compares Apple executives to meeting leading rock stars such as Little Richard, Tom Petty and Jimmy Page.
Apple’s stock, which increased earlier during the event, were down $1.58, or a quarter of 1 percent, to $659.01 as the event concluded.
• Siri, the virtual assistant launched on the iPhone last year, is coming to the iPod Touch for the first time. Apple already has said Siri will appear on the iPad with the new software update.
Meanwhile, the iconic white earbuds are getting an update. Now called earpods, they sport an earpiece that is more cylinder. Apple said they were built to meld to the shape of your ear. The earpods are available now as a stand-alone accessory and will be included with new devices out in October.
• Apple is updating the iPod Touch – essentially an iPhone without the ability to make calls. Like the new iPhone and the new iPod Nano, it will use the new connector, which Apple calls Lightning. It will have a 5-megapixel camera and the same panorama feature as the new iPhone. It will be possible to edit photos on the Touch for the first time.
• Apple also unveiled a new version of its iTunes software for traditional computers.
There are new ways to create playlists and to decide what to listen to next. It also promises improved search – as you type the name of an album, for instance, those in your music library will be suggested.
The iTunes software comes with a new miniplayer – a small window from which you can play songs while you are in your music library.
The new software will come out in October.
• Prices will be the same as older models, starting at $199 with a two-year service contract. The iPhone 4S will now go for $99. The 2010 model, the iPhone 4, will now be free, though a service agreement is required.
Advance orders will start Friday. It will start shipping Sept. 21 in the U.S. and other countries, plus additional markets a week after that.
Older phones will get the iOS 6 upgrade for free Wednesday. Apple has said it will be available for the 3GS, 4 and 4S models, though some new features won’t work on them.
It also will be available on last year’s and this year’s iPad models and newer iPod Touch devices.