Apple held a press conference this morning in their Cupertino, Calif. headquarters, focusing on the rollout of their new iPhone 4S, as well as the announcement of some improvements to products in their iPod line.
A new service called iTunes Match will allow users to store their music libraries in Apple's cloud so that music fans can have their iTunes purchases synced effortlessly between all of their devices. For an annual fee of $25, users can have Apple sync their entire music library – including music that they didn't buy through iTunes and which iTunes may not even carry.
The iPod Touch is now thinner, features Facetime (Apple's video chat service) and will run Apple's new iOS 5 as its operating system. The iPod Nano, meanwhile, will now allow users to swipe between apps and will feature more clock faces for those who use the device to tell time. The new Nano will retail for $129 (8GB) and $149 (16GB). The iPod Touch has come down in price for the 8GB model, which will now sell for $199, while the 32 GB model will go for $299. A brand new 64GB version will retail for $399. For users who don't require all the iPod Touch features, Apple starts its music device line with a continuation of their iPod Shuffle for $49. The new devices will be available beginning October 12th.
As for the new iPhone – easily the most anticipated item from today's announcement – the new model is called the iPhone 4S and not iPhone 5 as many had believed. While the outside looks like an iPhone 4, the inside benefits from some significant upgrades. In addition to the routine improvements to battery life and operating speed (the device still runs on Apple's 3G network but, for real-world purposes, is as fast as competitors' 4G capabilities), the new iPhone will be equipped with an 8MP camera that aims to compete with high quality point-and-shoot cameras.
But the real fireworks with the new device come from its voice recognition and interaction capabilities. Ask the iPhone 4S about the weather while you're getting dressed in the morning and it will tell you to put on your rain slickers. Ask it to remind you to call your friend after you leave work so you can discuss weekend plans and it will wait until you physically leave your office before giving you the memo. You can ask your phone for directions to the theater or for the best sushi spot nearby and it will give you advice. It can take dictation, read text messages aloud and fact-check for you on Wikipedia, all using voice commands. And while it can do all of this out-of-the-box, Apple claims your phone will improve as it gets to know your particular voice over time.
Even without an official live stream of the conference, a number of sites attempted – unsuccessfully – to offer their own rogue stream. Many other sites offered live commentary and blogging, creating the kind of hype that Apple is infamous for. Numerous sites actually crashed from all the traffic including, possibly, Apple.com; the site was down for awhile for those using Google's Chrome browser but worked fine with other browsers, leading some to speculate that it may have even been hacked (it had not, according to Gizmodo).
The new iPhone 4S will be offered on Sprint as well as current carriers Verizon and AT&T, with prices starting at $199 (16GB) on up to $399 (64GB). Meanwhile the old iPhone 3GS will now be free with a two-year contract.