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Tuesday, June 8,2010

Apple reveals new iPhone: faster, smarter, thinner

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple CEO Steve Jobs' unveiling Monday of the next-generation iPhone — it's thinner, has a higher-resolution display and comes with video chat — may have lacked a single "Wow!" moment. But coupled with the launch of a new operating system and mobile advertising service, the message to competitors was unambiguous: Catch us if you can.

The stainless-steel-and-glass mobile device is nearly 25 percent thinner than its predecessor and runs on the company's in-house A4 chip, the speedy and power-sipping processor at the heart of the iPad. It gives the iPhone 4 longer battery life, including 40 percent more talk time.

Talk time will increase from five hours to seven hours per charge, Jobs said. Additionally, the iPhone 4 is promised to have six hours of browsing across the 3G network, 10 hours of browsing over a Wi-Fi network, 40 hours of music playing, 10 hours of video play back and 300 hours on standby before the device needs to be plugged in for a new charge.

Jobs, who has declared the end of the era of the personal computer that he helped pioneer, presented the iPhone as part of a new computing platform running on the iPhone operating system, iOS, to thousands of independent software writers attending Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference at San Francisco's Moscone Center.

Apple, he told the packed auditorium, is close to selling its 100 millionth device using the iOS operating system, which is installed in the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. He said the Cupertino, Calif., company last week crossed the 5 billion app download line — a milestone that means money in their pockets. Jobs was particularly delighted to announce the company has paid out more than $1 billion to developers selling their software on the App Store, which ultimately drives more consumers to Apple's products.

"No one even comes close to us," the Apple co-founder said.

The iPhone 4 shows that Apple, which redefined the smart-phone industry, intends to maintain its momentum.

"It blows the competition away," said Bart Decrem, CEO of Tapulous, a game developer. "We got the iPad, iOS and now we have the iPhone 4 and iAds. The overall innovation is remarkable."

Apple's engineers were able to use a larger battery by doing things like wrapping the Wi-Fi and 3G antenna on the silver outer ring of the device, Greg Joswiak, Apple's iPod and iPhone marketing director, said in an interview after the presentation.

The new device and operating system, he added, "are years beyond what anybody else has."

Jobs, comparing the new iPhone to a finely crafted Leica camera, put it this way: "This is beyond doubt one of the most precise, beautiful things we've ever made."

Two websites, each claiming to have obtained next-generation iPhones prototypes, already had disclosed some of the innovations Apple announced Monday, including a front-facing camera for video calls, a higher-resolution screen and a more svelte body. Nonetheless, analysts were impressed.

"Apple is showing us the direction (the tech world) is going," said Ben Bajarin, director of consumer technology at Creative Strategies.

Some say "Apple fatigue" has hit the blogosphere as the company battles former allies Google and Adobe Systems, whose Flash video technology is barred from the iPhone platform, and as software developers complain about the rigorous and opaque approval process for the App Store. The Android operating system, meanwhile, is gaining ground on Apple in market share: In the first quarter of 2010, Android, which runs on a number of devices and carriers, ranked second in the North American smart-phone market — with 26.6 percent, up from 4.7 percent a year earlier — behind leader Research In Motion's BlackBerry, according to Gartner. Apple had 22.1 percent, up from 17.9 percent the previous year.

But the industry "is still chasing Apple," said Michael Gartenberg, a partner at the Altimeter Group. He said Apple's success has occurred despite its sole U.S. carrier partnership with AT&T, whose network is plagued with dropped calls and is often the butt of derision by iPhone users. Jobs gave developers "100 million reasons" to stay in the iPhone universe, the analyst added. "This is the next-generation platform."

Apple is expected to eventually hook up with Verizon, perhaps as early as this fall.

Even when a glitch occurred during Jobs' presentation — he could not get a network connection to demo the iPhone 4 — it served only to underscore the company's place atop the tech world: The problem arose because bloggers, reporters and analysts were jamming the network by running their laptops off 570 Wi-Fi base stations so they could instantly report his every utterance.

"You know you could help me out; if you are on Wi-Fi, if you could just get off," Jobs said to titters in the audience.

He showed off the high-resolution display, an improved camera system with HD video capabilities and a new Apple-made video app, iMovie, which lets users edit and share video.

In his "one more thing" moment, Jobs unveiled video chats in a video call with star Apple designer Jony Ive. "I grew up with 'The Jetsons.' And I dreamed about this," Jobs said during the call.


(c) 2010, San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.).

Visit MercuryNews.com, the World Wide Web site of the Mercury News, at http://www.mercurynews.com.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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