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No iPhone 5, but Apple unveils 4S

New features revealed at Apple press conference include 8MP camera, dual-core A5 chip; will be on sale from 14 October

After months of speculation about the iPhone 5, Apple chief Tim Cook took his audience by surprise by announcing instead the iPhone 4S, an updated version of the iPhone 4 described as “entirely new from the inside”.

Promoted in TV ads featuring British singer Adele, the iPhone 4S is more than a reissue. Univeiled on Tuesday night by Cook from Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, the phone will be faster and have a longer-lasting battery life than the iPhone 4, which is already the world’s best-selling smartphone.

It will contain the latest in voice activation technology, which Cook and his team took the risk of demonstrating live at the launch. Users will be able to speak requests for the time, a weather update, setting the alarm clock, or finding the nearest restaurant.

The new handsets will be available in black and white and in three price bands, depending on memory size. UK prices are expected to be revealed on Thursday, but Apple last night announced the US prices. With a two-year contract, a 9 upfront payment will buy a handset with 16GB of storage. For 32GB, the price will be 9, and for 64GB, 9.

The iPhone 4 and 3GS will remain, but only with 8GB of memory. The price has been lowered to £99 for the iPhone 4, bringing it into direct competition with cheaper and faster-selling Android models, while the 3GS will be available for free with a contract.

Described by Apple marketing boss Phil Schiller as “entirely new on the inside”, the phones will run on iOS 5, the latest version of the iPhone operating system, which was also unveiled on Tuesday and will be available to download to existing iPhone 4 and 3GS handsets on 12 October.

The new phones will no longer need to be hooked up to a PC to be activated, but will work straight out of the box. They will also come with iCloud, a content hosting service which will let customers store music, films, TV shows and photographs on Apple’s servers rather than on their hard drives, and download them to multiple Apple devices at no extra cost.

The phones will arrive in the shops on 14 October in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany and Japan. Apple will sell them out of contract from its own stores, while all five of the UK’s mobile networks will offer the handsets under contract. It is also understood that Carphone Warehouse has struck a deal with Apple to sell the handsets out of contract. Phones4u is also hoping to stock the range and has opened pre-registration on its website.

By the end of the year, the 4S will be available in 70 countries on 100 carriers, in what Cook described as Apple’s fastest ever rollout. In the US, it will be available on Sprint Nextel Corp, besides the existing carriers AT&T and Verizon Wireless.

Described at the launch as a “world phone”, the 4S will have two antennas to ensure that it works on both the world’s dominant mobile phone technologies – CDMA, widely used in America, and GSM, which dominates in Europe.

Apple has used its specially designed A5 chip, developed for use in its iPad, in the new phones. The chip makes the new models two times faster at loading information than the iPhone 4, and allows a battery life of eight hours of talk time on a 3G network or 14 hours on a 2G network. It can browse the internet on Wi-Fi for up to nine hours, and 3G for six hours.

Rather than launching the handset himself, Cook took the opportunity to put his team to the fore. Schiller announced the name, while demonstrations of the voice activation technology were led by Scott Forstall, who heads the development of iOS. Named Siri after the startup company which developed it and was bought by Apple in April 2010, the voice activation also links through to a non-Google search engine, Wolfram Alpha, which offers a type of online encyclopedia database of facts and theories.

With the iPhone 4 now the most-used camera on Flickr, Cook highlighted new features such as the 8MP sensor, which has 60% more pixels than the iPhone 4.

“Only Apple could make such amazing hardware, software and services and bring them together into this experience,” Cook said in his closing remarks. “I am so incredibly proud of this company.” © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds