After months of media speculation and rumors, Apple officially unveiled the latest version of the iPhone at a media event in Cupertino today.
The iPhone 4S will come equipped with a faster, dual-core A5 processor, better graphics processor and an 8 megapixel camera. Unlike previous iterations, the new device will work on both GSM and CDMA networks. The device will also come with hardware improvements that improve the quality of phone calls and the speed of data usage.
A Better Camera: 8 Megapixels, and a Faster, Backlit Sensor
The phone's camera will see a drastic overhaul from previous versions. In addition to shooting photos with 8 megapixel resolution, the camera will include a backlit sensor to enable better low-light photography and allow pictures to be taken much faster.
Combined with changes to iOS 5 that make the camera more readily accessible and turn the phone's volume button into a shutter release button, these new upgrades will make photography on the iPhone much faster.
The new device will also shoot 1080p HD video, an upgrade from the 720p video shot by the iPhone 4.
The iPhone 4S will start shipping on October 14, just two days after iOS 5, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, which was first revealed at Apple's developers conference in June. The new OS will feature tight integration with Twitter, wireless syncing of content across devices, an overhauled notifications and a new SMS-style messaging system for iOS users.
Voice-Controlled Artificial Intelligence Comes to the iPhone
One of the most significant updates coming with the iPhone 4S is a new feature called Siri, which enables users to control the device using only voice commands. This functionality is based on technology developed by Siri, a company Apple acquired last year for exactly this purpose.
Siri's artificial intelligence and natural language processing technology first started being developed when the team was part of a massive, government-funded AI project called CALO (Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes), which involved nonprofit research organization SRI International, who then spun off Siri as a company. Siri launched a "virtual personal assistant" app for the iPhone just after it was acquired by Apple in 2010.
SRI Ventures Vice President Norman Winarsky recently told 9to5 Mac that "Apple's 'mainstreaming' Artificial Intelligence in the form of a Virtual Personal Assistant is a groundbreaking event."
For the first time, the iPhone will be available on Sprint's network in the United States. This is the third U.S. carrier to get the iPhone, which was available exclusively to AT&T customers until earlier this year.
Apple will start taking pre-orders for the iPhone 4S this Friday, October 7. It will start at $199 for 16GB of storage. The iPhone 4 will be available for $99 and the iPhone 3GS will be free to users signing up for a two-year contract.