Smartphone lovers win some, lose some

Tina Nguyen Contributor
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At Tuesday’s Apple event at their Cupertino, Calif. headquarters, the select few who scored invites buzzed with excitement over what new CEO Tim Cook could promise eager shareholders and Apple users, particularly after visionary Apple founder Steve Jobs stepped down last month for health reasons.

Specifically, they were wondering whether Tim Cook could reinvent the iPhone.

The answer, to the chagrin of most, was no. After months of rumors and gigabytes of leaked photos, Apple did not release an iPhone 5 as the industry expected. Instead, Cook and his cadre of developers presented new apps and products, specifically an updated version of iPhone 4, called the iPhone 4S.

While it lacks a complete redesign, the updated phone does boast a bevy of new features. With a dual core processor, a 1080p video camera, and a 8-megapixel camera, the new iPhone will run faster and have a longer battery life, as well as run on an updated operating system, iOS 5.

However, this news hardly sparked the excitement created by Siri, a voice-activated assistance app that now comes standard on the iPhone 4S. Hooked into the Internet and equipped with the Wolfram Alpha “answer engine,” Siri can answer questions through voice recognition and pull up information related to your question.

During a live demonstration of Siri, senior iOS Vice President Scott Forstall casually asked his iPhone if he needed a raincoat. “It sure looks like rain today,” it responded. He then proceeded to pull Siri through a series of questions: What is the state of the NASQAQ index? How long will it be until Christmas? How many dollars is 45 Euros? What is mitosis? Siri answered them all — and more.

Siri can also read and write texts dictated through the iPhone or a Bluetooth headset, search for restaurants and services through Yelp! and set notifications that will pop up whenever a user is near a geo-fenced location (a place that has a virtual perimeter). For instance, Forstall posited, if he needed to call his wife when he left work, he’d simply tell Siri. Once he walks out the door of his office at the end of the day, Siri will notify him immediately.

Some of the biggest news was that on October 14, Sprint will join Verizon and AT&T in carrying the iPhone 4S, though the lack of an exclusivity agreement, or an iPhone 5, may hurt Sprint’s ability to turn a profit on the deal. A Wall Street Journal report Monday revealed that the third-place wireless carrier paid a staggering $20 billion to carry the new phone, and sources claim that Sprint will not turn a profit until 2014.

Most important for any new users is the price: The iPhone 4S will be available with 16GB, 32GB or 64GB, costing $199, $299 and $399, respectively. An 8-GB iPhone 4, meanwhile, will drop to $99, and the iPhone 3GS will be free — but both of those deals are only available with a two-year contract.

Other announcements from the conference include that Apple has redesigned their mail account so it can be used on an iPhone, added an inter-phone messaging service and allowed for applications such as Twitter to be synchronized across users’ different devices.

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