Takeaway from the iPhone event: Solid phones, end of an era

Summary:The new iPhone 4S was announced today, and while a proper evolution of the smartphone from Apple, the event marked the end of an era.

The big Apple iPhone event went down in a lower key than usual, with new iPhones announced and Tim Cook taking over as Apple's public front man. The presentation, which by all accounts was rather low-key, went off without a hitch as Cook ushered in both the next iPhone and a new era at Apple.

While the new iPhone line will surely set new sales records, the event was clearly the end of the era of exciting Steve Jobs presentations. It was an event that captivated millions as Apple launches tend to do, but with a very sad undertone that made it feel underwhelming at times, knowing that Jobs has for the most part left the building.

Folks are already bemoaning the new iPhone 4S as a disappointment, with little reason. While many hoped for a phone with a larger display, the fact is the current iPhone is the number one selling smartphone in the world. For Apple to greatly change it was not needed, instead an evolution of the iPhone was the proper avenue.

Sure there is a faster processor and better camera to update the technical specs of the iPhone 4S, but iPhone owners have never cared about that. They want the iPhone to do what they want nicely, and no doubt the iPhone 4S will serve their needs, better than the earlier model.

A bigger story on the iPhone line is the cheaper models that will appeal to new buyers. A $99 iPhone 4 is a big deal, and a free (on contract) iPhone 3G is huge. While Apple has enjoyed good sales numbers in the past, that will continue and likely grow given these cheap iPhones. The new iPhone 4S will do fine, and these older models will grab market share being vacated by RIM.

Another big story coming out of today's event is the Siri software, the speech recognition technology that is integrated in the new iPhone. Featuring natural speech recognition, Siri is designed to make interaction with the iPhone 4S as easy as talking to the phone. While it remains to be seen how well this works in the real world, it has made the iPhone 4S the best handicapped-accessible smartphone on the planet. While the iPhone was already the best phone for the blind, the iPhone 4S just made the phone even better for them. This will revolutionize usage for the visually impaired, and in a big way.

The coming weeks will show how well Apple has nailed the market with these cheap iPhones and the new 4S. While some may bemoan the incremental update to the line, if it's not broke don't fix it. Expect to see iPhones flying off shelves as fast as ever, and probably in markets previously not substantial. Apple will continue to dominate the smartphone space for the foreseeable future, you can safely bet.

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Topics: Apple, Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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