Apple's iPhone 4S battles the media rumor machine

Apple today released a way faster, better, dare we say "fixed," iPhone 4, along with a new pricing model for the entire line, designed to hold the flood of Google telephony this spring. But all this and a stack of new iOS features, it appears isn't enough for the media rumor machine, which gave the release a lackluster grade.

Apple today released a way faster, better, dare we say "fixed," iPhone 4, along with a new pricing model for the entire line, designed to hold the flood of Google telephony this spring. But all this and a stack of new iOS features, it appears isn't enough for the media rumor machine, which gave the release a lackluster grade.

Forget the humbug!

The iPhone 4S will ship mid-October from AT&T, Verizon, and as expected Sprint. The 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions will cost $199,$299 and $399, respectively, with a two-year contract. And the white model will be available at ship date this time.

In an aggressive price move, the iPhone 4 moves to $99 and the iPhone 3GS is now free with a service contract. My colleague Larry Dignan pointed out in a Between the Lines post that this pricing could move the iPhone line across markets.

The impact on the competition will be notable here. The iPhone 4S isn’t 4G, but consumers may not care. Why? With a starting price of $199, the iPhone 4S already undercuts more expensive LTE devices such as the Droid Bionic. The iPhone 4 largely matches feature phones. And the iPhone 3GS is now a prepaid customer’s dream.

These prices will also help drive the iPhone in important new markets worldwide for Apple. In the Q3 financial analyst briefing in mid-summer, Apple said the company had added 42 new carriers and 15 new countries during the quarter. The iPhone and iPad had helped drive Apple into "emerging and developed markets," including China, Brazil and Mexico as well as the Middle East.

"[This] is great for Apple because these are markets that Apple historically has not been as strong and we're really beginning to see the fruits of our labor in these markets," Apple COO Tim Cook said at the briefing.

I believe that users will find the iPhone 4S's improved processing performance to be the killer new feature. The iPhone 4S uses the iPad’s A5 chip. At the intro event, Apple senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller said the new model is twice as fast as the single-core A4 chip in the previous generation and sports 7x the graphics performance. Of course, gamers will like this speed, but so will the rest of us.

I have been using 3-generation iPhone and waiting for this improved generation of iPhone. The slow performance is painful at times. Even better, the iPhone 4S will offer 14.4Mbps download speeds,  twice the plain iPhone 4's 7.2Mbps speed.

From the outside, the iPhone 4S appears the same as the plain ol' Version 4. And that seems to have bugged the folks expecting an ever thinner and curvier enclosure. However, it's a smart move when we're so close to the holiday selling season, when purchasers of a new machine would want Apple and third-party cases to go along with the phone. With Apple's secrecy, there would be no specialty cases until after the holiday.

According to Schiller at the rollout, the iPhone 4S's best feature is "all about our voice," pointing to the incorporation of Siri voice activation and natural language processing technology in the phone. At the event, Scott Forstall, Apple’s vice president for iOS software, performed a wide range of demonstrations of the voice technology, including complex searches and setting an alarm clock.

The technology is a smart agent: it learns your relationships, the GPS location of your work and schedules. Users can check calendars quickly and set an event.

Check out the video of the iPhone 4S introduction

Here's the fundamental problem that Apple brings for the rest of the device makers: everyone else is making devices, while Apple has created a true hardware and software solution platform for mobile developers. According to Cook at the rollout, Apple has sold 250 million iOS devices so far. And counting. There are some 500,000 apps in the App Store, with 140,000 specifically for the iPad. This is a significant base.

Apple doesn't have to "wow" us with every introduction (even though I am very impressed with the voice integration demonstrations) or defeat Android. Instead, Cupertino can simply offer users what they've come to expect: a workable mobile solution with more apps than you can count, great battery life (I didn't mention that detail), and increasing options in value and carrier. And it all works, which when I talk with some Android users, isn't something that can be taken for granted.