Do you need the new iPhone 4s?

Phew, contract safe, no iPhone 5 announcement this morning.

Instead, Apple has previewed the iPhone4s, a zippier version of the existing model, with a better camera, faster chip, two antennas and in-built voice recognition/dictation software called Siri.

Australians will be able to pre-order the 4s from October 7 for delivery from October 14 (the same schedule as the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany and Japan – yay for us!). It’ll be available in Australian Apple stores (and presumably in small numbers via other retailers) from 8am on October 14. We’ll be able to buy the bottom of the range model outright for $A799.

Newsstand is among the built in apps.
On the outside, in black or white, iPhone 4s is the same as the 4, so if you hold off for the 5 and keep your two-year contract intact, no one will know you’ve got the older version at first glance.

But if you haven’t opted for an iPhone thus far, now would be a very smart time to do so.

The A5 chip means it’s twice as fast as the 4, and dual-core graphics are said to be seven times faster.

Intelligent switching between the two antennas means dropouts will be much less likely.

It supports both GSM and CDMA.

The camera is 8 megapixels (3264 x 2448) to iPhone 4’s 5 megapixels. It offers something called backside illumination (sounds dangerous but actually just lets in 73 per cent more light). Image capture is 33 per cent faster. A hybrid IR filter offers better colour accuracy and colour uniformity.

A five element lens means images are 30 per cent sharper. The all-new image signal processor enables face detection and 26 per cent better white balance.

In terms of video recording, the iPhone4s offers 1080p, video image stabilisation and temporal noise reduction.

For many of us, the previous two paragraphs potentially put an end to any need for separate cameras in our lives.

Then there’s wireless mirroring, which I hope means I’ll be able to stream anything I’m viewing on the phone (and later my iPad) direct to my TV. It’d be great for presentations, and has to be better than the fiddly process required to watch ABC iView on my Sony Bravia. Will need to test this one out.

The killer app for the 4s, according to Apple, is Siri. They’re calling it “Your intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking”.

During the launch earlier this morning, attendees watched a video demonstration in which a jogger tried to book a meeting without breaking stride. Siri told him there was a clash with another diary entry, so he moved it to another time and confirmed via text, all via voice recognition.

I like the idea of dictating blog posts while driving (and more practically, asking for and receiving directions from point to point without looking at the screen).

I’d love it if it would read me the next chapter of the book I’m engrossed in no matter which app I’m using, but suspect this function would only work for iBooks. If you do buy an iPhone 4s and try this out, let us know.

The announcement this morning also covered updates to the iPod range, details of iCloud’s launch (October 12, can’t wait to be able to access and sort all my photos from any of my devices, annoyed that I will only be able to store and access iTunes downloaded music via iCloud – iCloud Match, a $24.99 a year subscription service that allows you to scan and match your entire song library, is only available in the US initially), and confirmed that iOS 5 will also be available for download from October 12.

iOS 5 offers plenty of cool new features, like a Safari Reader for storing links to read later, tabbed browsing, use of external volume up button to take photos, iMessage (free messaging between iOS devices), Twitter integration, Newsstand (though I’m not sure what Australian content will be available there), Find My Friends (possibly useful, possibly stalker-ish, though there are lots of parental controls etc, apparently).

Also coming soon is the Cards app (you choose a picture, Apple creates a physical card and mails it via snail mail anywhere in the world for $4.99).

CEO Tim Cook started the event with an update of Apple stats. You can skim through his presentation on Engadget’s live blog.

Here are some of them:

  • MacBook Pro and iMac are the number one selling notebook and desktop in the US.
  • The Mac platform has grown by 23 per cent since last year to the PC’s 4 per cent.
  • There are some 58 million Mac users worldwide.
  • The iPod has 78% of the portable music player market, and over 300 million iPods have been sold. Engadget reports that it took Sony 30 years to sell 220,000 Walkman tape players.
  • There are some 20 million songs on iTunes, and 16 billion have been downloaded so far.
  • Three quarters of all tablets sold are iPads.
  • More than 250 million iOS devices (iPads/iPhones/iPod touches) sold so far.
  • More than 500,000 apps in the AppStore, including 140,000 specifically for the iPad.
  • 18 billion apps downloaded so far – more than a billion per month.
  • Apple has paid out $3 billion to developers.

So, will you be meeting Siri, soon? Or holding out for iPhone 5?

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Charlotte Harper

Charlotte Harper is a Canberra journalist, blogger, editor and publisher who has worked in newspapers, magazines, books and online. She runs digital-first non-fiction publisher Editia and covered book industry developments at before joining A former literary editor of The South China Morning Post, Charlotte has also written about books and technology for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times. She once edited a mobile phone and gadget magazine, and is a published author, of a book about digital publishing – Weird Wild Web (Penguin Australia 1999).