Anyone hoping to hear about the long-rumored iPhone 5 was disappointed Tuesday when Apple instead announced a much more evolutionary iPhone update called the iPhone 4S. Sharing the same form factor and exterior hardware as its buggy predecessor, the iPhone 4S does have all-new internals, with a faster CPU, faster graphics, and a few other minor improvements.
The iPhone 4S will be available starting October 14, 2011, on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon; preorders begin October 7. But let's face it: Anyone who already owns an iPhone 4 should hold off, as the 4S includes the same buggy antenna design that causes attenuation issues and poor reception, especially when used by left-handers.
Internally, there are a few upgrades. The iPhone 4S gets the iPad's A5 processor, better graphics, an 8-megapixel camera, and better wireless chips that Apple says deliver twice the download speeds of its predecessor. Apple announced a few software upgrades as well: The previously announced iOS 5 software update will ship concurrently with the iPhone 4S for users of some previous iPhones, and the company announced a greeting-card-making app (yes, really) and a voice control system called Siri. Additionally, Apple's cloud computing service, iCloud, will ship on October 12, 2011.
The iPhone 4S will ship in three versions, each in two color choices (black and white): a 16GB model for $200, a 32GB version for $300, and a 64GB version for $400. The company will also continue selling an 8GB version of the iPhone 4 for $99 and will provide the nearly obsolete, two-year-old iPhone 3GS for free (with a two-year contract).
Apple also revealed that it won't be updating its iPod lineup of MP3 players but will instead sell the same models as it did last year. The iPod nano gets a slight software update and slightly lower prices, while the iPod touch will come in a white model for the first time. The minor upgrades go on sale October 12, Apple says.
All in all, the event was somewhat of a disappointment, given the lack of truly innovative new hardware. But it's not just thinner new handset hardware that was missing in action; a slew of expected features never materialized either, including 4G LTE support, NFC wireless payment capabilities, and native Facebook integration.