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Apple Quashes iPhone 5 Hopes, Unveils iPhone 4S

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Ever since Jefferies & Co. analyst Peter Misek predicted back in May that we wouldn't be seeing an official iPhone 5 this year, rumors have poured in both supporting and negating that theory. Well, after Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage in Cupertino, we learned that Misek was totally right.

Apple has gone subtle with an iPhone 4S.

Guests crammed themselves into Apple's home theater at its One Infinite Loop headquarters -- a significantly smaller venue to the usual fare at WWDC. Warming the crowd up with a little Who and Stones, a cool and collected Cook stepped onto the stage. "This is my first product launch since being named CEO. I'm sure you didn't know that," he quipped.

Cook channeled former CEO Steve Jobs with the usual pleasantries that opened Apple events -- sweeping product hype, new Apple Store announcements, booming software downloads, expanding market share. But after he went through the sales and usage matrices, Cook brought up Scott Forestall and Eddie Cue -- SVPs of iPhone software and Internet Software/Services, respectively -- to talk about some of the iOS 5 features we first heard about at WWDC 2011. Notification Center, iMessage, iCloud, Reminders, Twitter integration, Newsstand, Camera updates, OTA updates, etc.

One of the new features we haven't seen, however, was the Cards app which allows users to design and print greeting cards that Apple will actually print and mail out automatically.

These features and iOS 5 roll out on October 12 -- available for the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad, iPad 2, third- and fourth-generation iPod Touch. (iTunes Match will launch "end of October.")

SVP of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller then took the stage to talk about some changes to the iPod line. The iPod Nano got some updates to its UI, clock face, and fitness features. And the iPod Touch, well, will now come in white. Despite avoiding the rumor that we'll all be saying goodbye to the iPod Classic and iPod Shuffle, the Classic wasn't featured in among the slide of all iPod products, which also included the Shuffle.

But then it was time to get down to business: the iPhone 4S.

The design is the same but, "Inside," Schiller promises, "it's all new."

Complete with the A5 chip and dual-core processor, it boasts CPU speeds "twice as fast" and graphics "up to seven times faster" than the iPhone 4. Mike Capps from Epic showed off the graphical capabilities and demoed Infinity Blade 2, available December 1. Battery life remains passable with eight hours of talk time, 14 hours of 2G talk time, six hours of 3G browsing, and nine hours of Wi-Fi browsing.

The internal antennas has been tweaked to switch between antennas for better call quality and faster download speeds of 14.4Mbps. Schiller added, "This is what our competitors call 4G. We're not going to debate it. But when it comes to real world performance, it's just as fast as these phones. We think it's even faster with our updates."

The iPhone 4S camera also comes with a new 8 megapixel sensor with backside illumination and better color accuracy, and it's 33% faster in capturing that snapshot. Schiller took the event-requisite dig at Android, specifically regarding the Droid Bionic's lengthy time between camera photos, "I don't know what Droid Bionic customers have to do between taking pictures. Llike, go get coffee."

Oh, Phil.

Next, it was time to show off Siri -- the iPhone 4S' new voice recognition system and personal assistant.

With a friendly "How can I help you?" greeting, Siri will provide answers to your spoken questions. Ask, "Do I need a raincoat today?" and Siri will respond, for example, "It sure looks like rain today." Order Siri to "wake me up tomorrow at 6AM," and Siri schedules the alarm. Schiller also showed off the voice navigation feature -- which Android users are already familiar with -- and had Siri read a text message aloud. Schedule a meeting, reminder to call your wife before you leave work, use WolframAlpha to find out how many days are left until Christmas -- all done through Siri.

"It's that easy," Schiller assured. It's also the highlight of the whole event and the iPhone 4S' coolest feature. (Your move, Google.)

On a two year contract, the new device goes for $199 for the 16GB model, $299 for the 32GB model, and $399 for the 64GB model. The 8GB iPhone 4 -- now the only model -- gets reduced to $99 and the 8GB 3GS is now free.

Pre-orders start October 7, with a launch date of October 14. (With Sprint!)

So, there you have it. The iPhone 4S: Better than the iPhone 4, and for many, that's all that really matters.

(See also: Is Apple's iPhone 5 a Mirage? and How to Sell Your Old iPhone Like a Champ)

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