Apple’s iPhone event: Where’s the iPhone 5?

October 4, 2011

All eyes were on Cupertino, Calif., Tuesday as Apple gave its latest product announcement, but the company didn’t deliver what many had hoped for — an iPhone 5.

Many Apple fans were underwhelmed by the announcement, which was a critical test for the company. Consumers complained that the upgrade was not worth the post-iPhone 4 wait. Apple hasn’t released a brand-new iPhone in more than a year.

Though late-stage rumors seemed to confirm exactly what happened Tuesday, that Apple released a revamped version of its last handset called the iPhone 4S, many expected a totally new version of the phone or, barring that, a second, cheaper version of Apple’s phone.

Instead, Apple revealed essentially the same phone from its last announcement, with some upgrades.

Investors in Apple were also disappointed and began selling off stock in the minutes after the iPhone 4S was unveiled. by midafternoon, Apple stock was down more than five percent, to 335.39 at around 3:15 p.m. It had been trading over 400 per share earlier in the week.

The iPhone 4S has a faster processor, is a “world phone” that runs on both GSM and CDMA networks, and sports a quicker 8 MP camera. Apple also added Sprint to its list of carriers for the phone.

What’s not clear from the event is whether Apple has fixed the antenna problems that annoyed its iPhone 4 customers when the phone was held a certain way.

The new iPhone 4S will have the same pricing structure as the iPhone 4, though it adds a 64 GB model for $399. The 16GB phone will cost $199; the 32GB phone will be $299. Pre-orders for the phone will start Friday, and it will be released on Oct. 14.

The company also announced the official launch of its next-generation operating system, iOS 5. Users got a peek of the system at Apple’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference in June.

Still, Apple threw in a few more announcements, such as Siri, which acts as a personal assistant that can recognize voice commands.

The company’s iCloud suite of programs, which will launch along with iOS 5 on Oct. 12 will likely send the average Apple consumer even further into the cloud by providing free (and paid) storage space for photos, movies, music, apps — all hooked into Apple’s massive content and entertainment ecosystem.

Apple also released updates to two of its iPod lines — the Nano and the Touch — but it wasn’t immediately clear if the company will continue to make the iPod Classic, which did not appear on the event’s slide showing the iPod family. The new iPod Nano will start at $129 for an 8GB model. The iPod Touch also has some upgrades. It will now come in white and start at $199 for 8GB, $299 for 32GB and $399 for 64GB.

The company built a great deal of momentum going into this event, somehow managing to continually break its own handset sales records while simultaneously driving up hype for its next model. The question now is whether users will be happy enough with the upgraded handset and Apple’s new operating system to keep the company in that enviable position.

Apple’s new chief executive, Tim Cook, hosted the event, but he passed many of the speaking opportunities on to other top executives, as expected.

Related stories:

More technology coverage from The Washington Post

iOS 5 to go out of beta this week

Photos: iPhone 4S unveiled

Apple Siri: 'All-new, voice-control AI stuff'

Faster Forward: Twitter users give their takes

User poll: Does it live up to the hype?

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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