San Francisco: Apple unveiled a new version of its popular iPhone built for high-speed wireless networks with faster Internet access and more features for business users.
“It’s incredibly zippy,” chief executive Steve Jobs said as he demonstrated the new mobile device at the opening of Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco.
“We’ve learned so much with the first iPhone. We’ve taken what we’ve learned and more and created the iPhone 3G; and it’s beautiful.”
New features and updated versions
The iPhone 3G for third-generation mobile networks is designed for faster Internet downloads, longer talk times, and it takes advantage of the high-speed network to provide GPS mapping built in, Jobs said.
Apple will begin rolling out new versions of the sleek smartphone devices by 11July and make it available in 70 countries. The first-generation iPhone is available in six countries.
IPhone’s software updates features like multiple languages, including two forms each of Japanese and Chinese, one of which lets users draw characters on the devices’ touch-screens.
“You can switch between languages on the fly,” Jobs said. “It’s one of the great advantages of not having a bunch of plastic keys for your keyboard.”
The crowd cheered when Jobs announced the iPhone 3G will sell for $199 with eight gigabytes of memory. Apple will charge $299 for a model with 16 gigabytes of memory.
“It is a very aggressive price point and it is going to do some damage to the other players in the market,” Gartner analyst Van Baker told AFP, listing BlackBerry and Nokia among competitors in iPhone’s crosshairs.
“It is clearly moving iPhone from being noticeable in the market to being potentially a market leader.” The eight-gigabyte iPhone 3G will be half the price of its predecessor and work twice as fast, according to Apple.
Jobs also said iPhone’s second-generation software will let business users send and receive Microsoft Exchange email, in a direct shot at rival BlackBerry.
The iPhone software update is aimed at a business market that is currently hooked on BlackBerry devices made by Canada-based Research In Motion. BlackBerry handsets have long let people “push” work email to the devices using the Microsoft email system.
Apple worked with Cisco Systems to build virtual private network (VPN) services into iPhones so businesses can establish secure connections to protect data being transferred. 35% of US Fortune 500 companies and the US military have “beta” tested iPhone’s enterprise email, according to Jobs.
The iPhone 2.0 software update will be free to iPhone users and be available for iTouch iPods for $9.99. Apple introduced a “Mobileme” service that lets people access personal email accounts on iPhones, laptops, or home computers via the Internet.
Apple also showcased iPhone applications crafted by third-party developers as part of a move to stock an “App Store” slated to open online for business 11July. IPhone programs including games, social networking, medical studies, and converting the devices into musical instruments. The original iPhone was launched on June 29, 2007, and set off a global buying frenzy.
Announcement may have come prematurely
Jobs said Apple has sold six million iPhones to date and predicts Apple will sell 10 million by the end of this year. Apple’s stock slipped more than 2% during the day’s trading but recouped a smidgeon of lost ground to $182.21 at 23h00 GMT.
Investors may be frowning on Apple because most of the announcements were leaked and the improved iPhone won’t be available for more than a month, according to analysts. “With the exception of Mobileme we knew everything else was coming,” said Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle. “The only surprise is the thing is not ready yet. It came across like Jobs didn’t have it together.”