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The fever-pitched speculation that preceded today’s Apple press conference slowly dissipated as it became clear that newly anointed CEO Tim Cook was not going to announce the arrival of an iPhone 5. In the absence of Apple founder Steve Jobs, who recently passed away after a long battle with cancer, Cook and Scott Forestall, Apple’s iOS chief, detailed the impressive hardware and software advances on the new iPhone 4S.
Even though it doesn’t bear the number "5," the iPhone 4S is still a pretty impressive device designed by some improbably astute, technically minded aesthete concerned with the minute details of your life. In other words, it’s pretty great and could make your life easier, especially if you talk to yourself when you're stressed.
In addition to hardware updates that will make it run faster, the new 4S boasts advanced voice-recognition software that seems likely to make for an even deeper connection between a user and her phone. The tool has been called both Siri and Assistant and it works by integrating voice-recognition technology into the data already stored on your phone. What does this mean? You can now whip out your device and “ask” it to do something that you would have previously done by typing or using manual controls on the phone. For instance, one can ask “What time is it in Paris?” and the phone would reply, “It’s 10 p.m. in Paris.” No clock app required. Assistant can also look up phone numbers, play music, and make appointments in the iPhone’s calendar, as in “Make a lunch date at 12:30 on Tuesday with Joe.”
Assistant will likely change how your phone integrates into your life and, as the software’s name suggests, how much more the new iPhone resembles a paid member of your staff than a telephone.
Also notable among its new apps is Cards, an app that allows a user to design a card from her iPhone and have Apple print it and send it to the recipient. Find My Friends is another new feature that allows an iPhone user to see a list of friends and family who choose to share their location on a map. The plus: It’s a reassuring tool for parents keeping tabs on their iPhone-equipped kids. But be careful because it could also make it difficult to cancel plans “because you’re home sick.”
The iPhone 4S has a much better camera that’s accessible from the lock screen, has higher resolution, and eliminates red-eye. The improved video camera may possibly eliminate the need for the pocket digital camera or Zoon that may still be kicking around in the bottom of your bag.
Pre-orders for the new iPhone 4S begin on October 7th and the device will be delivered on the 14th. Prices follow the iPhone 4 model with $199 for a 16 GB phone and $299 for a 32 GB. Apple has also added a third option of 64 GB for -- gulp -- $399. There will also be an 8 GB iPhone 4 model available for $99 and the "archaic" 3GS will now be free (you heard that right) with a 2-year contract with AT&T, Verizon or Sprint (the latest provider to carry the iPhone).