In what may have been the worst-kept secret in Apple announcements of late, CEO Steve Jobs announced a 3G version of the iPhone on Monday, along with a slew of new third-party applications designed for the device.
The new iPhone will use third-generation wireless technology and run updated iPhone 2.0 software. It's expected to launch July 11, Jobs said in his keynote speech at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. The iPhone will also be cheaper than its predecessor, with a 16GB version priced at $299 and an 8GB version that costs $199.
That upgrade in wireless technology is key. While on stage, Jobs compared how quickly the old and new versions loaded the National Geographic home page. The 3G version loaded the page in 5 seconds, while the older version took 18 seconds. The lack of next-generation wireless has kept a lot of potential international buyers who are accustomed to 3G service overseas from opting for the iPhone.
Hardware features include longer battery life, a flush headphone jack, silver button controls on the side of the phone, and a plastic back case that comes in black or white (for the 16GB version only).
But a large part of Monday's news was focused on software, too. As expected, Jobs announced the upcoming iPhone App Store, the foundation for which was laid out in March when he announced the release of the iPhone software development kit. Since the SDK was released, third-party developers have been busy writing applications specifically designed to run on the iPhone.
During his keynote speech Monday, Jobs brought a string of developers on stage to demo the fruits of all that labor. Featured applications included a mobile-blogging app from Six Apart; a new version of Super Monkey Ball from Sega; an application from eBay that allows users to monitor their bids; an application from Modality that gives medical students up-close views of human body parts to help them study anatomy; an application that gives near real-time updates on Major League Baseball games; an Associated Press app that sends out local news based on where a user is; and a service from Loopt that lets people see where their friends are at any given time. (You can see a roundup of demos of each of these apps here.)
For its part, Apple is bringing GPS to the iPhone, along with a new service called MobileMe, which is essentially an update of the current .Mac service. Subscribers to the MobileMe get push e-mail, contacts, and calendars on the iPhone, and can also access their photo galleries remotely. That service costs $99 per year.
The iPhone 3G will launch in 22 countries on July 11 and will roll out to a total of 70 by the end of the year, Jobs said. It should arrive in Russia and China later this year, Jobs said in an interview Monday on CNBC. "I think you'll see those later this year," he said. In China, the company is awaiting regulatory approval, he added.
CNET News.com's Tom Krazit and Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.