It's more of an incremental upgrade to the previous iPhone 4, sharing the same size and design. It features a faster dual-core A5 processor and the ability to handle more complex and sophisticated gaming, with a seven-fold increase in graphics speed.
Apple said the phone battery can accommodate 8 hours of talking over 3G, 6 hours of Web browsing over 3G, 9 hours of browsing over Wi-Fi, 10 hours of video viewing, and 40 hours of music listening.
The iPhone 4S also has a redesigned antenna system, which switches between two antennas to transmit and receive for improved call quality and a higher connection speed. Apple marketing executive Phil Schiller said he wouldn't get into the 4G name game but that it would feature download speeds of 14.4 megabits per second and upload speeds of 5.8 megabits a second.
The iPhone 4S will also act as a global phone, with the ability to ride on CDMA networks, popular in the United States, and GSM networks, popular elsewhere in the world. Verizon Wireless executives previously said they had expected the phone to be a global device.
Apple also demonstrated its voice control feature, called Siri, which Schiller called an "intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by talking." When asked the question, "do I need a raincoat today?" the iPhone responded, "It sure looks like rain today." Apple said the Siri software is still in beta testing.
The device also has an 8-megapixel camera and a new system Schiller said would be comparable to a point-and-shoot camera. The camera will be able to capture 73 percent more light, work 33 percent faster, and feature a hybrid infrared filter, which Schiller said is "the kind of stuff you talk about with high-end dSLRs."
The iPhone has quickly become Apple's flagship product and largest source of revenue, with 125 percent year-over-year growth. The product comes out at a critical point for the company, as it is slowly ceding its dominance to Google's Android platform. While the iPhone remains the top-selling phone, many comparable Android phones have sprung up.
The new iPhone, however, is expected to reinvigorate sales. Prior to the launch, Ticonderoga Securities analyst Brian White said the iPhone 5 will "shatter" the sales record held by the iPhone 4 launch last year. Janney Capital Markets analyst Bill Choi said yesterday in a note that iPhone shipments for next year could reach as high as 107 million units.
Updated at 4:02 p.m. PT: to remove the reference to the iPhone 4S's RAM. Apple didn't disclose the details of its RAM.
Updated at 11:16 a.m. PT: to include additional features for the iPhones.