January 9, 2007 1:50 PM PST
Finally, Apple answers call for iPhone
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The Mac OS X-based iPhone is most akin to an iPod in design, but allows users to listen to music, make phone calls, send text messages and e-mail, surf the Web, and take and upload photos, all using a wide touch screen and a single button. Apple plans to make the device available in the United States in June, with a 4GB model going for $499 with a two-year service contract, and an 8GB model with the same contract for $599.
The iPhone was announced during a two-hour keynote in which Jobs also announced the expected Apple TV, previously known by its code name "iTV," as well as a name change for the company.
He surprised many by continuing to refer to the new mobile device as the iPhone, a trademark that is owned by Cisco Systems. Apple has apparently been in discussions with Cisco over use of the iPhone trademark for some time, but it is unclear what Apple's use of the name will mean for either company.
In a written response to an inquiry from CNET News.com made while Jobs' speech was still going on, a Cisco representative said, "It is our belief that with their announcement today, Apple intends to agree to the final document and public statements that were distributed to them last night." Cisco expects to receive a signed agreement Tuesday, according to the statement.
The device is 11.6 millimeters thick--thinner than the Motorola Q and Samsung's BlackJack--and has controls on its side. It incorporates a wide, 160-pixel-per-inch touch screen, a single "home" button, 2-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi capability and cellular service. The phone automatically switches from a cellular network to Wi-Fi if it detects a signal.
The iPhone also comes loaded with Apple's Safari Web browser and fully incorporates Google's search and mapping services. Users can make phone calls directly from Google Maps. Phone service in the U.S. will be provided exclusively by Cingular Wireless.
True to form, the company did not fail to consider consumers' habits with the product's design. A proximity sensor senses when the phone is brought to a user's face and automatically turns off what music might be playing and turns on the phone. An "accelerometer" switches the screen from a portrait to landscape format, allowing for easy toggling between the device's various functions.
The iPhone even reconsiders how consumers listen to voice mail.
"Wouldn't it be great if you had six voice mails, and you didn't have to listen to five first before listening to the sixth?" Jobs said in his keynote.
Now users can skip right to the message they want. The iPhone allows people to see all unheard voice mails and select which one to listen to using a technology Jobs called visual voice mail, which Apple developed with Cingular.
But Apple's iPhone isn't cheap, and some people who aren't on Cingular's network might be unable to switch without hefty penalties, said Samir Bhavnani, an analyst with Current Analysis. However, "it's a great first step" toward getting Apple established as a mobile-phone company, he said.
While the price tag might be out of range for many teenagers and their parents, Apple loyalists will probably be interested in the new iPhone, even though Apple has no phone expertise, said Chris Crotty, a consumer electronics analyst at iSuppli.
"Apple has strong brands, and there is a perception that they are an innovator and that they make products that are easy to use," he said.
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