Apple’s “Let’s Talk iPhone” Event: Live Blog

Oct 4, 2011 1:02pm

“Nightline” anchor Bill Weir is on the ground at the Town Hall theater on the Apple, Inc. campus in Cupertino, Calif., for the company’s big announcement on what’s happening with the iPhone.

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2:36 p.m. ET: Black or white (no brushed aluminum or clear) iPhone 4S 16G will sell for $199, 64G $399. The iPhone 3GS is now FREE. Line up October 14.

After sitting on the sideline through most of today’s roll-out, new CEO Tim Cook finished up with “I am so proud.”

2:29 p.m. ET: Among the many things Steve Jobs taught his team at Apple is to save the splashiest new invention for last.

And while the iPhone 4S may disappoint those hoping for a whole new gadget, the addition of Siri voice recognition is stunningly cool. It is a vast improvement on the kind of customer service voice recognition that drives us all mad. It understands nuance so “what is the weather like today?” “do I need a rain coat?” or “can I get the hourly forecast” all brings the same (correct) answer in seconds.

Ask “can you tell me about Neil Armstrong?’ and it takes you to the astronaut’s Wikipedia page. And most pleasing to Oprah’s no-texting-while-driving crowd, Siri will read your test messages aloud, reply with your dictated response and even schedule engagements in your calendar as you make them in real time.

During the demo came the obvious question, “Who is Siri?” “I’m your humble personal assistant,” came the sultry robot voice to applause.

2:14 p.m. ET: @BillWeirABC The cameras on the iPhone 4S are stunning…and here comes the voice activation enhancement everyone is buzzing about.

2:11 p.m. ET: The new 8-megapixel camera on the iPhone 4S has better sensors, filters and a lens that is “30 percent sharper.” The video camera now shoots in 1080p high definition but without an entire new iPhone design. Early reaction on Twitter is tepid at best: “It’s like expecting George Clooney and getting your old boyfriend in a new car.”

2:02 p.m. ET: @BillWeirABC Along with A5 chip, Apple says iPhone 4S has a new antenna system that downloads data 2x faster and will work anywhere in world.

1:55 p.m. ET: After nearly an hour touting sales success and improvements to the operating system and apps, Apple’s Phil Schiller finally segues to the announcement we’ve been waiting for and unveils…the iPhone 4S. Same phone, faster processor…which may thrill gamers but disappoint those who were hoping for a new design.

1:54 p.m. ET: There has been speculation that 10 years after launch, the iPod would be phased into extinction with the rise of the iPhones and iTouch. “We’re still making iPods,” says Apple’s Phil Schiller before showing off enhancements to the iPod Nano, including an option that turns the little MP3 player into a Mickey Mouse watch.

1:47 p.m. ET:  A new app called “Find My Friends” shows you if your iPhone-carrying kids made it to school or exactly where your buddies are at the beach. It comes with privacy and parental controls, just one of the features of iCloud. iCloud stores music, photos, books and apps and syncs them across all you Apple devices automatically and wirelessly. The free service comes with 5GB of free storage.

45 minutes into the presentation and still no mention of a new hardware device.

1:28 p.m. ET:   Despite the flap over the iPhone 4 antenna, Cook claims that Apple leads the world in customer satisfaction–with 96 percent of users claiming to be “very satisfied” or above. Yet despite the booming sales, the iPhone makes up only 5 percent of the 1.5 billion cell phones on the planet.

As for their newest invention he says 80 percent of American hospitals and 92 percent of Fortune 500 companies are testing or replying iPads and while other companies scramble to get a piece of the tablet action, Apple dominates sales on a scale of almost 3-1.

The App Store is now selling a billion downloads a month, and to goose sales further they are now offering Cards, which allows you to craft a message on your iPhone or iPad and then sends that message the old fashioned way–on high quality paper, in an envelope with a stamp through the mail. As a bonus, you get a text message letting you know when the card has arrived. Maybe the USPS isn’t doomed after all?

1:16 p.m. ET: Everyone is here to “talk iPhone,” but Cook can’t resist updating the success of the core Apple products. He says 23 percent of personal computers sold today are made by Apple — a stunning accomplishment given their premium niche status just a few years ago.

The iPod continues its dominance of the music player market, with over 300 million sold since 2002 and 45 million sold in just the last year. Over 16 billion songs have been sold through the iTunes store.

1:07 p.m. ET: Tim Cook enters to light applause, with no black turtleneck but the same kind of quiet confidence as the man he replaced. “This is my first product launch since being named CEO…I love Apple…and I am very excited about this new role,” he said.

Cook begins by touting the new Apple stores in China, where 100,000 people clamored to visit the gleaming space in Shanghai on opening weekend. By contrast it took a month to rack up those kind of numbers in their most successful American outlet.

12:57 p.m. ET: @BillWeirABC Settling in on Infinite Loop to live tweet the iPhone 5 announcement. New shape? Better camera? Voice IMs and tweets? Stay tuned!

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