Apple Unveils iPhone 3G S – First Take

FInally, it’s time for an iPhone update. First Apple has some stats. More than 50,00 apps in the store now and combined platform presence of more than 40 million devices to support that platform (that’s iPhone and iPod Touch. Apple didn’t break out the numbers but it’s not too hard to figure out). There was a quick recap of the OS 3.0 feature set and a few new things detailed.

1. There’s now access to the full iTunes store on the device including music and movies. Same rules apply as to 3G access for content.

2. Tethering is officially supported but it’s carrier by carrier. Apple says ATT has not stated it’s position on tethering yet. Hope they see the light and allow it.

3. New feature for MobileMe users called Find My iPhone. Very cool. Leave your iPhone somewhere and you can see exactly where you left with on screen maps. You can also a send a message to the device that will display along with a audio cue. Perfect for attracting a waiter’s attention when you leave your iPhone in a restaurant. Even better, it will sound the audio tone even if volume is off. Worst case, you can do a full remote wipe as well.

The big news though is the next generation of the iPhone, called iPhone 3G S. The S standing for speed. Coming in the same form factor as the curerent iPhone 3G, Apple says the new iPhone is on average 2X faster than the current generation. But that’s not all. There’s full suport for 7.2 MBPS HSDPA, a new 3MP camera with autofocus and the ability to record 30 FPS VGA video. There’s also a basic video editor integrated into the phone and videos can be emailed, MMS or send directly to You Tube. There’s also a very cool implemation of voice control (you have to see the UI in action to appreciate it) and a digital compass that’s API addressable as well as integrated into maps. Other new features include Nike + integration and encryption built directly into hardware (which among other things, mean wipe remote is near instant).

Apple’s doing two configs at the current price points. One will be 16gb and the other 32gb for $199 and $299 respectively. The bigger news is there’s indeed a $99 iPhone now, the current iPhone 3G will now be offered in an 8gb version for $99. That’s huge and potentially very, very disruptive for Apple competitors. Be interesting to see how others responds to a $99 iPhone.

$99 model drops today, OS 3.0 hits on june 17th and the new 3G S comes on the 19th.

Bottom line? Apple both raised the bar in terms of price and performance with a 32gb 3G S model (at a $299 price point) and hit the magic $99 for a full featured iPhone. Considering that two years ago an 8gb iPhone would have set you back $599, that’s going to attract a lot of new iPhone users to the fold. With then models combined with a commanding presence in the application market, the iPhone is still the platform that most consumers are going to weigh against when making their purchase decisions. This summer’s smartphone battle is on in a big way. I’ll have more to say once 3.0 and the new devices are released.

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