Finally, Apple announces iPhone — vows to leapfrog other smart phones

Updated

applephone.bmpApple has not let us down.

Chief executive Steve Jobs said the company will launch its own phone, dubbed the iPhone, and that Cingular Wireless will provide the phone service, ending weeks of speculation.

It will do much more than make calls and play music. It aims to be a full-fledged smart phone, and is underpinned with some elements of Apple software, such as its Safari browser, which could expose mainstream users to Apple’s eco-system in more varied ways. This may radically rewrite the digital balance of power, what with Apple simultaneous unveiling of its iTV device — which lets you transfer to your TV content from multiple PCs, outside sources, or Websites such as Apple.com. It contains a 40 gigabyte hard drive, and will cost $299 and ship in February.

From the WSJ, which first broke the news:

The iPhone, which is less than a half-inch thick, has no keyboard or dial pad. Instead, it uses a 3.5-inch wide touch-sensitive screen to make calls, watch videos or listen to music. It comes with a two-megapixel digital camera built into the back and can connect to the Internet using Wi-Fi wireless technology.

The iPhone, which will be available in the U.S. in June and later this year in Europe, will come in two versions. A model with four gigabytes of storage space will cost $499, while a version with eight gigabytes of storage will cost $599.

The phone will automatically synch a user’s media — movies, music, photos — through Apple’s iTunes digital content store. The device also synchs email content, Web bookmarks and nearly any type of digital content stored on a computer. “It’s just like an iPod,” Mr. Jobs said, “charge and synch.”

It will detect location, and Yahoo will provide Web-based email, while Google will provide maps — thus ensuring the buy-in of those two companies as supporters of the phone. Jobs says he wants 1 percent of the phone market by 2008. The company is negotiating with Cisco to be able to use the name “iPhone.” Cisco owns rights to the name, and recently introduced its own WiFi phone under the same name.

Here’s more, from the NYT:

iPhone rests heavily on a high-resolution touch screen that makes it possible to use a finger to control the phone. It also has several more subtle features, including sensors that track light and movement to prompt the phone to control screen brightness and physical orientation and other aspects of its operation. For example, when the phone is placed next to the user’s face, the keyboard is automatically turned off.

One of the immediate questions that analysts and industry executives posed about Apple’s new product was why the designers eschewed the higher-speed Cingular digital cellular 3-G network. Mr. Jobs said later models would support additional networking standards.

Apple’s shares soared more than six percent after the announcement. And in a sign that the market sees Apple likely to take market share away from others, shares of smart phone leader Research in Motion, which makes the Blackberry, plunged by about seven percent.