As at any Apple event, attendees of the World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco showed up on Monday expecting to be awed by a Steve Jobs Show. And judging from the elevated mood in the room immediately after the Apple CEO’s presentation, they were. The biggest technical news, which was widely predicted, is that the new iPhone, available July 11, will operate over so-called 3G networks, which are many times faster than the EDGE networks that the iPhone currently uses. Also confirmed was the rumor of GPS for real-time location tracking on the iPhone. But perhaps the most crowd-pleasing announcement is the dramatic price cut: from $399 for an eight-gigabyte model to $199. A 16-gigabyte model will be $299 and available in black and white.
When the iPhone was introduced last June, some analysts predicted that consumers would reject it because of its hefty price tag and its reliance on AT&T’s relatively slow network. Since the phone’s release, roughly six million iPhones have been sold to people who have looked past sluggish downloads and fallen in love with the gadget’s intuitive touch interface and impressive graphics. But the difference between the EDGE and 3G networks can be startling. During Jobs’s presentation, he contrasted the two versions of the phone. It takes 59 seconds for the current phone to load a Web page with heavy graphics. On the new 3G phone, the same page loads in 21 seconds. By comparison, it takes 17 seconds on a Wi-Fi network. E-mail applications download 3.6 percent faster.
By adding GPS, Apple has taken an important step toward expanding location-based services–tools that people use to find friends and activities around them in real time. Today’s iPhone has the ability to locate itself, within a relatively large radius, using signals from cell-phone towers and Wi-Fi stations. GPS takes it a step farther, pinpointing location down to a couple of meters. This enables real-time tracking, making the iPhone a useful in-car navigation tool.
Jobs also provided an update of the third-party software, available in the forthcoming iPhone application store, and updates on the phone’s compatibility with enterprise software. As announced in March, the iPhone will support Microsoft Exchange, providing compatibility with Outlook’s mail, contacts, and calendar. The iPhone will also support Apple’s iWork collection of productivity software, as well as Microsoft Office. And importantly, it will include the security features that have convinced enterprise customers–including the U.S. military and a number of Fortune 500 companies, law firms, and pharmaceutical companies–that the iPhone is as secure as any mobile device.