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Apple set to raise the curtain on new iPhone

Report says Sprint will get device

By Rachel Metz
Associated Press / October 4, 2011

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SAN FRANCISCO - Apple fans are amped. The computer and gadget maker is expected to announce a more powerful version of its wildly popular smartphone today - more than a year after it unveiled the iPhone 4.

Last week, Apple Inc. e-mailed invitations to a media event at its headquarters in Cupertino. The invite says “let’s talk iPhone,’’ implying the normally secretive company intends to show off the latest version of the device. In the past, Apple has typically introduced a new iPhone during the summer, but this year it was expected to hold off until the fall.

It has been 15 months since Apple began selling the iPhone 4. The first iPhone was revealed in 2007, and the phone’s signature slick looks, high-resolution screen, and intuitive software made it incredibly popular from the start (the rollout of Apple’s iTunes App Store in 2008 helped, too). In addition to gaining millions of fans over the years - 39 million iPhones were sold between January and the end of June - the iPhone and its large app store have sparked fierce competition from smartphone makers such as those using Google Inc.’s Android software, which was first rolled out in 2008.

Beyond the iPhone itself, today’s event is anticipated as Apple’s first major product unveiling in years that will not be led by Steve Jobs, who resigned as chief executive in August after being out on indefinite medical leave since January. His successor, Tim Cook, is expected to take the lead this time.

Though not nearly as recognizable as Jobs, Cook has been running the company since January. For years, he has been in charge of Apple’s day-to-day operations, and he has long been seen as the natural successor. He also served as Apple’s leader for two months in 2004 while Jobs battled cancer and again for 5 1/2 months in 2009 when Jobs received a liver transplant.

Perhaps more important to Apple fans than who is presenting is what the company will reveal today. The Wall Street Journal reported online yesterday that Sprint Nextel Corp. has committed to buying more than 30 million iPhones over the next four years. The paper previously reported that Sprint would sell the iPhone, which has been exclusive to AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless.

A new iPhone is expected to have a number of changes, the biggest of which will likely be under the hood: the inclusion of Apple’s latest mobile software, iOS 5, which has been slated for release this fall.

The software will include things such as wireless device setup and content syncing, and beefed-up camera, e-mail, and Web-browsing apps. A new service called iMessage will allow iOS 5 users to send text messages to each other over Wi-Fi or wireless carriers’ data networks.

A new iPhone is also expected to include Apple’s forthcoming iCloud service, which will store content such as music, documents, apps, and photos on Apple’s servers and let you access them wirelessly on numerous devices.

As for hardware, a new iPhone isn’t expected to look that much different from the iPhone 4, though it could be thinner and have a bigger screen. The existing iPhone is 0.37 inches thick and has a display measuring 3.5 inches at the diagonal.

An improved rear camera is anticipated, too. The existing iPhone has a 5-megapixel camera on its rear. A number of recently released smartphones have moved to 8-megapixel cameras.

One of the most notable hardware changes many industry watchers expect is the inclusion of a more powerful chip: Apple’s dual-core A5 processor, which is the same chip it uses in its current iPad. The move to a more capable chip should improve things such as multitasking, opening apps, and gaming.

Analysts also suggest Apple could also use today’s event to trot out new iPods and updates to its iTunes software.