iPhone 3GS offers speed boost, video capture

Apple on Monday unveiled a new version of the iPhone. Dubbed the iPhone 3GS, the latest version of Apple's popular smartphone promises to launch applications and run software faster than the previous model.

"The 'S' stands for speed," Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, told Worldwide Developers Conference attendees during Monday's conference-opening keynote.

The new phone sells for US$199 for the 16GB version and $299 for a 32GB model. Apple is cutting the price on the current iPhone 3G to $99 for the 8GB phone.

Look for the iPhone 3GS to be available in the US on June 19--two days after the iPhone 3.0 software update arrives. The new phone will also be available in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Switzerland on June 19. A week later, Apple says, the phone will launch in six more countries, with more launches to come in July and August.

While the iPhone 3GS looks similar on the outside to the previous 3G model, the new phone offers a brand-new camera that lets you control the focus either by tapping on the screen or using the autofocus feature. In addition, the iPhone's new camera captures video in addition to still photos--a heavily requested feature among iPhone owners.

In addition, the iPhone 3GS includes a voice-control feature to allow users to speak commands for applications on the phone. Accessibility improvements include VoiceOver support for reading to users and the ability to zoom in on the phone's display for larger icons.

Enterprise users get a requested feature in the form of hardware encryption. For anyone using an Exchange service of the Find Your iPhone feature in the iPhone 3.0 software update, remote wipe is instantaneous and backups are encrypted.

Apple promises improved battery life with the iPhone 3GS. The new phone offers nine hours of Internet access on Wi-Fi, 10 hours of video, 30 hours of audio playback, 12 hours of 2G talk time, and five hours of 3G talk time.

In keeping with Apple's ongoing push to tout the environmental friendliness of its products, the company noted that it reduced packaging for the phone by 23 percent. The iPhone 3GS also features arsenic-free glass and a mercury-free LCD; the phone is also free of brominated flame retardant (BFR) and PVC.

Other features announced during Monday's keynote include a built-in digital compass, and support for the Nike+ fitness accessory.

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Philip Michaels

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