New from Apple at WWDC: The iPhone 3G S

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Apple is launching its World Wide Developer Conference today to high expectations of new iPhone and Macintosh products, its new iPhone 3.0 operating system, and a preview of the next version of Mac OS X, Snow Leopard. And Apple did not disappoint, showing off Snow Leopard, revving its entire MacBook line…and introducing the new iPhone 3GS. The "S" stands for "speed."

First up, the iPhone 3GS: it’s a brand new iPhone in the same form factors as the current iPhone 3G, but Apple is promising the 3GS offers twice the application performance of the current iPhone 3G, which means it can better handle applications, OpenGL games, and data-intensive services. The phone also includes a new 3 megapixel autofocus camera with a tap-based autofocus: users just point the iPhone, tap the subject they want to photograph on the built-in display, and the iPhone will keep it in focus. The camera can also capture VGA-resolution video at 30fps—complete with autofocus, auto white balance, and auto exposure. The 3GS will also feature improved battery life: apple is claiming it can support up to 9 hours of Wi-Fi Internet usage on a single charge. If people actually use the iPhone as a phone (gasp!) they can expect up to 5 hours of talk time on a 3G network and 12 hours of talk time on a 2G network.

The iPhone 3Gs also includes an integrated compass—users can pull up latitude and longitude then jump directly to Maps—and the 3GS is also ready for 7.2 Mbps HSDPA mobile broadband service. The iPhone 3GS will also feature a new Voice Control feature that will let users issue commands to the iPhone (and even selected iPhone apps) by speaking. The iPhone 3GS will also include hardware encryption and built-in support for Nike+ exercise accessories

The iPhone 3GS will not replace the iPhone 3G—at least not right away. The iPhone 3GS will be available June 19 for $199 for a 16 GB version, and $299 for a 32 GB version, and both editions will be available in black and white. The existing 8GB iPhone 3G will remain available, but Apple is dropping the price to $99—and that $99 pricing starts today. The iPhone 3GS will initially be available in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, the U.K., and Switzerland.

Apple highlighted features in iPhone OS 3.0, including landscape modes for all key applications (including Mail, Notes, and Messages, not just Safari), Cut/Copy/Paste support (finally!), plus a new search feature that reaches across the built-in calendar, notes, and mail applications as well as iTunes—and can even reach out to mail servers to look for matches there. iPhone users will also be able to rent and purchase video directly from their phones.

An interesting new development is support for tethering, letting a computer share the iPhone’s Internet connection. Apple says tethering will be supported by 22 carriers in more than 40 countries—but interestingly, Apple’s carrier partner in the U.S. (AT&T) is not among them. Apple is also introducing features to help users find misplaced iPhones via Apple’s subscription-based MobileMe service, and even let users wipe out their iPhones remotely if they’re lost or stolen. If users subsequently recover their phones, they can be restored from backup.

iPhone OS 3.0 will also support Bluetooth-based peer-to-peer networking, along with push notifications—which will be available to third party developers for everything from stock alerts and score trackers to instant messages. iPhone OS 3.0 will also support parental controls to let parents lock down questionable content from childrens’ iPhones and iPod touch units. Apple also demonstrated a number of new applications for iPhone 3.0, including turn-by-turn navigation from TomTom.

iPhone OS 3.0 will be a free upgrade for existing iPhone customers, and $9.95 for iPod touch owners. It will be available June 17.

Apple announced a revamped version of its 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro notebook computers, adopting the somewhat controversial battery design from it’s recent 17-inch high-end notebook model. The new batteries can be cycled up to 1,000 times over their lifetimes and offer as much as 7 hours of use on a single charge…but they aren’t user-replaceable. Apple says the new technology is friendly and greener than typical notebook batteries (which users typically have to replace a few times over the lifetime of a notebook), but frequent travelers have been grumbling because there’s no way to bring along charged replacement batteries and swap them in to get more work time out of a notebook.

Both the 13-inch and 15-inch notebooks feature an improved display Apple says offers a 60 percent better color gamut, and—for the first time in an Apple notebook—the system offers an SD media card slot. (The ExpressCard slot goes away, however.) The 15-inch MacBook Pros will sport Intel Core 2 Duo processors at up to 3.06 GHz and support for up to 8 GB of RAM; the systems will also offer 500 GB hard drives or 256 GB SSDs as options, Nvidia 9400M mobile graphics, and have prices starting at $1,699. The 13-inch models—now also dubbed MacBook Pros—offer a similar feature set (including the SD slot) at prices starting at $1,199 for a 2.26 GHz system with 2 GB of RAM and a 160 GB hard drive. Both the new 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros are available today.

Apple has also updated its 17-inch notebook to offer a 2.8 GHz processor and up to a 500 GB hard drive—it is now the only model in the Apple notebook lineup with an ExpressCard slot. The famously thin MacBook Air also got an update, increasing speed and memory while lowering prices to start at $1.799.

Apple took time to tout enhancements and productivity features forthcoming in Mac OS X Snow Leopard, including improvements to the Dock and Expose, as well as performance benefits from converting major applications to 64-bit mode as well as rewriting portions to better leverage Mac OS X core technologies like Cocoa. Apple also plans to introduce new frameworks to let developers more easily leverage the potential of multicore processors. Apple has also focused on integrated support for Microsoft Exchange into its core calendar, Mail, and Address book applications. For the first time in recent memory, Apple will be offering Snow Leopard at discounted upgrade pricing for current Leopard users: $29, versus the $129 for a new license. Snow Leopard will only support Intel-based Macs, making it the first version of Apple’s operating system to abandon the company’s previous PowerPC architecture.

Apple also formally shipped version 4 of its Safari Web browser for Mac OS X and Windows, claiming more than 150 new features—but perhaps more brazenly claiming its faster than both Google Chrome and Firefox and up to seven times faster than Internet Explorer 8. Under Apple’s forthcoming Mac OS X Snow Leopard, Safari will also get some immunity to crashes caused by plug-ins like Flash: individual pages may crap out, but Safari itself should be able to keep running. (This is similar to the threaded execution offered by Google Chrome.)