Apple refreshes iPhones, MacBooks, and OS X at WWDC

It unveils a faster version of the iPhone, as well as faster notebooks. It also showed off the upcoming Snow Leopard software, iPhone OS 3.0, and more.

At Apple's annual Worldwide Developer's Conference on Monday, the company announced refreshes to its flagship hardware and software. Included was a new version of the iPhone called the iPhone 3G S, which will be in stores later this month. This version sports a faster processor, longer battery life, video recording, and a digital compass. It also comes with higher memory capacity than previous models.

In addition, Apple unveiled refreshed versions of its notebooks, which are headed to store shelves starting today. Along with the usual speed increases, the newer 13-inch and 15-inch models cost less and include SD card slots. The entire line is also using the same non-removable battery technology found in the MacBook AIR and the 17-inch model of the MacBook Pro.

Along with the new hardware, the company demoed features from the next version of Mac OS X, code-named "Snow Leopard." It will available later this year as a $29 upgrade to current Mac users. Apple also announced that the next version of the iPhone OS software (version 3.0) would be available in less than two weeks.

Here's a quick (but detailed) recap of everything that was announced:


New iPhone hardware

Apple

Apple announced a new version of the iPhone, called the iPhone 3G S. It's got the same design and pricing as the current iPhone 3G model, but sports a faster processor that Apple says will load most apps somewhere between 3 to 5 times faster. It also comes in improved capacities, all the way up to 32GB up from 16GB.

The 3G S has an updated 3-megapixel camera (up from 2 megapixels) that has autofocus and autoexposure. It can also shoot video that can be edited right on the device in a similar fashion to iMovie. The video it takes is 30 frames per second at 640x480 VGA resolution, bringing it to spec with most point-and-shoot digital cameras.

The 3G S hardware also gets a magnetometer, which will allow the device to tell what direction it's pointed in. To go along with this, there's a new compass app that will act just like a normal compass. Users with the 3G S will get additional features in the Google Maps application that show which direction they're facing.

Apple also added built-in voice control that can start calls, find songs, and other information on the phone. The iPhone has long been criticized for not having voice support.


New iPhone software

Apple announced that iPhone OS 3.0 will be available worldwide June 17 as a free update to iPhone customers, and as a $9.95 update for iPod Touch owners. For an overview of what the software does, see our previous news roundup from the mid-March developer event .

Newly announced was data tethering over USB and Bluetooth is coming as part of the software update; however it will require carrier support, which means some carriers may not allow it. There was no mention of whether AT&T will be offering as part of its iPhone service, or as a paid add-on, which it has done for some of its other devices.

Users can now rent and purchase movies from the phone. This also works for TV shows. Previously you had to do this on iTunes proper, then sync.

There's a new feature called "Find My iPhone" that will be available only for MobileMe users. It tracks down where your phone is on a map and gives you the option display a message and even perform a remote wipe.

Mobile Safari is seeing some improvements. It's getting AutoFill and support for HTTP streaming of audio and video. Apple also says that JavaScript performance is three times faster than before, meaning things like Gmail mobile will load faster.


Changes to Apple's notebook lineup

Apple introduced new versions of its 13- and 15-inch notebooks that use the same battery technology found in the 17-inch models. It's non-removable, but pumps up the use time to seven hours, up from the previous five. As part of this, the 13-inch unibody MacBook is now a part of the MacBook Pro line, meaning that the only true "MacBook" is the previous generation's plastic model.

The popular Secure Digital (or SD) card, now gets its own slot across most of Apple's notebook lineup. Apple

Apple also added built-in SD card slots to all its aluminum-body Macs, except for the top-of-the-line 17-inch model. On the 15-inch versions, this goes in place of the ExpressCard slot, which had allowed for the use of all sorts of third-party add-ons. The 13-inch unibody MacBook Pro also gets its Firewire port back, an omission on the launch model that caused much user ire.

Prices have been cut across the line, with one of the deepest coming to the MacBook Air with the solid-state hard drive. It now costs $1,799, down from $2,499.


Extended preview of new operating system

Apple demoed OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard. It will be available as a $29 upgrade for Leopard users, and for $49 as a 5-user family pack this October. It's the first version of the OS X operating system that will not work on PowerPC-based Macs, meaning only people with Intel-based Macs will be able to use it.

The operating system installs faster and takes up less space. Apple says it's half the size of the previous version of OS X and installs 45 percent faster.

A new feature puts Expose in the dock. If you hold an app's icon in the dock it will show all of the active windows in that application--similar to stacks, except it shows full previews just like it does in the current Expose. Users can do this with OS X's spring-loaded folder system to drag files into the dock, then add to precise windows they have open.

Finder, OS X's app launcher and file explorer, has been re-written. It looks and functions the same, but performance has improved. It shows previews and icons faster, and includes a customizable search tool.

Microsoft Exchange support built into Snow Leopard. Apple announced this long ago, but demoed it on stage. Exchange is now baked into the Mail, Calendar and Address Book apps. You can also search for Exchange messages that are on the server in OS X's Spotlight search.

All system apps in Snow Leopard have been rewritten to run in 64-bit mode. This gives them access to all of your system's memory. Everything also runs through "Grand Central Dispatch," which handles all the multicore threading in apps.

Snow Leopard also uses a new graphics standard called OpenCL. Apple says it's more faster and more optimized than OpenGL. Apple's making this new graphics spec open, and is getting graphics card manufacturers to add support.

The new version of QuickTime adds HTTP streaming, and a simplified UI. Apple

A new version of Quicktime (version 10) has a new UI that does away with most of the "chrome" in place of the same type of hovering controls you get when you watch videos in full screen in the current version. On the back end, it's got HTTP streaming which Apple says will work on "any Web server." It also uses a visual editing system similar to the latest version of iMovie that lets you see thumbnails of each part of a clip in a timeline.

Handwriting recognition is now built into the OS. It can be used with Apple's multitouch track pad, so that users can write in words and letters with their fingers. That's aimed at Chinese users, but it could make its way into English apps as well.

Other tidbits:
Safari 4 is out of beta today. The new version keeps plug-ins from crashing the browser. Instead users can just reload the page. Also it has a full-history search of every site you've ever been to, which can be accessed in Spotlight system search.

The white color of the iPhone 3G has been discontinued. You can only get a white iPhone if you get the new 3G S model, or whatever white 3G stock is left in retail stores.

The halo effect seems to be true. Apple says that OS X users have tripled since the release of the iPhone.

The iPhone will now support more than 30 languages.

About the author

Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.

 

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