iPhone 4S: New Apple phone draws muted response

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California.

Apple Inc took the wraps off a new iPhone on Tuesday, but may have left some fans wishing for more than an updated version of last year’s smartphone.

Newly minted CEO Tim Cook helmed his first major product launch with aplomb. The operations and supply-chain expert, not known for pitching products, stood in for ailing co-founder Steve Jobs, who did not show up as some expected he would.

The new iPhone is faster, souped-up and comes with voice recognition and a better camera as expected, but did little to lift the bar for smartphones.

Investors and Apple fans, who were looking to be blown away by some amazing new surprise, sent the shares down as much as 3 percent. “It’s been 16 months and all you’ve got is an A5 processor in the existing iPhone 4,” said BGC Partners’ analyst Colin Gillis.

The latest iPhone come at a critical juncture as Android phones by Samsung Electronics and other competitors close in on Apple’s lead. Android phones dominate the U.S. market three years after Google introduced the software.

Some shareholders and analysts were expecting a cameo appearance by Jobs, now chairman. The pancreatic cancer survivor, who handed the reins to Cook in August after taking his third medical leave, has not yet appeared.

Apple launches are some of the hottest events on the tech calendar. Tuesday’s “Let’s talk iPhone” show marked Cook’s unofficial debut since taking over from Jobs in August.

Apple must sustain the popularity of its iPhone 4, which is more than a year old. Apple sold more than 20 million units in the third quarter, which ended June 25.

The iPhone, which accounts for more than 40 percent of Apple’s sales, has been a big success since it came out in 2007, making Apple into one of the world’s leading consumer electronics companies.

The company also claims inroads into a corporate market dominated by Research in Motion. It said more than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies are testing or using its iPhones and iPads.

RIM shares trading on the Nasdaq stock market were down nearly 3 percent. Apple’s shares fell about 1 percent to $371.32, while Google shares fell 1.4 percent.

INTENSIFYING COMPETITION

The iPhone event took place at Apple Central — the same venue where the iPod first was introduced years ago — versus the larger, splashier venues of more recent choice such as downtown San Francisco’s Moscone center.

The restricted attendance may have triggered a surge in online viewership, which slowed or crashed live blogs run by websites such as Engadget, Wired and Gizmodo.

Interest was high with Google emerging as a formidable competitor after three years of rapid market expansion.

The latest version of the iPhone comes as the economy slows and competition intensifies. More than 550,000 Android-based devices — including tablets — are activated each day.

Nielsen data shows the iPhone was No. 2 in the United States with a 28 percent market share, with Android at 43 percent.

Globally, iPhone shipments rose 9.1 percent in the second quarter while Nokia’s plummeted more than 30 percent, handing the top spot to Apple with a market share of 18.4 percent, according to IHS iSuppli. Samsung, whose shipments grew faster, is coming on strong with a market share of 17.8 percent.


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