Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage in Cupertino at 10am Pacific time today. Announcements thus far have included an iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s, as expected. The 5c will be available in 5 new colors, at a surprisingly low price: starting at $99 with a 2-year contract. The 5s with a faster chip will be available in 3 colors (white, black and gold or champagne, as some people are calling it). The 5s is estimated to be 40 times faster than the original iPhone.
In addition, Apple announced users will be able to download the much-anticipated iOS7 operating system for existing devices, starting Sept. 18.
The 5c is positioned as the lower-priced iPhone and is targeted in particular at the huge, growing market in China. It's U.S. price came in under $250, as analysts predicted. Also as predicted, the invitation for Apple's event reflects the plastic casing colors for the new 5c -- blue, green, pink, yellow and white. The iPhone 5 will be cut from Apple's lineup, but the 4S will be retained.
A fingerprint is integrated into the iPhone 5s home button to identify the device's owner. Cook demonstrated that the phone could be unlocked merely by touching the home button -- no more swipe-to-unlock with a PIN needed. The scanner-button also is integrated into iTunes, so that entering a password is no longer necessary to make iTunes purchases.
While there were rumors that near-field communication (NFC) technology would be integrated into this version of the iPhone, not a word was uttered at the event that it would be included.
A beta version of iOS 7, released in July to developers, contained code for biometric scanning that handled fingerprint recognition from a left or right thumb. The code also included a tutorial section with a photo of a person holding the iPhone with their right hand "while touching the Home button with their thumb."
AuthenTec Identity Management
A year ago, Apple spent more than a third of a billion dollars to buy a company called AuthenTec, which provides fingerprint sensor and identity management technology for devices, and for governments and networking companies. That move provided the basis for rumors that proved to be true, regarding Apple integrating fingerprint technology in its new, high-end iPhone 5s.
Also last week, a new patent was awarded to the company for accessing levels of apps, device services and functions via a series of gestures. This could be used, for example, to allow different family members to share the same mobile devices but access their separate accounts via different gestures. It's not yet clear if such gestural levels will be included in the new models.
Following Tuesday's anticipated announcement in the U.S., another press event is scheduled for Wednesday in China, presumably to show the new iPhones and to announce a new agreement with that country's largest wireless carrier, China Mobile.