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Apple upgrades iPhone to 2.0 and adds a new 3G model

Mike Wendland
Detroit Free Press (MCT)

Now there's iPhone 2.0, a much upgraded version of the trendy smartphone from Apple that forever changed the way mobile devices communicate when it was first introduced a year ago.

The new version, announced Monday at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, refines many of the features, adds many more, and targets a major new audience: the corporate user.

By adding push e-mail and over-the-air synchronization of calendars and contact lists that supports the Microsoft Exchange Server that processes e-mail for most corporations, the iPhone now becomes- for the first time - a rival of Research In Motion's BlackBerry, the dominant smartphone that is so popular with corporate types that it's been dubbed "the CrackBerry."

The iPhone 2.0 upgrade, all software based and Internet delivered, will be free to all iPhone users in early July.

But there will also be an entirely new iPhone model – the iPhone 3G - running new hardware on the AT&T 3G – or Third Generation – high-speed wireless data network that delivers near broadband speeds. It will be available at Apple and AT&T stores starting July 11.

A major criticism of the first iPhone was that it was stuck on the much more stodgy EDGE network of AT&T, mostly because of hardware limitations.

The iPhone 3G, said Jobs, operates at 2.8 times faster than the models that run on EDGE.

In the U.S., AT&T has exclusive rights to the iPhone, reportedly for several years yet. It's been a huge boost to AT&T, much to the chagrin of Verizon and Sprint and other carriers whose customers can't use the iPhone.

The new iPhone 3G has all new and more powerful hardware that not only operates at faster wireless speeds but is capable of offering such new features as Global Positioning System navigation that can pinpoint a user's exact location, show it on a map and help plot turn-by-turn directions.

The iPhone 3G will start in price at $199 for an 8GB model in a black case. There will also be a $299 16GB model that will come in either a black plastic or white case.

The new iPhone - whether a current model with the new 2.0 software or the new 3G iPhone - will be able to run hundreds of new programs, games and special medical, educational and professional applications.

Apple showcased many of them Monday, ranging from SlingPlayer Mobile, which lets you access your home TV from your iPhone and watch your favorite programs from anywhere in the world, to various social networking applications that displays, on a map, where your friends are at any precise moment, based on GPS technology.

Other new applications written just for the iPhone came from eBay, allowing live auctions to be searched, reviewed and bid on; a blogging tool called TypePad that lets users make blog posts with photos; and a breaking news program from The Associated Press called the Mobile News Network.

There was a game called "Band," which lets musicians compose and record music over their iPhone, and "At Bat," which shows the day's Major League baseball games, the current score and even who is up at bat at that precise moment.

The new programs can be purchased and downloaded directly to the iPhone through a special App Store section on Apple's iTunes website, just as users of the iPod now do with music and videos. Most of those announced Monday were either free, or available for $9.99.

In perhaps the biggest move aimed at wooing the business crowd, Jobs announced iPhone 2.0 - and the new iPhone 3g model - will offer complete support for Microsoft Office, including the Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications.

Apple also unveiled a new service called MobileMe, that will work like Microsoft Exchange but is aimed at non corporate users. It will push e-mail and synchronize calendars and address book contacts.

Apple has announced a goal of selling 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008. Through March, it had sold some 5.5 million units, enough to give it a 28 percent share of the smartphone market, according to the research firm Canalys. Jobs said that the current total of iPhone sales is now at about 6 million.

Although that's still far short of the 41 percent share held by the BlackBerry, Apple did that in just 10 months time, in the U.S. alone. The BlackBerry, in various forms, has been on the market for almost a decade.

It has just now made the iPhone available worldwide and with the new pricing and faster network and push e-mail functions that let it compete feature-for-feature for the first time with the BlackBerry, it is expected to quickly tighten the competition.

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