Attention now on iPhone in holiday tech bonanza

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11 Sep 2012 , 15:13

Attention is turning to Apple this week amid expectations that it’s announcing a new iPhone.

Amazon, Nokia and Motorola all tried to generate interest in their products last week, hoping that a head start on the buzz will translate into stronger sales.

Amazon announced four new Kindle Fire models and a new line of stand-alone e-readers, while Nokia and Motorola unveiled five new smartphones between them.

Logo from Apple’s Developer Conference earlier this year

Makers of consumer electronics are refreshing their products for the holiday shopping season.

Nokia and Microsoft, in particular, are trying to generate interest in a new Windows operating system out next month. The two phones announced by Nokia are among the first to run Windows Phone 8.

Sales of Apple’s iPhones are still strong, though the company lost the lead in smartphones to Samsung this year. Samsung Electronics benefited from having its Galaxy S III out in the US in June, while Apple was still selling an iPhone model released last October. A new iPhone is expected as early as this month, allowing Apple to recapture attention and revenue.

Apple dominates the market for tablet computers. Seven out of every 10 tablets shipped in the second quarter were iPads, according to research firm IHS iSuppli.

Rivals have been trying to compete with smaller, cheaper models – such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire. New models from Amazon include ones with screens nearly as large as the iPad’s, while there’s speculation that Apple will be coming out with a smaller iPad.

Here’s a look at what to expect in the coming months:

New iPhone

Apple Inc. has come out with a new iPhone each year, and that’s likely to continue. The new model is expected to work with fourth-generation, or 4G, cellular networks that phone companies have been building. That capability is something the S III and many other iPhone rivals already have. A bigger iPhone screen is also possible.

Apple will host an event in San Francisco on Wednesday. The topic wasn’t disclosed, but the email invitation contains a shadow in the shape of a “5” – a sign that the iPhone 5 is coming. Sales usually begin a week or two after such an announcement.

Apple plans to update its phone software this fall and will ditch Google’s mapping service for its own, as a rivalry between the companies intensifies.

Smaller iPad

Apple has done well selling its full-sized tablet computer. Many companies have tried to come out with iPad alternatives, but the ones that have had moderate success have tended to be those with smaller screens and lower price tags.

There’s speculation that Apple will come out with a mini iPad this fall to compete with those competitors. It’s not as much a certainty as a new iPhone, though. Apple hasn’t said anything about its plans.

Rekindling the Fire

Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle Fire is one of the smaller tablets with decent sales. On Friday, it will sell an updated version with a faster processor, more memory and longer battery life.

Amazon is also releasing higher-end models under the Kindle Fire HD line.

Amazon also refreshed its line of stand-alone e-readers, offering the Paperwhite, with its own light source. Tablets such as the iPad and the Fire don’t work as well in bright light because they are lit from the back. Amazon says the light on the Paperwhite is directed down at the display.

The return of Motorola

Though it’s a pioneer in the cellphone industry, Motorola hasn’t had a hit since the Razr phone came out in 2004. Under new owner Google Inc., Motorola Mobility is trying to change that.

Last week, Motorola announced three new smartphones bearing the Razr name. Motorola will have two high-end models, the Razr HD and Razr Maxx HD, later this year.

These are the first major products from Motorola since Google bought the company for $12.4 billion in May. Google, meanwhile, continues to sell an Android tablet, the Nexus 7, made in partnership with AsusTek Computer Inc.

Calling on Windows

Microsoft Corp. will release a new version of the Windows operating system on Oct. 26, one that’s designed to work on both traditional computers and tablet devices. A new version of the Windows Phone system is coming out, too.

Once-dominant phone maker Nokia Corp. has been struggling in the shadow of Apple and Android, and it’s counting on the new Windows system for a revival. Last week, Nokia and Microsoft unveiled two new devices under Nokia’s Lumia brand – the 820 and the 920.

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop says the new phones will go on sale in the fourth quarter in “select markets.” He didn’t say what they would cost. Investors were disappointed, and Nokia’s stock fell 16 percent on the day of the announcement.

Samsung, which surpassed Nokia as the world’s largest maker of mobile phones in 2011 and overtook Apple in smartphones this year, showed off a Windows 8 phone late last month. It didn’t announce an availability date either.

Surface

Microsoft plans its own tablet computer, too. It’s new territory for Microsoft, which typically leaves it to others to make devices using its software. Now, it will be competing against its partners.

The Surface tablet will come in two versions, both with screens slightly larger than the iPad’s. One model will run on phone-style chips, just like the iPad, and will be sold for a similar price. A heavier, more expensive version will run on Intel chips and be capable of running standard Windows applications. The Surface will go on sale on Oct. 26.

New BlackBerry

A year ago, Research In Motion Ltd. disclosed that it was working on a next-generation phone system for the BlackBerry, which now looks ancient next to the iPhone and Android devices. It was supposed to be out in time for this year’s holiday season. That won’t happen.

In June, RIM pushed the release of BlackBerry 10 devices into early next year, saying it wasn’t ready. That means RIM will not only compete with the new iPhone and Android devices out this fall, but it will also have to contend with the new Windows devices.

Associated Press


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