New iPhone 5 out in time for Christmas

Apple’s new iPhone 5 — unveiled in San Francisco yesterday after a 15-month hiatus — arrives just in time for the crucial holiday shopping season in the US.

Apple hopes to fend off hard- charging rivals running Google’s Android, and safeguard its lead with the fifth incarnation of the iconic device.

Its new voice commands will let users make appointments in their calendars, send text messages or e-mails, and surf the web, said Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray. Apple already has basic voice-control abilities on the iPhone for placing a call or accessing a song.

Voice technology is emerging as the latest arena for Apple’s rivalry with Google, which has spent years promoting speech technology. Google features transcribe voice messages to text and perform web searches based on verbal commands.

The challenge so far has been getting mainstream users to adopt the technology, said venture capitalist Larry Marcus.

Apple launches are some of the hottest events on the tech calendar. Yesterday’s event marked newly appointed CEO Tim Cook’s unofficial debut since taking over from co-founder Steve Jobs in August. Mr Jobs is now chairman.

With the launch of the new phone, Apple faces the challenge of surpassing the popularity of its current iPhone 4, a 15-month-old model and bona fide hit, with more than 20-million sold in the third quarter ended June 25.

Some on Wall Street also expected the company to unveil a cheaper model tailor-made for the fast-growing Asian market, one of the few arenas where Apple can accelerate its growth.

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