The hundreds of digital camera screens angling for a photo of Steve Jobs onstage resembled lighters at a concert moments before the video screen behind the Silicon Valley megastar announced the news: “$199,” the price of the new iPhone.
Jobs, the cult leader and chief executive officer of Apple Inc., unveiled the new 3G iPhone to kick off the five-day Worldwide Developers Conference at Moscone Center on Monday. The multiuse gadget — which works as a phone, Internet browser, camera and music player — is half the price of its first incarnation. It features GPS satellite navigation and faster Internet service, and it will be available July 11.
Thousands of people — a majority of them men — packed the keynote speech and spilled into an overflow room at the convention center. Knowing that a Jobs appearance often coincides with a new Apple product announcement, fans stood in line overnight waiting to nab a seat.
Austin Sarner, an 18-year-old programmer with AppZapper.com, arrived at Moscone Center at 5 a.m. Monday and found a line wrapped around the building at Fourth and Howard streets. He applauded the new price for the iPhone because it would put the phone in the pocket of many more people.
“I think it’s going to open up the markets” for applications, he said.
The new $199 3G iPhone, which will be sold in 22 countries, will feature 8 gigabytes of storage, Jobs said. When the iPhone was first introduced in 2007, he said, the 8-gigabyte version cost $599 and now retails at $399.
“We think the 3G iPhone is going to be affordable for just about everyone,” Jobs told the crowd.
Others were disappointed that there was not an additional big announcement other than the iPhone. Dan Dosen, the owner of XML Commerce, said he had wanted to see a tablet computer.
“It’s cool, but we wish we could buy one now,” he said.
Besides the new affordable price, Jobs demonstrated the speed of the phone’s new technology by running a demo of a page download. With the new iPhone already showing the page, an old iPhone continued to work as onlookers playfully whistled the theme to “Final Jeopardy!“
Current iPhone owners who buy a new model and sign a new AT&T contract will not have to pay penalties to get out of their current contract, AT&T spokesman Michael Coe said.