Apple hopes to widen smartphone sales lead with new iPhone

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SAN FRANCISCO — Apple unveiled a new version of the iPhone in an overhaul aimed at widening its lead over Samsung Electronics and Google in the $219.1 billion smartphone market.

The new device will be called iPhone 5, Apple said Wednesday at a news conference in San Francisco. The smartphone has a larger screen and is thinner and lighter than earlier models. The device will also sport a faster processor, new mapping software and enhancements to the voice-recognition feature Siri, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

Coming almost a year after the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, the next iPhone is the first hardware redesign of the product since 2010. After popularizing handheld-touchscreen devices that offer swift Web downloads and a range of games, entertainment and productivity tools, Apple is seeking to stay ahead of competitors including Samsung, Google, Microsoft and Nokia in a market that surged 78 percent last year.

Because Apple introduces only one new iPhone a year, each debut is critical. Apple has sold more than 244 million units since its 2007 introduction, and the handset now accounts for about two-thirds of profit. Its popularity has led investors to catapult Apple’s market value to above $620 billion, making it the world’s most valuable company.

“They have built a juggernaut,” said Matt Murphy, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the venture capital firm that invests in iPhone application companies. “This is going to be an absolutely blowout, homerun product.”

The new iPhone, Apple’s sixth since 2007, works with so- called long-term evolution, or LTE, data networks being introduced by companies including AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless. Samsung and Google’s Motorola Mobility are among the manufacturers that have already introduced LTE handsets, which carriers say enables quicker video, music and other content downloads, compared with the existing 3G wireless networks.

By adding a bigger screen, Apple also is following a trend started by other handset makers, including Samsung, HTC and Motorola Mobility.

The new iPhone also features tighter integration with Facebook, letting users quickly post pictures, links and other content to the world’s largest social network. The partnership is similar to one announced last year with Twitter.

Apple enhanced the speech-command service Siri, adding features that let users search for sports scores and make dinner reservations by speaking to the smartphone.

Apple may sell 10 million iPhones by the end of September, according to Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos. The company may sell 48.2 million through December, the average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Wednesday’s event highlighted Apple’s growing rivalry with Google, maker of the Android operating system that powers about half the world’s smartphones. Apple introduced its own mapping software to replace Google and also removed Google’s online video service, YouTube, from the batch of applications preinstalled on the iPhone.

With thousands of developers writing programs for Apple’s App Store, Wednesday’s announcement is among the most highly anticipated technology events of the year. At TechCrunch’s Disrupt technology conference under way in San Francisco this week, a whole panel was dedicated to digesting Apple’s news.

The iPhone introduction also can benefit the network of suppliers that make iPhone components. Samsung manufactures the microprocessor that is the main brain of the device, while Qualcomm is the maker of the chip that connects it to wireless networks. The iPhone, like other Apple products, is assembled in China by Foxconn Technology.