Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks in front of an image of an iPhone 4S at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California.

London - Apple on Tuesday night launched its newest innovation... an iPhone that talks.

In a world first, users will be able to ask the iPhone 4S questions such as “What is the weather like today?” and receive a spoken forecast from a robotic female voice.

The voice recognition system, called Siri, introduces itself as “your humble personal assistant”.

It can even deal with more complex queries such as “Do I need a raincoat today?” It would answer, for example, “It sure looks like rain today”.

Users can also ask Siri about movements in stocks and shares or the location of the nearest restaurant without having to tap the question into the touchscreen device.

And it can be asked to “Wake me up at 6am” or tell the time in Paris or New York. The phone can also read out emails, call up songs, remind users about the need to make an important call and search the web based solely on voice instructions.

Apple executive Phil Schiller said: “What we really want to do is talk to our device and get a response. We don’t want to be told how to talk to it, we want to talk however we like.”

The phone can be pre-ordered from Friday, while the handset will be available in shops from October 14.

In the US, it will have a starting price of $199 (about R1500) for a 16GB version, rising to $400 for a 64GB handset.

Prices in Britain have not yet been announced.

The arrival of the new version means existing iPhone handsets will be cut in price. An 8GB iPhone 4 will sell in the US for just $99).

Tuesday’s launch was led by Apple’s new chief executive Tim Cook, who took over from Steve Jobs earlier this year after the company’s founder stepped down due to pancreatic cancer.

He revealed that the iPhone 4S looks the same as its predecessor on the outside - but claimed it is “all new” on the inside.

Significantly, it includes the dual core A5 computer chip used in the company’s successful tablet computer, the iPad 2.

There is an improved camera, which means images are 30 percent sharper. And the company is claiming much better reception and faster data downloads.

But there was disappointment among some Apple fans and industry analysts that the company had announced an upgrade of the iPhone 4 rather than an all-singing all-dancing iPhone 5, with significant hardware improvements. Apple shares were trading down by more than three percent following the launch.

Ernest Doku, technology expert at uSwitch.com, said: “The simple fact that what was announced was not called an iPhone 5 will leave many feeling rather empty.” But he added: “Siri has the potential to revolutionise how we use our mobiles.”

The iPhone 4S was among several innovations announced by the technology giant at a press conference at its California headquarters. Among the others was a new iPod Nano, a music player that can be worn like a watch and includes software that allows it to be used by fitness fanatics to monitor their running routes and speed.

A new operating system - iOS 5 - will become available as a free update for iPhones from October 12.

All Apple purchases will, in future, be stored in the so-called iCloud, computer servers belonging to the company which can be accessed via any of a users devices - laptop, iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone. Purchased apps, music or books will automatically become available on all the users Apple devices.

There are also a raft of new apps, including Find My Friends, where the location of friends and family can be plotted on a map.

This includes a facility allowing parents to see where their children are, combined with blocking technology to stop them turning it off. - Daily Mail