A new sleeker version of the iPhone was unveiled by Apple chief executive Steve Jobs yesterday.
The new model, 24 per cent slimmer than its predecessor and dubbed iPhone 4, will have a camera on the front for video calls, a stainless steel case, integrated antenna, and improved display. It will also have a gyroscope which, combined with other existing functions, will give it "six-axis motion sensing", increasing the number of software applications that involve tilting or pointing.
Ever the showman, Mr Jobs hailed the changes as the "biggest leap" the US technology giant had taken since the launch of the original iPhone, which has transformed the way people on the move interact with the web through software applications, or apps.
"These phones are getting more and more intelligent about the world around them," Mr Jobs said.
"FaceTime video calling sets a new standard for mobile communication, and our new Retina display is the highest resolution display ever in a phone, with text looking like it does on a fine printed page. We have been dreaming about both of these breakthroughs for decades."
He announced the changes at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. But the technology website Gizmodo had already published details of a prototype of the iPhone after one was left in a bar by an Apple employee.
Acknowledging the leak, Mr Jobs said: "Some of you have already seen this." Wi-fi access was shut down in the hall to allow a demonstration of its features. There were few major technological advancements from the current model, which has become the gold standard in the smartphone market.
However, British retailers are still expecting a scramble for the phones when they go on sale on 24 June. Carphone Warehouse is offering customers the opportunity to register online for the handset now. "There is always a huge amount of excitement whenever a new iPhone is released and we are expecting a stampede of customers to hit our stores as soon as the handset is available," said Andrew Harrison, its chief executive.
The changes are the second big launch from Apple in a month.
The company launched its iPad tablet computer worldwide two weeks ago. That launch was overshadowed by a row over the suicides of 10 workers making the iPad and IPhone at the Taiwanese-owned Foxconn plant in Shenzhen, China this year.
Mr Jobs subsequently claimed that conditions at the factory were good and yesterday Foxconn raised wages by 70 per cent, following a 30 per cent increase the previous week.
Although temporarily damaging, the controversy is unlikely to dim the public's appetite for the company's best-selling gadgets.
Historically, Apple has led technology, pioneering more user-friendly desktop computers in the 1980s and 1990s. In the past decade it revolutionised music with the iPod and iTunes and the phone market with the iPhone.
Technology pundits warned, though, that the firm based in Cupertino, California, would have to work hard to retain its reputation.
Although the iPhone is gaining share globally, it faces a slew of new competitors and, at around 15 per cent of the smartphone market, lags behind Blackberry and market-leader Symbian, according to the research firm Gartner.
Adam Leach, principal analyst at Ovum, said: "The rise of Google Android over two years has been phenomenal and is allowing manufacturers to create appealing alternatives to the iPhone, critically at cheaper prices."
He went on: "These handsets are more than just iPhone clones. The risk to Apple is that these devices offer greater freedom with available content and may prove more appealing if it offers the right user and developers experience, than a device with Apple approved content only."
While the company's BlackBerry remains the smartphone of choice for many corporations that need fast email, Apple's prime target remains the consumer. The public has been seduced by its style and the new-look iPhone is intended to keep the company making the sleekest gadgets for customers.