SAN FRANCISCO – Apple Computer Inc. chief executive Steve Jobs (search) introduced a long-anticipated music-playing cell phone on Wednesday and surprised the faithful with a new pencil-thin iPod.
The phone, called the ROKR (search) and made by Motorola Inc., will come loaded with iTunes software, store up to 100 songs and include a color display screen and a built-in camera.
The ROKR, Apple's first foray into the mobile telephony market, will include built-in dual-stereo speakers as well as stereo headphones that also serve as a mobile headset.
Users will not be able to load the phone with music files over cellular networks, however. They must transfer songs from their computers. That contrasts with popular over-the-air music purchases available in such countries as Japan.
The new iPod, called the Nano, replaces the iPod Mini (search). In contrast with the Mini, which is hard drive-based, the Nano relies on flash memory, making it lighter and more energy-efficient.
One-third the size of the Mini, the Nano weighs about 1.5 ounces and will fit into a breast pocket. Apple says it can store up to 1,000 songs or 25,000 photos.
"Nano is the biggest revolution since the original iPod," Jobs crowed at an event for journalists and invited guests. "It's impossibly small. ... It's thinner than a No. 2 pencil."
Besides music, the Nano features games, photo storage and a calendar. It also has a "screen lock" feature that allows no one except the user to access content.
A 4-gigabyte Nano will retail for $249, and a 2-gigabyte model will sell for $199. The devices will be in stores as soon as Thursday and are likely to be widely available by the weekend, Apple said.
The Nano is a sign that Apple intends with its market-dominating iPod players to rely more on flash memory, which is becoming cheaper, said Susan Kevorkian, a research analyst with IDC.
"Apple is positioning themselves to take advantage of those price drops," Kevorkian said. "Flash is more stable than hard drives, which are in many MP3 players, including the 60-gigabyte iPod."
The ROKR phone will be offered by Cingular Wireless in the United States.
On the phone, music will automatically shut off when a call is received and users can listen to music while text-messaging.
The phones, which sell for $250 with a two-year commitment at all Cingular stores nationwide, go on sale Thursday.
In addition to the new phone and iPod, Apple also announced that Acura, Audi, Honda and Volkswagen will offer iPod connectivity with their car stereos for 2006 model lines.
Madonna made an appearance at the event via a video phone call to announce that she would make her music available for download for the first time.
All of the singers' songs will be offered through the iTunes library.
"I got tired of not being able to download my own music," Madonna said.