- Associated Press - Monday, September 17, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) - Makers of consumer electronics have been refreshing their products for the holiday shopping season. Apple unveiled a new iPhone, while Amazon started selling new tablet computers and e-readers. Nintendo offered details for the first major game console in years.

These are some of the gadgets to expect in the coming months:

_ NEW IPHONE

Orders for the iPhone 5 started last week. The new phone is bigger, but thinner than previous models and works with faster cellular networks known as 4G.


Apple Inc. began taking orders at 3 a.m. EDT Friday, promising delivery by this Friday, when the new phone also goes on sale in stores. Within hours, the expected delivery time had grown to two weeks. Apple said Monday that orders topped 2 million in 24 hours, more than double the amount for last year’s iPhone.

Apple is also updating its phone software and will ditch Google Inc.’s mapping service for its own. Besides appearing on the new phone, the new iOS 6 software will be a free upgrade for older devices, including the past three iPhones and the past two iPads. That upgrade will be available starting Wednesday.

Sales of Apple’s iPhones are still strong, though the company lost the lead in smartphones to Samsung this year. Samsung Electronics Co. benefited from having its Galaxy S III out in the U.S. in June. A new iPhone will allow Apple to recapture the attention and the revenue.

_ SMALLER IPAD

Apple has done well selling its full-sized tablet computer, which has a screen that measures nearly 10 inches diagonally. Many companies have come out with iPad alternatives, but the ones that have had moderate success have tended to be those with smaller, 7-inch screens and lower price tags.

There’s speculation that Apple will come out with a mini iPad _ possibly with a 7.85-inch screen _ to maintain its dominance. Although Apple said nothing about it last week when it revealed the iPhone 5, the belief is that it will come this fall.

_ REKINDLING THE FIRE

Amazon.com Inc.’s 7-inch Kindle Fire is one of the smaller tablets with decent sales. On Friday, it started shipping an updated version with a faster processor, more memory and longer battery life. It also cut the price to $159, from $199, making it far cheaper than the iPad, which starts at $399 for the 2011 version still on sale. (The most recent ones start at $499.)

Amazon is also releasing higher-end models under the Kindle Fire HD line. A 7-inch one goes for $199 and an 8.9-inch one for $299. There’s also a $499 model that can use the 4G cellular networks that phone companies have been building. A data plan will cost an extra $50 a year. The smaller HD model started shipping Friday, while the larger ones will be available Nov. 20.

Buyers of the Fire HD will get the option to turn off the advertisements that appear on its standby screen for $15.

Amazon also refreshed its line of stand-alone e-readers, offering the Paperwhite, with its own light source. Tablets such as the iPad and the Fire don’t work as well in bright light because they are lit from the back. Amazon says the light on the Paperwhite is directed down at the display.

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