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[Update, 11:40 a.m.: The event has now ended: No iPhone 5! Wow. Post updated with details on pricing and availability below.]

On stage in Cupertino, Calif., just now, Apple confirmed plans to launch a new iPhone 4S, with the same exterior design as the existing iPhone 4 but an overhauled engine underneath, including an Apple A5 microchip that delivers graphics as much as 7 times faster than the existing model.

We’re tracking the news via live blogs, including gdgt and This is My Next.

Built in will be a new voice-controlled “intelligent assistant” that lets people natural language to control the device. It’s called Siri, based on based on technology picked up by Apple through its purchase of a company of the same name.

On stage, for example, Apple executive Scott Forstall asked, “What’s the weather like today?” and the phone showed the current weather conditions.

Siri also can read messages and respond to complex requests. Asked to find a great Greek restaurant in Palo Alto, the system responds by saying it’s found five of them and sorted them by rating.

See this MIT Technology Review article on Siri for more background.

The new iPhone will download data at twice the previous rate, at theoretical peak speeds of almost 14.4 Mbps, according to Apple marketing executive Phil Schiller, who compared the rate to 4G speeds touted by the company’s competitors. Battery life will also improve, and the phone will have an 8 megapixel camera, up from 5 megapixels in the iPhone 4. The video camera will shoot in 1080p high-definition resolution.

The iPhone 4S will sell for $199 (16GB), $299 (32) and $399 (64), the existing iPhone 4 will sell for $99 — and the iPhone 3GS will come free with a wireless contract. The new phones will launch Oct. 14.

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