By ANICK JESDANUN, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Nintendo disclosed the price and release date of its new Wii U game machine and unveiled television features for it. Thursday's announcement comes as a host of companies launch new gadgets for the holiday season.
The Wii U will go on sale in the U.S. on Nov. 18. A basic, white model will cost $300. A deluxe version, which comes in black and sports extra features, will cost $50 more.
Nintendo Co. has been trying to drum up excitement for the Wii U, the first major gaming console to launch since 2006. The device has a touch-screen controller called the Wii U GamePad. That controller will work as a fancy remote control for a new "Nintendo TVii" service.
Makers of consumer electronics have been refreshing their products for the holiday shopping season. Apple announced a new iPhone and other products on Wednesday, while Amazon, Nokia and Motorola unveiled new mobile devices last week.
These are some of the gadgets to expect in the coming months:
— NEW IPHONE
On Friday, advance orders for the iPhone 5 will start. The new smartphones from Apple Inc. go on sale a week later in the U.S. and eight other countries. They are bigger, but thinner than previous models and they work with faster cellular networks known as 4G.
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 next 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 Wednesday 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 will sell an updated version with a faster processor, more memory and longer battery life. It will 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 will go for $199, while an 8.9-inch one will go 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 will start 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.
Barnes and Noble Inc., which makes the 7-inch Nook Tablet, may have an update this fall as well.
Toys R Us, meanwhile, said Monday that it is making a 7-inch tablet aimed at children. The Tabeo will go on sale Oct. 21 for $149.99.
— MOTOROLA'S RETURN
Though it's a pioneer in the cellphone industry, Motorola hasn't had a hit since the Razr phone came out in 2004. Under new owner Google Inc., Motorola Mobility is trying to change that.
Last week, Motorola announced three new smartphones bearing the Razr name. The $99 Droid Razr M is now on sale. Two high-end models, the Razr HD and Razr Maxx HD, are coming this year.