Apple has announced beefed-up specs for its eagerly anticipated iPhone today - 11 days before the product's official launch.

Battery life has been ramped up significantly from 5 hours to 8 hours talktime. Standby time has also increased from an estimated 160 hours to a confirmed 250 hours.

Apple has improved internet surfing time to 6 hours (up from 5 hours) as well. It's given the iPhone better video playback at 6 hours (compared to 5 hours previously) and 24 hours of audio playback (up a staggering 8 hours from 16 hours).

The iPhone also gets a new optical quality glass display. That's instead of the originally specified plastic one "for superior scratch resistance and clarity," Apple CEO Steve Jobs says.

Apple iPhone to be sold contract-free?

It's not clear from the press release Apple issued today, but it's possible that the 2-year lock-in to US network AT&T has gone.

Apple quietly dropped the contract requirement statement from its US TV adverts a while back, despite the fact that it is required to state any contract restrictions by law. This suggests that Apple may sell the iPhone both with and without an AT&T contract , something that's hinted at by this paragraph from the US press release:

"iPhone will be available in the US on June 29, 2007 in a 4GB model for $499 and an 8GB model for $599, and will work with either a PC or Mac. iPhone will be sold in the US through Apple's retail and online stores, and through AT&T's select retail stores."

Apple compares the iPhone to its rivals

Apple has also compared the iPhone with what it sees as its direct competitors - products the iPhone comprehensively beats according to Apple's carefully selected criteria.

It compares the iPhone to four rival products: the Nokia N95 , Samsung Blackjack , RIM Blackberry Curve 8300 and Palm Treo 750 . You can see the comparison table in the photo library at the top right of this story.

The news comes on top of new video on the Apple website revealing some of the iPhone's key technologies.