Following months of heavy leaks, Apple today officially introduced the iPhone 5, the sixth-generation version of its groundbreaking 2007 smartphone. Housed in a new aluminum and glass frame first revealed by iLounge in May, the iPhone 5 now sports a 4” Retina display with a 16:9 aspect ratio, jumping to 1136 x 640 resolution from the prior 960 x 640. Thanks to the added real estate, it’s able to display six rows of icons at a time, and will run older iPhone applications centered in the middle of the screen.
As expected, the new phone is 7.6 mm thick, making it the world’s thinnest smartphone, and with a 3.95-ounce weight, it’s also 20 percent lighter than the shorter iPhone 4S. The iPhone 5 accomplishes some of its thinness by using in-cell technology, as the touch sensors are integrated into the display rather than requiring a separate layer. Battery life is billed at 8 hours for LTE calling or browsing, 10 hours for Wi-Fi browsing and video, and 40 hours for music.
A newly developed A6 processor powers the new iPhone, and is said to be twice as fast as the previous A5 processor across multiple tasks, yet 22 percent smaller. The phone also comes equipped with 4G LTE technology, and Apple has again partnered with AT&T, Verizon and Sprint in the U.S. as initial LTE carriers, with HSPA+ and DC-HSPDA support as cellular fallbacks in areas without LTE coverage. A unique dynamic antenna, a single chip for voice and data, and a single radio chip are included inside, reducing power consumption and enabling the reduction in thickness. Newly enhanced Wi-Fi for the device features dual-band networking — 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz on 802.11n for speeds up to 150 Mbps.
The new iSight rear-facing camera remains at its predecessor’s 8MP resolution, and is backside illuminated with a hybrid IR filter and durable sapphire crystal lens. Panorama mode has been added as a software feature, allowing very high-resolution images to be captured and seamlessly stitched together to create up to 28MP-wide photos. The camera also features face detection, a new dynamic low light mode with improved low light image quality, and precision lens alignment. Photo capture is said to be 40 percent faster than before. Users can now take pictures while recording video, as well. Apple’s front-facing FaceTime camera is now FaceTime HD capable, with video recording at up to 720p, backside illumination, and superior low-light performance. FaceTime over Cellular is also possible on supported networks.
For the first time, a total of three microphones are featured on the iPhone 5: one each on the back, front, and bottom. The iPhone 5 now supports wideband audio for higher-quality telephone conversations, a feature that will be supported by at least 20 carriers. Additionally, Apple claims the bottom speaker is better and smaller than before.
Of course, the device will run iOS 6, which prominently includes the new Maps app. The app will include a built-in search engine capable of perusing more than 100 million points of interest. Satellite imagery featuring 3-D modeling and turn-by-turn directions are also included in the app, which was shown for the first time months ago. Thanks to extra room on the screen, Mail and Calendar apps can show more information on the iPhone 5, and Apple’s Keynote, Pages, Numbers, iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand apps have all been updated and optimized for the new device.
Somewhat controversially, Apple’s new nine-pin, reversible dock connector replacement is featured on the iPhone 5’s bottom, and named Lightning. The iPhone 5 will be electronically incompatible with all prior-generation docking accessories made for Apple’s devices, however, Apple will release a new adapter to let the iPhone plug into some but not all 30-pin Dock Connector accessories. This adapter will notably be released some time after the iPhone 5, breaking compatibility in the process.
The iPhone 5 is priced at $199, $299, and $399, for 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models, respectively, with a two-year contract. Pre-orders start Friday, Sept. 14. It comes in a black with “slate” metal version or white with silver metal version, each shipping on Sept. 21.