Apple officially took the wraps off the new 2012 iPhone this morning in San Francisco and introduced the iPhone 5. Before anything else, we’d like to express our relief that they didn’t name it “the new iPhone” the same way they did with the 3rd-gen iPad. (Seriously, that naming scheme could get awkward by the time a new “new” product arrives.) Unlike the New iPad, the iPhone 5 isn’t a slight update, following its non-S predecessors by offering a huge number of improvements packed inside an all-new design.
One of the biggest, most obvious changes on the iPhone 5 is the new 4-inch display. While it’s not that much of a surprise anymore since it’s been countlessly rumored, speculated on, leaked and photographed for months, it’s still a big deal because this is the first iPhone to rock a screen that’s bigger than the 3.5 inches. The iPhone 5 will sport a 1,136 x 640 Retina display with a pixel density of 326ppi, giving it the same screen width as the 4S, but longer. The 4-inch screen is now long enough to fit in a fifth row of icons or playing 16:9 videos without showing a letterbox.
The overall shape is still heavily influenced by the iPhone 4/4S design, with flat surfaces bordered by an aluminum band. The overall look gets an update though. As seen on a number of leaks, the iPhone 5 will feature a mix of aluminum and ceramic glass with a pronounced metal panel at the back. The aluminum band around the phone will also match the phone’s color, coming in silver for the white model, and a darker shade (Apple calls it ‘slate’) for the black version.
Despite being longer than its predecessor, Apple still managed to find a way to keep it pocket-friendly. It measures just 7.6mm thick, and weighs just 112 grams, making for a phone that’s 18% thinner and 20% lighter than the iPhone 4S. The 12% reduction in volume was done by making changes to a number of standards, beginning with the dock connector at the bottom.
In place of the 30-pin connector that’s been on every iPod, iPhone and iPad since 2007 is a new 8-pin connector called ‘Lightning’. This new dock interface uses a connector that’s 80% smaller, and described to be more durable and easier to use with a double-sided design. While it’s easier to plug in, it’s not really easier to deal with, especially if you rigged your house and car with made-for-iPhone products since it’s not compatible with existing 30-pin docks. But don’t worry. Apple (conveniently) comes to the rescue and announced a new adapter that will let you hook up the new iPhone with your old accessories. For only *cough* $29. (Pro tip: Apple’s stock is expected to shoot up thanks to this, so you might want to call your broker. Because really, despite everyone’s griping, you know they’re all going to buy at least one of these.)
Another new size reduction trick that the Apple faithful is going to have to deal with on this iPhone is its use of a completely new nano SIM card that’s smaller and 15% thinner compared to the current micro SIM standard. While this certainly helps keep the new iPhone slim and light, it’s also going to be another hurdle to jump for people who don’t want to deal with another SIM.
As expected, the iPhone 5 will now come with support for 4G LTE that’s listed to deliver “ultrafast wireless” along with support for HSPA+, DC-HSDPA, EV-DO, and EDGE tech for world-phone data support. Apple also gave it a space-saving twist by merging the voice and data functions in one chip.
In line with performance, the new iPhone also runs on a new A6 processor that’s 22 percent smaller (another size reduction) than the A5 chip on the iPhone 4S. Apple claims that the new processor will be twice as fast as its predecessor and offer double the graphics performance.
Despite the added support for LTE, the bigger screen, and the faster processor, Apple still promises “outstanding battery life”. They’re listing an 8-hour talk time on 3G, 8 hours of LTE browsing, and a 225-hour standby time on a full charge.
The iSight camera also got an update on the iPhone 5. Featuring an 8-megapixel sensor and a max resolution of 3,264 x 2448, the new camera sports backside illumination and a five-element lens that promises better low-light performance. The software also now includes a much-appreciated panorama mode for capturing ultra-wide sweep-and-stitch shots. For video, the camera is also capable of 1080p recording, with facial recognition for tracking 10 people.
Apple’s FaceTime feature also got an update. Previously only available on Wi-fi, the video chatting feature now works with cellular networks as well. The front camera is capable of recording 720p HD video.
The new iPhone will also rock improved audio features for both music and voice calls. It’s going to ship with a redesigned pair of earbuds dubbed ‘EarPods’ that not only promises better acoustics, it’s also shaped to rest comfortably inside a variety or ear types. For better calls, Apple also designed the phone with three microphones in the front, back and bottom that offer clear audio with noise cancelling tech.
The phone will arrive loaded with iOS 6, offering the new Apple-designed Maps app and an upgraded version of Siri (the voice-recognizing assistant understands more questions and commands now, with support for Twitter and Facebook updates). iOS 6 also feature full Facebook integration, allowing it to work seamlessly with a number of apps.
Pricing and availability:
Pre-orders for the iPhone 5 will start on September 14, and is scheduled to start flying off store shelves on September 21. Available in black or white colors, the iPhone 5 will maintain last year’s storage options and price points, starting at $199 (with a contract) for the 16GB version. The 32GB and 64GB versions will cost $299 and $399 respectively.