The story of the iPhone, continuing with the 2012 iPhone 5, which added a lighter casing, faster connection, and taller display
WWDC once again came and went without any new iPhone announcements, re-affirming that that 2011 hadn't be a fluke. Fall was the new summer. So it was that Apple announced another iPhone event for September 12, 2012. There Apple SVP of worldwide marketing announced the biggest thing to happen to the iPhone since the original iPhone. Big as in in thinner and lighter. Big as in screaming fast LTE. Big as in a taller screen. Big as in the iPhone 5.
“iPhone 5 is the most beautiful consumer device that we’ve ever created,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “We’ve packed an amazing amount of innovation and advanced technology into a thin and light, jewel-like device with a stunning 4-inch Retina display, blazing fast A6 chip, ultrafast wireless, even longer battery life; and we think customers are going to love it.”
Loving it was easy
iPhone 5, codenamed N41/N42 and model number iPhone5,1, was the fourth major redesign and the second major improvement to the iPhone's display. It went from a 3:2 aspect ration to a more cinematic 16:9. The density stayed the same, at 326ppi, so that resulted in a size increase to 4-inches and pixel count increase to 1136x640 to fill up all that extra space. It allowed for an extra row of icons, an extra message, and extra everything in general. Apple also switched to in-cell technology, which let them combine the touch sensor and LCD into one layer. If the pixels previously looked like they were painted beneath glass, the iPhone 5 made them look like they were painted inside the glass. It also reduced reflections. Somewhat. Apple had succeeded in once again making the best, if not the biggest, display in the business.
Though the overall rounded-rectangle shape of the iPhone 5 stayed the same, Apple rebuilt the casing from the atoms on up. Instead of a glass back and stainless steel band, they went back to the aluminum of the original iPhone but this time made it a unibody that covered the back and sides. Ceramic/pigmented glass was still used on the top and bottom for RF transparency, however, resulting in a two-tone effect. Apple offered both white and silver (Stormtrooper) and black and slate (Vader). The silver was clear-coated aluminum. The slate was anodized. Dark colors, especially black, are hard to anodize and that did cause some issues for Apple when it came to scratching and chipping. It resulted in an iPhone that had a a bigger screen, yet 12% less volume than its predecessor. It also required a machining process that no other company on earth could have produced at that scale. (It was, quite frankly, machinist porn.)
The iPhone 5 also debuted Apple's first custom processor. Previous Apple A-series processors had been based on existing ARM reference designs. For the Apple A5, Apple licensed the ARM v7s instruction set and made their own design -- a 32nm CMOS dual-core Apple CPU that can run from between 800MHz and 1.2GHz. And they topped it off with a triple-core PowerVR SGX543MP3 GPU and 1GB of RAM. It was roughly twice as fast. Again. There was no new storage option, however, so 64GB remained the max. The battery did creep up again, though, to 1440mAh. That, along with new efficiencies, increased useful battery life.
The Apple A5 image signal processor (ISP) added spatial noise reduction as well as increased speed. Because of the 25% thinner body, Apple wasn't able to include a better physical camera (cameras love depth) but they somehow managed to squeeze a camera into it that was just as good as the iPhone 4S. Re-branded under the old "iSight" name, Apple did add a new, dynamic low-light mode which they claimed was up to 2 f-stops better. Apple also claimed the 5-element lens has been aligned with even greater precision for even greater sharpness. Also, the surface of the iSight was switched to sapphire crystal to make it more scratch resistant. The front, FaceTime camera went 720p, becoming FaceTime HD.