The new iPhone 5 gets more than an incremental update, compared to the iPhone 4 to iPhone 4S. Image: Apple
This year’s wait for Apple’s new smartphone is over. Apple revealed the iPhone 5, its sixth-generation smartphone, at a press event in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on Wednesday.
Unlike the mainly under-the-hood update from the iPhone 4 to iPhone 4S, Apple has made significant changes with the iPhone 5. It was something the company was trumpeting. “We’ve updated every aspect of iPhone 5,” Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller said at the event.
With so many hardware, spec and feature improvements, there’s a lot to take in with Apple’s latest smartphone. We’ve gathered the most pertinent details you need to know about before the device goes on sale September 21.
Thinner, Lighter, Bigger
Most noticeably, the iPhone 5 sports a larger, 4-inch screen thanks to a longer body. With the extra size, the iPhone 5 is able to fit another row of app icons onto the screen. This also means that apps that take advantage of the new screen size will have more space for information. For example, Apple’s built-in Calendar app can show more daily events. (Apps that aren’t updated for the new screen will run at the 3.5-inch screen size with black borders at the top and bottom.)
The iPhone 5 is also the thinnest and lightest iPhone yet. With a body built entirely of glass and aluminum, the device measures 7.6 mm thick and weighs 112 grams. That’s 18 percent thinner, 20 percent lighter and overall has 12 percent less volume than the iPhone 4S. As for color options, Apple is sticking to its standard black and white models.
Better Screen Quality
The iPhone 5’s screen isn’t just larger, it also looks better according to Apple. The phone features a 326 PPI, 1136×640-pixel Retina display — that’s 18 percent more pixel density than the iPhone 4S. The display also has 44 percent more color saturation than the 4S. “This is the most accurate display in the industry,” Schiller bragged.
The iPhone also has LTE support. Apple has made sure that the iPhone 5 is compatible with all of the latest wireless technology, including GPRS, Edge, EV-DO, HSPA, HSPA+, DC-HSDPA, and yes, LTE.
LTE support won’t be limited to one part of the world. In the U.S., Apple is working with Sprint, AT&T and Verizon to get the iPhone 5 on the carriers’ LTE networks. In Canada, the company is partnering with Rogers, Telus Bell Fido and others. In Asia, SoftBank, SingTel, and others. In Australia, Virgin Mobile, Telstra and others. In Europe, Deutsche Telecom and others.
Thanks to LTE, the iPhone 5 makes much speedier network connections than its predecessor. It can download up to 100 megabits per second and can switch antenna connections between different networks when needed. When you want WiFi, the iPhone 5 sports 802.11 a/b/g/n, n at 2.4GHz and 5Ghz, at up to 150 Mbps.
Apple’s Faster Processor
The iPhone 5 also features Apple’s latest processor, the A6 chip. The processor is two times faster than the A5 chip in the iPhone 4S, and is 22 percent smaller. That means better graphics performance — two times faster, as well, according to Schiller — along with iOS improvements and better gaming. EA Studios demoed the new phone’s capabilities by showing off the Real Racing 3 game at the event.
Battery life remains intact even with the speedier performance. Apple says that you should be able to get eight hours of talk time, eight hours of LTE browsing and 10 hours of video playback with the iPhone 5.
Camera improvements. Photo: John Bradley/Wired
Although the iPhone 4S camera is widely considered one of the best, Apple still managed to make some improvements. The new iPhone 5 features the same 8-megapixel sensor, but it’s 25 percent smaller than the camera in the iPhone 4S. There are also some notable improvements, including a dynamic low-light mode that combines pixels to give you two f-stop (aperture) options, which means better low-light photos.
The iPhone 5’s new camera system also features a better image-sensor processor, spatial noise reduction and a smart filter that can recognize where uniform color and texture should be within a shot. All of this, plus the new processor, make the camera 40 percent faster at taking photos, Apple claims. Precision lens alignment and a Sapphire crystal lens cover are two other new additions to the iPhone 5 camera hardware.
As for software updates, you’ll now be able to take panorama photos with the built-in camera. The Panorama mode takes 28-megapixel shots and can determine the linear path of your photo, even if you happen to move the phone during your shots. You’ll also be able to have shared Photo Streams, making it possible to quickly share photos amongst friends.
To improve voice recognition and noise reduction, the iPhone 5 now sports three mics: one on the bottom, and two up top — one each on the front and back. As for audio playback, Apple also improved the iPhone 5’s speaker. It now has five magnets in the transducer, a new speaker design, and is smaller overall — 20 percent smaller than the iPhone 4S speaker. And for those who want a more hands-free experience, the iPhone 5 will come with new Apple EarPods that the company claims are more durable, have a more natural fit, and boast impressive acoustic quality. Then again, you can only go up from the current Apple earphones.
Smaller Dock Connector
Say goodbye to the 12-year-old 30-pin dock connector. As long rumored, the iPhone 5 has a smaller, 8-pin dock connector, which Apple has dubbed Lightning. According to Schiller, Apple introduced the new dock connector in response to a world that is relying more on wireless technologies.
Along with the smaller design — it’s 80 percent smaller than the 30-pin connector — Lightning is also more durable, according to Apple. The connector is also reversible, similar to the charging ports on the MacBook lineup. Apple has paired up with several manufacturers to create compatible accessories, but for those who do want to stick with their old accessories, Apple has made an adapter plug.
iOS 6 Is Made for This Phone
Apple first debuted iOS 6, its upcoming mobile operating system, at WWDC in June. Though older iPhones will be able to upgrade to the new OS, Schiller said on Wednesday that the mobile operating system was designed to take advantage of the larger iPhone 5 screen. Apple demoed several features in iOS 6, including the camera’s shared Photo Streams and Panorama Mode, as well as others that had been previously detailed.
Pricing and Availability
In the usual Apple fashion, the iPhone 5 will be available soon after its announcement. In the U.S., the phone ships on AT&T, Verizon and Sprint on Sept. 21. The iPhone 5 will come in three storage sizes: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB, and will cost $200, $300, and $400, respectively, with a two-year contract. For those who want Apple’s latest creation in their hands on launch day, you can start pre-ordering the phone a week in advance, starting on Sept. 14.
How much you’ll have to pay. Photo: John Bradley/Wired