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Apple announces the iPhone 5


Apple has announced the iPhone 5. If you've been following the rumors over the past month or so, the device's appearance won't be surprising -- it looks exactly like the leaks, made of a mix of glass and aluminum. At 7.6 mm thick, it's 18 percent thinner than the iPhone 4S and 20 percent lighter, at 112 grams.

The iPhone 5 has a Retina display at 326 ppi and measures 4 inches diagonally, with an 1,136 x 640 resolution. I'll save you the math: the new screen has a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, the same as your HDTV. The larger screen gives enough room for a full new row of apps on the iOS Home screen.

Apple's first-party apps have all been slightly tweaked to take advantage of the new aspect ratio. Apps that have not been updated for 16:9 will run "letterboxed" at the old 960 x 640 resolution, with black bars on either side. Developers have reported they can update their apps for the new phone "very quickly." We'll see.

The new screen has 44 percent better color saturation and full sRGB rendering (a big deal for photography). Touch is integrated into the display (the rumored "in-cell" technology), which makes the display thinner, sharper and less prone to glare in sunlight.

The iPhone 5 comes with "Ultrafast Wireless" -- GPRS, EDGE, EV-DO, HSPA, HSPA+, DC-HSDPA and LTE all in one handset. There's a single chip for voice and data, plus one chip for the radio. The new antenna is dynamic, capable of switching connections on the fly. The list of carriers that will support the iPhone 5's "Ultrafast Wireless" is long and impressive, including AT&T, Verizon and Spring in the US, plus many major carriers in asia and Europe.

The iPhone 5 has also gained dual-channel 802.11a/b/g/n, with speeds up to 150 Mbps.

The iPhone 5's new brain is the A6 chip, twice as fast and with twice the graphics capability of its A5 predecessor. It's also 22 percent smaller and more energy-efficient.

Battery life has been improved over the iPhone 4S:

  • 8 hours 3G talk/browsing
  • 8 hours LTE
  • 10 hours Wi-Fi
  • 10 hours video
  • 40 hours music
  • 255 hours standby

The iPhone 5 has a new camera, which Apple is now calling iSight. Its design and specs are similar to the iPhone 4S, with the same 8 megapixel resolution, but the components have been tweaked to make the camera thinner. It has a new dynamic low-light mode that gives up to two f-stops greater low-light performance. The A6 has a new image processor that reduces noise and includes a "smart filter" to improve color matching. The camera also includes Panorama mode: unlike traditional panorama apps, instead of taking a series of still shots and stitching them together, you simply take one sweep with the camera, and the phone will assemble a 28 megapixel panorama image all on its own.

The front-facing camera is now 720p and backside illuminated. This is a big improvement over previous FaceTime cameras. FaceTime on the new iPhone works over 3G -- if your carrier supports it.

The iPhone 5 has three microphones -- front, bottom, and back -- for voice recognition and noise cancellation. This should mean more accurate Siri recognition and clearer call quality.

The iPhone 5's dock connector has been changed to a new design, called Lightning. (Thunderbolt for the Mac, Lightning for the iPhone. Get it?) The new connector is much smaller than the old Dock connector -- 80 percent smaller, in fact. Unlike the old connector, this new one is completely reversible, so no more fumbling around trying to figure out which way to orient it when you're plugging it in.

Apple is providing an adapter for this new connector, so not to worry: your old iPhone accessories didn't just get obsoleted overnight.

The iPhone 5 comes in two colors: white front with a silver aluminum backside, and black with a black anodized backside.

The iPhone 5 has the same on-contract US pricing as the 4S pricing last year:

  • $199 16 GB
  • $299 32 GB
  • $399 64 GB

Pre-orders start September 14, and the iPhone 5 ships in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore on September 21. 20 more countries will get it in October.

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