Updated to include Leap Wireless’ launch of device on Sept. 28
To the surprise of few and delight of many, Apple today unveiled its latest smartphone with the aptly named iPhone 5. The device is set to launch on Sept. 21, with pre-orders beginning on Sept. 14. Pricing will remain the same as the current model, with a subsidized 16 GB model selling for $199, 32 GB model for $299 and 64 GB model for $399.
As had been predicted, the iPhone 5 also includes support for LTE networks, as well as faster variants of the HSPA+ standard. Wi-Fi support has also increased to now include the entire alphabet of a/b/g/n in both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands.
With embedded LTE support, domestic carrier distribution for the device will initially be limited to Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility and Sprint Nextel, with Leap Wireless set to add a less subsidized version to its no-contract service beginning Sept. 28. That leaves T-Mobile USA out of the picture, at least for now, though the carrier is looking to corral some rogue AT&T Mobility customers with a new offering.
International operators announced included Bell, Telus, Fido, Virgin and Kudo in Canada; Softbank, Smartphone, Singtel and SK Telecom in Asia; Telstra, Optus and Virgin Mobile in Australia; and Deutsche Telekom and Everything Everywhere in Europe.
As rumored for months, the new device sports a 4-inch screen, an increase from the 3.5-inch screen that has been a staple of iPhones since their launch in 2007. In squeezing in a larger screen, Apple grew the device vertically to provide for a 16:9 aspect ratio, or sort of a “letter box” appearance when turned on its side.
Despite the bigger screen, Apple said the device is 18% thinner than the current 4S model as well as being 20% lighter. The outside of the device is primarily aluminum and glass, and hopefully more drop-resistant than the current model. The main glass screen is reportedly 30% thinner than the current model and with its increased size has room for a fifth row of icons on the home screen.
The all-important color options for the device will include white and black, with the aluminum backing in silver for the white models and slate for the black models.
Powering the device is a faster A6 processor that Apple claims is twice as fast as the current A5 while having a 22% smaller footprint. The device will also include the latest iOS 6 operating system, which Apple claims has more than 200 new features.
The iPhone 5 also has a larger battery with claimed life of 8 hours of 3G talk and browsing; 8 hours of LTE browsing; 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing; 10 hours of video; 40 hours of music and 225 hours of standby.
The main, rear-facing camera remains at 8-megapixels, but enhancements to elements, including a panorama mode as well as a smaller overall sensor. Those panorama pics are individual pictures melded together, which Apple said equals a picture comparable to 28 megapixels. The main camera also supports 1080p video, while the front sensor can capture video at 720p resolution.
The iPhone 5 also sports a new connector dubbed “Lightning,” which has Apple ditching the previously used 30-pin connector. In a move to appease those with a cadre of accessories, Apple noted it will provide an adapter between the two connectors.
As for the current iPhone lineup, Apple said the 8 GB iPhone 4 will now be available for free, while the 16 GB 4S will cost $99. Both with required two-year contracts.
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