The new iPhone 5 is here. It's thinner and faster than ever, with a new form factor that uses a gorgeous panoramic screen with more resolution and less consumption. It also surfs the web much faster, thanks to its new LTE capabilities. And, as rumoured, it has a new smaller dock connector called Lightning.
Overall, it seems Apple has incrementally improved every aspect of the iPhone. It's not a revolutionary phone, but it's a solid upgrade.
The iPhone 5 looks exactly like what we saw in leaked photos, including a unibody aluminium body with a glass screen. "It's thinner than ever," says Phil Schiller. Specifically, it's 18 per cent thinner than the previous iPhone, which puts it at 7.6mm thick. Apple is also claiming that the iPhone 5 is the world's thinnest smartphone. It's actually the world's thinnest LTE smartphone.
It's also 20 per cent lighter than the current iPhone, weighing just 112 grams. You have a choice between two-tone black/slate or white/silver models.
According to Jon Ive, Apple has "never built a product with this extraordinary level of fit and finish". He claims that the "variances from product to product is now measured in microns".
Apple claims that the new 4-inch panoramic screen with 16:9 aspect ratio has 44 per cent more saturation than the previous iPhone, which makes the display on the new iPhone 5 full sRGB. The display has its touchscreen sensor built in.
How does it work? Instead of having two layers -- the pixels of the display and the touch sensors -- Apple says "the pixels do double duty, acting as touch-sensing electrodes while displaying the image at the same time". Apple says it's crucial to getting the phone thinner and lighter. And since there's nothing between the glass and the pixels, the image on the screen is much clearer. Apple says that that no other phone in the market has this technology.
As expected, the iPhone 5 uses LTE connectivity, so browsing the web and streaming media will be be a much faster experience compared to the current iPhone 4S. It supports all the standards needed for all carriers: HSPA+, DC-HSDPA and LTE. Apple says that its single-chip solution works everywhere.
The iPhone 5 also has dual-channel 5GHz Wi-Fi (802.11n), which allows for 150Mbps maximum connectivity speed.
Apple claims the iPhone 5's new A6 chip is twice as fast as the A5 chip in the iPhone 4S, both in CPU and graphics. In real terms, Apple claims that it loads web pages 2.1 times faster.
Apple claims eight hours of 3G talk time, eight hours of LTE browsing, 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing, 30 hours of video watching and 225 hours on standby. If this turns out to be true in real terms, it will be impressive.
Apple has also updated the camera. It does better than the iPhone 4S, with a five-element lens, 8MP sensor (3264x2448), backside illumination, a new hybrid infrared filter for better colour, and a nice f/2.4 aperture.
It has a new dynamic low-light mode (I wonder how it compares to Nokia's) and a sapphire crystal construction. When you consider how scratches on the lens can make photos look less crisp, this is good news. Sapphire crystal is the hardest thing you can get this side of a diamond.
The new image-processing chip has spatial noise reduction technology that reduces noise in areas of an image that need it, while leaving the rest of the image alone. As a result, Apple claims that low-light photography performs much better than it did on the previous iPhone.
Here's an image taken with the new iPhone, which Apple claims to have not retouched:
Image capture is 40 per cent faster, Apple says. The iPhone 4S camera was pretty fast, so it will be interesting to see how that increased speed feels. Certainly, there's no such a thing as fast enough when it comes to taking photos.
Apple has also added a new panorama mode. It doesn't require you to stitch photos one by one -- just pan the phone and it will automatically capture and stitch together a panorama for you. Even if you can't hold it steady, the phone is supposedly smart enough to know how to correct for it. Apple says it also gets rid of any moving objects in the frame. The final result covers 240 degrees.
Video face detection
Like the previous iPhone, the new one has 1080p full HD capture. Apple claims to have improved the image stabilisation in this version, added face detection (so it will be able to tag people automatically in videos) and allow you to take full-size still photos while recording video.
Front FaceTime camera
Apple has also improved the 720p front camera on the iPhone 5. It now features face detection and -- at last -- the operating system will enable FaceTime over a 3G/4G connection.
Apple has also upgraded the iPhone's audio capabilities with improvements to the microphones and the speakers. It now has three microphones -- front, back and bottom -- which will improve the quality of your voice calls and sound recordings. More importantly, noise cancelling in included without the need for external specialised headphones.
The speakers have much better quality now, going from three to five magnet transducers, which will result in a clearer, richer sound. Any improvement over the cricket boxes of previous versions is welcome.
The iPhone 5 also improves on voice calls. According to Phil Schiller, the new iPhone 5 can use something called wideband audio. If it's supported by the carrier, the phone will use more of the spectrum bandwidth to send a much better, higher fidelity version of your voice over the network. Telstra utilises this technology in selected phones on its Next G network -- you may know it as HD Voice.
New Connector: Lightning
As predicted, the dock connector is now smaller. Apple calls it Lightning (a name play of its other connector technology: Thunderbolt). It's all digital and has eight connectors. It also has an adaptive interface, which I guess means that the connector will send different signals according to the kind of features you need in your connection.
They best thing about the new connector is that it is reversible. This may seem strange, but being able to connect your cable without worrying about which side is up will protect humanity against the 529th Article of Murphy's Law: "Thou will always try to connect your iPhone cable on the wrong side."
Does that mean that you would have to trash your old dock accessory? No, Apple is giving us an adaptor that will turn the old connector into the new Lightning. Phil Schiller says that Apple is working with peripheral manufacturers to include Lightning in the next batch of products, which will arrive in time for Christmas.
Price and Availability
Apple is keeping the same prices as the previous generation iPhone. In the US, the 16GB is $US199, the 32GB is $US299 and the 64GB is $US399, all with a two-year contract. We'll let you know what each of Australian carriers will be charging in due course, along with Apple's own outright prices.
Update: Apple's recommended retail prices for Australia will be $799 for the 16GB model, $899 for the 32GB model and $999 for the 64GB model.
Apple has also dropped the price of the iPhone 4S to $679, while the iPhone 4 will drop to $449. iOS 6 will be available as a free software update on Wednesday, September 19.
Pre-orders will begin on Friday in Australia, the United States, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. The earlier delivery date will be the following Friday, September 21. All other countries will have the iPhone 5 on September 28.