iPhone 5: Apple's Biggest, Smartest, Fastest Yet

The wait is over. Apple announced its newest iPhone today at an event in San Francisco and, as rumored, it is indeed larger than its predecessors, runs 4G LTE, and has a bigger, better display. After months of speculation and a litany of leaks, the new device is indeed called the iPhone 5 and nearly everything about it is an improvement over the iPhone 4S.

The iPhone had a growth spurt. Gone is the 3.5-inch display that has defined previous iPhones, replaced by a 4-inch display. Apple increased the screen resolution as well, improving from 960x640 pixels in the iPhone 4S to 1136x640 for the iPhone 5. The screen now supports a movie standard 16:9 aspect ratio. 

Despite being longer, the iPhone 5 is thinner and lighter than the 4S. At 7.6 millimeters, the iPhone 5 is 18% thinner as well as 20% lighter (112 grams) than the 4S. During the keynote, Apple called it the “world’s thinnest smartphone.” Actually, while the iPhone 5 is impressively thin, it is not the world’s thinnest smartphone. That honor goes to the Droid Razr, which sports a 7.1mm-thin body.

Apple also unveiled its newest processor running the iPhone, the A6, which promises to double performance from the A5 chip inside the iPhone 4S. The A6 is also 22% smaller than the A5 and will launch apps 2.1 times faster, according to Apple.

The least surprising but perhaps the most significant aspect of the iPhone 5 is that it now supports 4G LTE. In the U.S., that means the iPhone will run on AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. In Canada the iPhone will run on Rogers, Bell, Telus, Virgin Mobile, Fido and Koodo. 

The battery life on the iPhone 5 is improved, though Apple is never very specific on battery specifications during its keynote presentations. Apple claims that the iPhone 5 will deliver 10 hours of video playback, 8 hours of browsing using 4G LTE and 8 hours of 3G talk time with 225 hours of standby. Those numbers are actually almost exactly the same as the iPhone 4S, but considering the larger screen and more powerful processor, the battery of the iPhone 5 is definitely improved.

The camera is still 8 megapixels, as was its predecessor, but Apple has improved the color saturation, optics and software that runs the camera to perform faster and more precisely. The camera now supports shared photo streams and panorama modes for landscape pictures. It also has a sapphire lens that will enhance focus and create crisper images. 

One of the biggest controversies surrounding the iPhone 5 is that Apple has changed the dock connector. Called “Lightning” (to match its Thunderbolt connector for its PCs), the new dock connector is 80% smaller. The Lightning connector has an all digital, 8-signal design (for improved data transfer) and is more durable than the 30-pin connector Apple has employed since 2003. 

The iPhone 5 will be available for pre-order on September 14th, starting at $199 for the 16 GB model. The 32 GB will retail for $299 and 64 GB at $399 with a carrier contract. 

Overall, the iPhone 5 is a big step up from anything that Apple has produced so far. Is it enough to excite consumers?