Let’s face it, not much was kept secret about Apple’s latest iPhone — so let’s start with what the geekosystem didn’t already know. The new device is powered by an A6 chip that doubles the speed and graphics processing of the iPhone 4S. Like Amazon’s recent Kindle Fire HD, so-called “ultra fast wireless” is onboard, which leverages separate 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz antennas on 802.11n to improve connection speeds by reducing signal noise. Battery power is also better than the iPhone 4S, with 225 hours of standby time and 8 hours of LTE browsing (more on that later). A new iSight 8MP rear camera features a F/2.4 aperture with a hybrid IR filter, 40% faster photo capture, “precision lens alignment”, “a sapphire crystal cover” and “better lowlight performance”, along with a special panorama mode for those one-off occasions when you want to stitch images together. The front-facing camera has been upgraded to 720p for clearer FaceTime conversations.
After packaging in notoriously bad ear buds for years, Apple has also redesigned the phone’s included headphones (now called EarPods), promising “a more natural fit and increased durability, and an incredible acoustic quality typically reserved for higher-end earphones”.
Find out more about the iPhone 5 after the break.
Just in case you’ve had better things to do with your life than follow iPhone rumors, we’ll recap what’s been old news at this point. The new handset ditches the previous generation’s 3.5″ screen in favor of a taller and thinner, 1,136 x 640 4″ retina display (326ppi) that boasts 40% more color saturation and allows legacy apps to still run letterboxed (i.e. with black borders) in their original resolution. After nearly 10 years of service, Cupertino has redesigned the iPhone’s connector as well to create a reversible, 9 pin “lightning” port that makes older accessories worthless without an adaptor. A global LTE antenna finally brings true 4G LTE speeds to the iPhone, both in the U.S. and a handful of other countries. Externally, the iPhone 5 features the same slabe form factor but it’s 18% thinner at 7.6mm and 20% lighter than the iPhone 4S. It also ditches the uniformed colored (and extremely fragile) glass back of yore in exchange for an aluminum back strip which should be more durable. Style-wise, the plate appears as a contrasting aluminum panel on the white version of the phone and as anodized black plate on the black version.
On the software front, iOS 6 is the name of the game and brings a bevy of needed improvements. The biggest change is the switch from Google maps to Apple’s own proprietary software. The new Maps app brings a variety of enhancements including turn by turn directions, offline maps, satellite imagery, and 3D modeling. Passbook is another welcomed addition designed to keep loyalty cards, boarding passes, and other digital tickets all in one easily accessible place. Final goodies include shared photo streams and updates to Siri — which can now fetch sports scores and launch apps by voice.
Editor’s Note: Given how much the rumor sweatshop got right, it’s tempting to feel let down by Apple’s freshly groomed successor, especially in light of the crushed expectations lingering from the 4S announcement last year. In many ways, this gut reaction is a simply a sign of Apple falling victim to its own success. By setting such high bars in previous announcements, anything besides outright market disruption fails to move the needle now. It doesn’t help that most of the innovation of the iPhone 5 is packed in areas consumers won’t see. Yes, they’ll notice it’s lighter and thinner, but few will care about the massive engineering challenges Apple surmounted to get there, like the single chip, single radio LTE antenna, the in-cell touchscreen technology that integrates the touch sensors right into the display, or the new lightning connector. While these things may not rival the lengthy and flashy spec lists of competing devices in terms of curb appeal, those advances are the key differentiators that provide Cupertino with plenty of wiggle room for new form factors and improvements into the future.
Even without noticeable new bells and whistles, the iPhone 5 is still going to be an amazing device that most will likely be overjoyed with. It will still be the phone that other companies seek to dethrone, and it’ll still break records for units shipped in a day, week, month, quarter…millennium. That’s because it’s focused on handling the things people actually do with their phones like using apps, surfing the web, consuming media, and taking photos. Sure it won’t replace your wallet or communicate with nifty accessories via a simple touch, but in the year 2013, do you really care?