Apple iPhone 5 is official: 4-inch screen, LTE, ships this month

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Phil Schiller stole the show at today’s media event where Apple finally unveiled the long-awaited iPhone 5. Cupertino’s new flagship handset is largely what we expected to see – both aesthetically and internally – based on numerous leaks and rumors.

The iPhone 5 will ship with a 4-inch Retina display operating at 1,136 x 640 that equates to 326 pixels per inch. Apple used a new manufacturing process where the touch controls are integrated directly into the display. This reportedly gives the display 44 percent better color saturation and less glare from sunlight. The technology sounds a lot like what Amazon recently announced for the new Kindle Fire HD.

The aluminum and glass handset is the same width as the 4S but is now taller and can accommodate five rows of icons. Updated apps are now organized to show off more information while non-updated programs will be centered and run in letterbox format with black bars. Apple said the width was kept the same intentionally because a phone should be designed to fit comfortably in your hand.

But despite being taller, the handset is actually the thinnest smartphone in the world and the thinnest and lightest iPhone yet. Specifically, it’s 18 percent thinner than the 4S at just 7.6mm and 20 percent lighter, weighing in at 112 grams.

Moving on, the iPhone 5 is powered by Apple’s brand new A6 SoC which they say is twice as fast as the A5 in terms of CPU and graphics processing. It’s also 22 percent smaller and more energy efficient, although Apple didn’t specify if it was a quad-core component.

Apple has finally brought 4G LTE to the iPhone in addition to a number of other standards like GPRS, EDGE, EV-DO, HSPA, HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA. There’s also some new Wi-Fi technology as the device will be able to connect to 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies on 802.11n.

One of the reasons Apple hasn’t introduced LTE sooner was due to the fact that it can severely drain your battery, but that’s not the case with the iPhone 5. Apple says its battery life is actually better than what the 4S is capable of. Users can expect up to eight hours of 3G talk time, 3G browsing and LTE browsing, 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing and video, 40 hours of music and 225 hours on standby.

The same 8-megapixel camera from the iPhone 4S returns but there are some upgrades this time around. The full rundown includes 3,264 x 2,448 resolution, backside illumination, a hybrid IR filter, five-element lens and an f/2.4 aperture. Apple has added a lens cover made of sapphire that’s supposedly more durable and clear but a lot of the new camera technology comes courtesy of the A6 processor. There’s a new image processor that reduces noise and a smart filter for better color matching, 40 percent faster image capturing and an integrated panorama mode that outputs a large 28-megapixel image.

The rear camera is capable of 1080p HD video and has improved stabilization, face detection and is able to snap photos while recording video. The front-facing camera has been upgraded to a 720p FaceTime HD camera with backside illumination, face detection and is now capable of performing FaceTime calls over cellular.

The rumor mill also correctly pegged the new dock connector that will replace the traditional iPod 30-pin connector that has been in use since the first iPhone in 2007. The new Lightning connector is an all-digital, 8-signal design with an adaptive interface and improved durability. Apple says this connector is 80 percent smaller and is even reversible – no more having to guess the correct orientation in the dark. Adapters will be available so all of your old docks will still be usable, albeit at an additional cost. Third party audio manufacturers are already working on new docks and speakers using Lightning.

The iPhone 5 retains the same pricing model as the 4S, so expect to pay $199, $299 or $399 for a 16Gb, 32GB or 64GB model, respectively. Black (with an anodized black back) and white (with a raw aluminum back) versions will be available through AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless in the US with pre-orders set to begin this Friday, September 14. The iPhone 5 will ship the following week on September 21.

The iPhone 4 will now be free on contract while the 4S will sell for just $99. The iPhone 5 will ship with iOS 6 and Apple will make the software update available to iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, new iPad, iPad 2 and iPod touch owners on September 19.

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