Technology giant Apple last night unveiled several new products, including the much-anticipated iPhone 5. While the company has traditionally safe-guarded their annual announcements, it was widely speculated (and later confirmed) that the iPhone 5 will be the latest smartphone in Apple’s arsenal – as well as a new iPod model and an upgrade for iTunes.
Not much has changed in the iPhone’s iconic design since the launch of the original iPhone 4, and the fifth version is no different. Taking on the same form factor as the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, it is slightly bigger to accommodate the larger screen – but that is about it in terms of design. In the construction, the unit is made from glass and aluminium.
Apple said that their new phone will be the world’s thinnest smartphone at only 7.6 mm, which makes it 18 percent thinner than the iPhone 4S. The unit will also be easier on the pocket in terms of weight, as it weighs only 112 grams – 20 percent lighter than the iPhone 4S.
The biggest (excuse the pun) and probably worst kept secret about the iPhone 5 was it’s screen size – which Apple confirmed. Users will now be able to enjoy all the media content on a larger 4-inch screen which sports a 326 PPI Retina display, 1136 by 640 pixel resolution with a 16 x 9 aspect ratio. The bigger screen has also allowed Apple to include a fifth row on the home screen for applications.
“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the hardware and software engineering that has gone into this product is the most challenging our team has taken on,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing during the unveiling.
Apple also revealed that the display has 44 percent more colour saturation than the iPhone 4S display, and has integrated touch in the display, which makes it 30 percent thinner. “This is the most accurate display in the industry,” Schiller added.
In terms of computing power, it makes use of an A6 chip, propelling the unit at twice the CPU and graphics of previous versions. The chip is also 22% smaller than previous models. But with a stronger chip comes battery issues, and Apple has also addressed that – the iPhone 5 exceeds the battery life of the 4S, which will now have 225 hours of standby time.
Speaking of the battery, the unit will now have an 8-pin connector (called Lightning) for charging and docking instead of the traditional 30-pin connector. Apple said that the new design has improved durability, reversible, easier to use and is 80 percent smaller. But users with a number of 30-pin connectors shouldn’t be worried, as there will be an adapter for 30-pin dock connector accessories.
Being connected to every imaginable network is what drives users in a technology world, and the iPhone 5 will make that happen. For Wi-Fi it will use 802.11 a/b/g/n, n at 2.4GHz and 5Ghz, with data speeds of up to 150 Mbps; can connect through GPRS, Edge, EV-DO, HSPA, HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA. But the biggest plug point is that it will also be able to connect through LTE. It will be able to download up to 100 megabits per second, making use of a single chip, single radio and dynamic antenna.
The addition of camera into smartphones have given many users an easy way of capturing images on the go, but while the iPhone 4S’ camera wasn’t completely up to scratch, Apple made sure to update the one in the iPhone 5. It will now sport an 8 megapixel sensor with a maximum resolution of 3264 by 2448. Its backside illuminated, and features a hybrid IR filter, five-element lens, and an f/2.4 aperture. It is essentially the same camera as in the 4S, but its 25% smaller. The camera will now also take better pictures in low-lighting conditions, with a dynamic low light mode that combines pixels to give you two f stops greater performance in low light. The lens cover is made from sapphire crystal, while it has precision alignment.
While there are many apps that will allow users to take panorama shots, the iPhone 5 will have a Panorama mode built into the camera. Users will only have to sweep their phone across a landscape and the phone will create a panorama image from that.
The new camera will also now be able to capture 1080p HD video, features improved video stabilization, face detection and users will be able to take still images while capturing a video at the same time. In terms of the front camera, it will be 720p, backside illuminated and will have face detection.
As expected, the iPhone 5 will be running on iOS 6 when it becomes available on 21 September in some markets. The new operating system has been designed to take advantage of the larger screen. “Perhaps one of the most important features of iPhone is the software it runs,” Schiller added. There are a number of changes in the OS, as well as new apps, and will feature FaceTime over the cellular networks and a single app mode.
The iPhone 5 will be made available in Slate and White and will be available in the US and Europe on 21 September. South Africa missed the nod for the second round of countries to sell the new unit on 28 September, and while no confirmation has been given by Core Group, it is expected that SA will have the new unit in October or early November.
“iPhone 5 is the best phone we’ve ever made,” Schiller concluded.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor