Taller, thinner, lighter, faster ... better. That was the anthem and outcome of today's highly anticipated iPhone 5 reveal. I was among the first to get my hands on Apple's flagship smartphone. My first thought as fingers met sleek aluminum and glass form? Apple has done it again. Love 'em or love to hate 'em — Apple has crafted a device that will command record sales and a serious scramble by the competition to play catch-up.
Smaller size matters
The new iPhone 5 has a roomier 4-inch display. It's a half inch taller, but no wider, than its predecessor, the iPhone 4S. The device is also thinner and lighter, at 112 grams — it weighs about the same amount as a stick of butter. Apple executives said today that it's the world's thinnest smartphone.
It feels like a piece of jewelry. The iPhone's width is just right for navigating with your thumb, which is what Apple was going for, to make it easy to send text messages, swipe through pages and browse the internet. It fits well in the palm of my hand, purse, and back pocket. The added space also makes more room for another row of icons on the home screen, more room for web browsing and reading, and better video viewing.
As expected, there's 4G LTE (finally) on this device, which helps the iPhone 5 download pages, pictures, graphics, and video faster. It also has speedier guts, thanks to a new A6 chip designed by Apple. Apple execs say the chip is twice as fast in terms of CPU and graphics. I looked at how fast it loaded Tecca's web site next to the 4S, and it's true, the web pages loaded about two times faster on the new phone.
There's a new camera in the iPhone 5 that has an 8-megapixel sensor, backside illumination, and a five-element lens. What this means, is a much better, more tricked-out camera than the iPhone has ever had before. The new iPhone also includes a sapphire crystal lens that sharpens images, and reduces digital noise, while also speeding up the time it takes to snap a picture. Apple also showed off a new panorama feature built-in to the iPhone 5 and a better FaceTime camera that will work when you're on a call. Both worked great in my mini-test.
The iPhone 5 is outfitted with three microphones and a noise-canceling earpiece. Apple also unveiled new ear buds called Earpods. These will come with the new iPhone. The new headphones feature what Apple calls, "vented in-ear technology," which is a fancy way of saying they sound better when you listen to music or talk on the phone. This is a much-needed upgrade, especially to the previously tinny, hollow-sounding ear-buds. In my few minutes testing this feature, it seems a big improvement and a decent challenge to the smartphones that come with beats audio.
I haven't been a big fan of Siri, and I'm still skeptical. While the whole speech-recognition personal assistant concept is a fabulous idea. The version on the 4S was great for a laugh, but not for getting directions or managing my schedule. My first pass with this new, improved Siri was impressive for real-time sports stats, movie recommendations, and nearby restaurant reservations that were actually to my taste, versus just what's nearby. Also pretty great for multitaskers, you can now post directly to Facebook with Siri by dictating status updates. I can see this coming in really handy when driving, crossing the street, jogging, and doing all of the other things we just have to do while posting updates.
Following their usual standards, the iPhone 5 goes on sale Friday, September 14th. It will ship out and be available in-stores September 21st — at the same $199, $299, and $399 (for 16, 32, 64GB models) with contract price point. Analysts expect record sales.
For more coverage of Apple's big event, don't miss our guide to everything you need to know about the iPhone 5 and all the details on Apple's new iPod lineup!
Photos courtesy of Roddy Blelloch.
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