Apple Announces iPhone 5: Big Surprise!

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As promised, Apple did announce the latest iPhone 5 today.  And the big surprise was that there were no real surprises.  The new features are pretty much what the leaks, rumors and predictions said they would be.  What else could they have been?  Hope you are not too disappointed.  I am not overwhelmed but impressed by Apple’s sheer competency (see "Top 50 Employers 2012: Apple Reigns Supreme Again") .

Here are the highlights:

1.    New 4-inch (diagonal) display.  Same resolution as the 4S Retina display with 1136 x 640 pixels.  The display is the same width as the older 3.5-inch screen but just taller.  It features sRGB specifications and 44% better color saturation.

2.    The phone is housed in a new glass and aluminum case.  Black or white. The design is also significantly thinner.   Why all the hoopla about thiness?  Does that really make it better?  Seems like a disadvantage to me. What’s a few millimeters difference anyway? All the controls are in the same place.

3.    4G single-chip LTE radio with fall back to GSM, EDGE, WCDMA, HSPA+, and EV-DO. It as a “dynamic antenna” whatever that is.  To be followed up on. Also, see "What’s the Difference Between 3G and 4G Cellular Systems?"

4.    Carriers are AT&T, Sprint and Verizon as before.  Poor T-Mobile is left out again.

5.    New faster but smaller A6 processor that is supposed to double download speed, increase video frame rates and minimize latency all around.  A dual core processor from designed by Apple but manufactured by arch enemy Samsung.  Wonder how long that will go on?

6.    The usual wireless supplements such as 802.11a/b/g/n, 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and Low Energy.  No NFC but Apple does have Passbook, a virtual wallet app that serves almost the same purpose.

7.    Significantly improved camera. 8 Mpixels with f/2.4 five element lens and low light capability.  The new camera also offers a panoramic mode that lets you pan over a wide angle to photograph a scene.  The software stitches multiple shots together seamlessly.  The video is 1080p capable with face detection.

8.    New battery to help keep the phone alive with all those new features and options.  Estimated 8 hours of 3G talk or LTE browsing and 225 hours of standby.

9.    A new smaller connector.  The ubiquitous 30-pin connector goes away in favor of a smaller 8-signal connector for charging, data exchange, etc.  Called the Lightening connector.

10. Three microphones, up from two.  Noise cancelling feature.  And wideband audio with improved clarity.

11. The latest version of iOS6.  Apple is also now using its own maps and driving directions software in lieu of the Google maps and navigation software.  Slightly improved Siri.

12. New speaker/earphones.  Greatly improved fit and response.  Called EarPods.

Overall nothing really unexpected.  Basically a good iPhone update.  Apple is playing catch up to the competition with this phone.  Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, HTC and others have had 4-inch+ screens and LTE for over a year and some have just released their next generation phones (see "New Smart Phones And Tablets Showcase Engineering Innovation")

Pricing is as before.  The iPhone5 with 16GB memory is $199, 32GB is $299, and 64GB is $399, all with a new 2-year contract.  The 4S drops to $99 and the iPhone 4 is free with new 2-year contract.  The 3GS goes away.  Phones will become available on September 21st.

Apple also introduced some new iPods and a greatly updated version of iTunes.  It has a better UI for better organization, display and use of music and videos as well as a one click order feature.  New iPads to come in October so they say.

Apple will undoubtedly sell a boat load of these new phones (see "Economist Says iPhone 5 Could Add Half Point to U.S. GDP").  Lots of Apple users are ready for a new contract so are prime candidates.  My three year old 3GS is also subject to replacement and I will take a good look at the iPhone5.  But you should know that there is significant competition for top of the line smartphones.  The latest models from Motorola, Nokia and Samsung are terrific alternatives that bear consideration (see "New Smartphones from Nokia and Motorola Face Off With iPhone 5").  Apple is still in second place to Samsung in smartphone sales, but with this new model could they eventually leapfrog Samsung?   Stay tuned.

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Lou Frenzel

Lou Frenzel is the Communications Technology Editor for Electronic Design Magazine where he writes articles, columns, blogs, technology reports, and online material on the wireless, communications...
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