Apple announces iPhone 5

At today’s media event in San Francisco Apple have announced a new iPhone as expected, which is to be known as the iPhone 5.

From the outside a number of changes are immediately obvious. The new phone has a new taller 4″ display running at 1136×640 – the first time the screen size has been changed since the introduction of the original iPhone back in 2007. This will cause problems for existing apps, of course, as they’re not designed for the new aspect ratio. For now, apps will run in the centre of the screen with a black border until they’re updated. This is very similar to the introduction of the Retina class display on the iPhone 4 two years ago, where apps had to be modified back then to take advantage of the extra pixels. The multi touch sensor and the display itself are now the same, which should hopefully provide better image quality as there are fewer layers for light to refract.

On the bottom of the phone is a new connector, which has been named ‘Lightning’ – presumably a pun involving the Thunderbolt connector and Queen’s famous song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. This port will allow cables to be plugged into it either way up, which will bring an end to having a 50/50 chance of getting it right when the light level’s low. To help combat obsolescence, Apple will be selling an adaptor which fits onto the end of existing cables. The headphone port has been moved to the bottom for the first time, and the speaker grilles have been redesigned too.

The iPhone 5 uses a nano-SIM which is even smaller than the micro-SIM in the iPhone 4 and 4S which will cause problems for upgraders at launch, just as we had two years ago when we transitioned from the SIM cards used in the 3GS. It’s surprising, in fact, that Apple haven’t yet worked out a way of implementing the data held on a SIM in software – perhaps that’s something to work on for the next generation! With all the small size and weight shavings combined Apple claims the iPhone 5 is 20% lighter and 18% thinner than the iPhone 4S, which is still surprising given that the display is larger.

On the inside, the phone has a new A6 processor, which is claimed to deliver performance up to twice as fast as the iPhone 4S. Battery life remains similar to the previous generation – thankfully it’s something which was actually remarked upon as a positive, rather than being swept aside.

The iPhone camera has been upgraded yet again – something I expected to see remain the same, since it was one of the unique selling points of the iPhone 4S. It’s apparently better in low light and faster at capturing images, and it’s now possible to take photos while recording a video – something which would have come in handy while watching the Olympic torch relay, for example. There’s a new panorama feature which replaces some third party apps offering similar features.

During the keynote it was announced that the iPhone 5 will work with EE’s new 4G network. It’ll be very interesting to see the pricing from the new carrier in the coming weeks.

The new phone will be available to pre-order from the 14th, and available to buy in stores from the 21st. Surprisingly, there is no new 128GB version as I expected, which means users will have to choose between 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models as before.

For users of the 3GS onwards, the upgrade to iOS 6 will be launched on the 19th.

Although some people may say that the iPhone 5 is similar to the previous generation, the sum of the changes is more than just a minor refresh, as it has a brand new screen, faster performance, and an all new design. Judging by the demand we saw last year for the iPhone 4S, which was indeed just an incremental upgrade, it looks likely that the iPhone 5 will be a commercial success.

Apple announces media event

At last!

Apple has finally announced a media event in San Francisco at 6PM UK time on the 12th September, where the next generation iPhone is likely to be revealed.

As always, Apple likes to tease people with event invites, and today’s is no different. At first glance, it’s easy to miss – but if you look closely, you’ll see that the shadow that the ’12’ makes is actually a ‘5’. This could mean that the new device is called the ‘iPhone 5’, rather than following the lead of the iPad and being called the ‘new iPhone’ instead.

Much of what we may expect to see next week has already been covered on this blog, including a taller display, a new dock connector and an all new case design. However, there could still be other new features such as NFC for small payments and 4G support for UK phone networks, such as the one Everything Everywhere is launching a day before Apple’s event.

It’s possible there’ll be a new iPod Touch announcement in time for Christmas, and it’s also rumoured that the iPod Nano will be receiving an update too. However, I’m not expecting a ‘mini iPad’ to be announced – in fact I’d be surprised if one were to be announced at all, considering that the iPhone’s screen size is being increased.

The countdown has begun!

iPhone battery replacement

Considering Apple’s history of obsolescence, the iPhone 3GS has had an incredibly long lifespan.

The first iPhone, launched in 2007, came with iOS 1 (then called iPhone OS), and it received upgrades for the following two years to iOS 3 before being cast into the shadows. The iPhone 3G launched with iOS 2 and was dragged into the 4.x era before Apple finally gave up trying to solve the performance issues dogging the device.

From past evidence, therefore, it appears that iPhones generally last about three years before being unsupported.

First launched in the summer of 2009, the 3GS came loaded with iOS 3 and over the past three years it’s been kept up to date to the present day with iOS 5.1.1. History tells us that it should be coming to the end of its life, with iOS 6 only being released for the iPhone 4 onwards.

In fact, the iPhone 3GS is different. A small icon at the bottom of Apple’s iOS 6 Preview microsite shows that the phone will be receiving the new update this autumn. I guess as it’s still possible to buy one from an Apple Store, the company is forced to continue support, else they’d be selling something which would already be obsolete.

However, this long lifespan will start to present some difficulties for users. As most people know, lithium rechargeable batteries only last for around three years before the cells start to break down and become unusable. For anyone who bought a 3GS in 2009 – or perhaps owns a second hand device purchased then – this may already be causing a problem, with instant shut downs, slow performance and a battery percentage which skips numbers as the battery discharges through the day.

Apple offers a solution to this problem with its own battery replacement service, although it has a huge problem – it means you’ll be without an iPhone for a week. For anyone who uses a phone regularly, being without one for more than a few hours is just impractical. For this service, Apple will charge you £55 – which is about a quarter of the phone’s current value.

Recently, I found a company called Lovefone which can replace 3GS batteries while you wait. For this, they’ll only charge £34 and since having my phone serviced, it’s been much better. Perhaps it also has something to do with the amount of dust inside which had built up over three years!

As for the future of the 3GS, iOS 6 will almost certainly mark the end of the device. I wouldn’t be too surprised if the 3GS doesn’t survive the whole of the iOS 6 era, as the iPhone 3G was dropped after 4.2.1 while other devices continued up to 4.3.5 before iOS 5 was released. There are already rumours suggesting that stocks are running low, as Apple prepares to replace its low budget option with the iPhone 4 instead.