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.

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