Apple announces iPhone 5: What you need to know

Summary:As expected, Apple has announced the much-anticipated next-generation iPhone at a media event in San Francisco. Here's the run down of what you need to know.

Meet the iPhone 5. It's finally here.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook took to the stage a short while ago at the Yerba Buena Center, San Francisco, along with a bevy of other company executives and vice-presidents, to announce the sixth-generation iPhone.

In a small pocket of San Francisco, technology press gathered to learn what the new iPhone would look and feel like, despite the dozens of leaks that led up to today's announcement. Nonetheless, the news was in no way dampened by the series of cracks in Apple's tight-lipped mantra. 

The new iPhone comes in 3 different flavors: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB, costing $199, $299 and $399 respectively on a two-year contract. Pre-orders start on September 14 and Apple will begin shipping the devices September 21. 

iOS 6 will be released on September 19. It is available on the iPhone 4, 4S, 3GS, the iPad 2, iPad 3, and the fourth-generation iPod touch.

The iPhone 4 will replace the iPhone 3GS as Apple's entry-level smartphone, and will be free on a two-year contract.

Here's what Apple is serving up in the iPhone 5:

A brand new design: The iPhone 5 is the thinnest phone Apple has ever made, with a 4-inch Retina display, boasting 1136 x 640 pixels (or 326 pixels per inch) with a 16:9 ratio. The screen is not wider as anticipated, however. The screen also has 44 percent more color saturation than the iPhone 4S.

The iPhone 5 is also taller to accommodate an extra line of apps in the home screen. The handset is also 18 percent thinner, at 7.6mm the device is 20 percent lighter than the iPhone 4S at 112g. 

Global 4G LTE connectivity: Dubbed "Ultrafast Wireless," the handset now includes HDPA+, DC-HSPDA, and 4G LTE for global next-generation networking. LTE is on a single chip for voice and data. The handset has a dynamic antenna that allows the phone to switch between different networks. 

Available on Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon in the U.S.; Softbank, Smartone, Singtel, SK Telecom in Asia; and Deutsche Telekom and EE in Europe.

The iPhone 5 also includes 802.11n Wi-Fi networking (2.4GHz and 5GHz), allowing for speeds up to 150Mbps. 

Improved processor: The A6 debuts in the new iPhone, a processor that is twice as fast as the A5 chip and twice as fast in graphics as well, making way for faster performance. It's also 22 percent smaller than the A5 in the iPhone 4S.

Battery life improvements: The battery now exceeds that of the iPhone 4S, allowing for 8 hours of 3G talk time, 3G browsing and LTE browsing. It accommodates 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing. Crucially, the device will last on standby for 225 hours.

iSight camera: Featuring an 8 megapixel camera, it takes photos at 3264 x 2448 resolution. It also has backside illumination and a five-element lens. The camera itself is 25 percent smaller. 

The new A6 chip has a "smart filter" and image signal processor that allows for 40 percent quicker photo taking, even in low-light conditions. 

Users can also take 1080p video, and the stabilization has improved. It features face detection for up to 10 people.

'Lightning' dock connector: An 80 percent smaller dock connector. Accessory makers have been working with Apple to support new peripherals. Apple will also provide an adapter for the old 30-pin dock connector, which has been used since 2003. 

A quick rundown of the other hardware specifications:

  • FaceTime HD with 720p support;
  • FaceTime now works over 3G with iOS 6;
  • Speaker has five magnets, up from two, featuring better quality and using 20 percent less space;
  • Noise cancelling improvements, called "Wideband audio."

And last, but most certainly not least:

iOS 6Despite the new iPhone design and the wealth of new features, ultimately it will be the software that carries the next-generation smartphone. Dubbed the "world's most advanced mobile operating system," Apple will make the latest mobile software available to download for older devices later this month. 

Included with iOS 6 we have:

  • Maps: Maps have been built up completely from the ground. iOS no longer users Google Maps, but instead has its own in-house solution. It includes traffic notifications, 3D graphics, and driving directions. A new "Flyover" feature allows users to see 3D satellite imagery and 3D buildings in non-satellite view.

  • Panorama: As the leaks suggested, the new iSight camera allows for panoramic photo taking, up to 28 megapixels in total. The iPhone takes slices of photos and stiches them together in realtime, creating a seamless transition between the individual photos taken.

  • Passbook: Passbook keeps your boarding passes, store cards and e-ticket details all in one place. If you're airline or coffee shop supports Passbook -- many already are -- your passes appear when you reach the airport or the store where you can check-in or redeem your gift card or coupon. If, for example, your gate changes after you have checked in, Passbook will tell you where you need to go next. 

  • Facebook integration: Facebook is integrated by default with iOS 6, in much of the same way Twitter was with iOS 5. Simply open up the Settings and install it directly to your device. It's integrated deep into the operating system. We'll see more of this later.

  • Privacy improvements: Settings now includes a Privacy option. This follows the Path contact list uploading controversy earlier this year. Twitter was also embroiled in the privacy mess. Users are now explicitly asked for consent before any personal data is accessed within the iPhone or iPad.

  • Do Not Disturb: Users can schedule the Do Not Disturb setting to prevent the device from making sounds during sleeping hours. However, if an important call comes through -- from your family members in an emergency, for instance -- your iPhone will still ring. If they ring back again shortly after, it will ring again.

A quick rundown of the other iOS 6 features mentioned:

  • New fullscreen mode in Safari;
  • iCloud synchronizing tabs in Safari;
  • VIP in email, collecting messages from important people in one place;
  • Siri improvements, now includes sports scores, movie timings, restaurant bookings;
  • Siri can also update your Facebook status;
  • Shared Photo Streams to share photo content with your friends;
  • Enhancements to accessibility for those with disabilities;

Image credits: James Martin/CNET.

Topics: Apple, 4G, iOS, iPhone, Smartphones

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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