iPhone 5: Apple's worst kept secret

iPhone 5: Apple's worst kept secret

Summary: Apple has just unveiled the iPhone 5, and for anyone who has been keeping up with all the hardware leaks over the past few months, there's an unnerving sense of déjà vu as the new hardware seems awfully familiar.


Apple's long anticipated iPhone event has been and gone. We've finally had the chance to take a first look at the next-generation iPhone: simply, the iPhone 5.

And guess what? There wasn't much that we hadn't already seen. In fact, I was hit by wave after wave of déjà vu.

Read this:

Apple unveils the iPhone 5 (photos)

Apple has unveiled the iPhone 5, which it claims is the "biggest thing to happen to the iPhone since the iPhone". Here's a visual tour of what the new handset brings to the table.

Read more

Let's start with the chassis. The glass panel on the back is gone, replaced by an aluminum unibody chassis. It's the same chassis that we saw leaked by parts reseller ETradeSupply back in June. This new chassis makes for a significantly thinner iPhone 5, but it's also going to mean that even trivial repairs -- like changing the battery -- will involve removing the screen, which won't be fun.

Then there's the display. Gone is the 3.5-inch screen that has so far adorned every iPhone ever made, and in its place is a revamped 4-inch, 1136 x 640, 326 pixels-per-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio retina display. While we didn't see an actual display leaked, the front lens was leaked back in August, and so the size and aspect ratio come as no surprise.

Apple was justified in not increasing the size any further by saying that this is the size that best fits in the hand for single-handed use. Any bigger, and the average thumb can't track across the screen.

The new screen allows for more information to be displayed on the screen, and for widescreen movies to fill the entire display. It even has enough space for a new row of icons, which will be handy for people with a lot of "must have' apps. The leaked front lens also showed how the sensors had been moved so the front speaker could be redesigned to allow for a noise-cancelling earpiece and a beefed up speaker.

Then there's the A6 processor. Again, while little was known about this -- that it has a CPU and GPU that's twice as fast as the A5 processor -- there were logic board leaks that showed a radically smaller A6 processor. It turns out that the new processor is 22 percent smaller than the processor in the iPhone 4S, allowing Apple to make a smaller, thinner iPhone 5.

Then there's the redesigned dock connector, dock connector plug, and cable. No more is the old 30-pin dock connector, and in its place is a new 8-signal, reversible connector called Lightning. Oh, and so we don't have to landfill all out accessories and go out and buy new ones because there's a handy adapter that's also been talked about a lot.

The SIM card tray has also been re-engineered to take the smaller nano-SIM cards. This attention to detail goes to show just how serious Apple is about making everything smaller.

Even the earphones have been redesigned. The new earphones, called EarPods, have been specifically engineered to stay in place even in awkward ears, and better direct the sound to the ear. According to Apple these took three years to design, but were once again leaked well in advance of the official announcement.

For all the hardware leaks, there were still a few surprises. The camera has been radically redesigned, incorporating a sapphire lens and better low-light capture. There's the faster A6 processor, which according to Apple is about twice as fast as the processor in the iPhone 4S. There's also some heavy-duty noise cancellation thanks to the three microphones in the iPhone 5. The speaker has also been radically overhauled, adding five magnet transducers and shrinking it by 20 percent.

The battery has also been beefed up to handle all the additional hardware, although the overall battery life remains the same.

It seems that Apple has revamped every major component in the iPhone to bring the iPhone 5 to market, which is no mean feat given that the iPhone 5 is 18 percent thinner (now 7.6 mm) and 20 percent lighter (down to 112 grams) than the iPhone 4S. But the iPhone 5 also represents a turning point for Apple, where even the Cupertino giant, with all its billions in the bank, can't secure its supply chain and keep its flagship product under wraps until the official unveiling.

While the leaks were certainly interesting to follow, they resulted in a less than spectacular unveiling of what is actually a very impressive -- and revolutionary -- piece of consumer electronics.

That said, I doubt that sales will suffer as a result of the leaks. If anything, they created buzz and got people talking  -- and, more importantly, thinking about buying -- the iPhone 5 long before it was available.

Image source: James Martin/CNET.

Topics: iPhone, Apple, Hardware, iOS, Smartphones

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • It's not that bad

    The new phone is not that big of a change from the old phone but it does add LTE and it's thinner and lighter (especially nice for people who carry then in their pockets). It will be a nice upgrade for those people who skipped the 4 or 4s upgrades. All-in-all, a great smart phone. Are there better one's out there? That's up for debate and depends on your "eco system" preference. I just saw the pics of the new iPod touch. It's too bad that they didn't make the phone look more like those. I'm waiting for the new Nokia Lumia phones to come out next month before I decide which phone to buy.
    • Agreed.

      I skipped the 4 and 4S - my 3GS is starting to feel a bit ropey now, with occasional slow downs and problems. The 5 looks very nice indeed, and represents a huge upgrade while at the same time maintaining compatibility with my apps and accessories that I already have.
      • Well Said!

        I was thinking that this iPhone is for folks like you. The upgrade is well worth for what you are getting. I even think that those with iPhone 4 would make a nice upgrade, because I feel that the next two years apple might exclude certain iOS features from the iPhone 4.

        I have a 4S, and I am not that excited to upgrade, maybe when iPhone 5S comes out. :)
  • These leaks are just Apple's way of pre-announcing

    Apple pre-announced the iPhone 5 months ago with no pricing and no availability.

    All of these corporations are the same, they all try to "freeze" out the competition by trying to convince us to wait for the "best ____ we've ever built" (how many times was that phrase used today?) Apple does it through their network of bloggers and their "leaks". Nokia (and most other companies) choose the more honest, up front approach. The end result is the same.

      Are just a way to let us know you have the clap!
    • MS

      Haven't Microsoft done the same with Windows 7?
      But why not with Win 8? Destiny = Failure?
  • Let's get real

    Let's be honest here people. There is nothing revolutionary about the Iphone 5. They didn't bring out one Feature that is unique or really sets it apart from much else that's out there. It looks like a stretched out Iphone 4s. Have to admit I am a bit shocked honestly. I think this will end up hurting them more than anything.

    However as usual some great marketing. 28mp panorama huh? In that case my HTC One S take 40mp panoramas 5 pics x8) I will give them props for putting a sapphire lens though. The f2.4 isn't new (cause it's on HTC phones already) but sapphire is awesome.
  • Throughout the presentation I was waiting

    Waiting for the thing that would get me to go WOW, now that's an innovation, I can't live without that, I have to have that, I need that & I didn't even know it, I WANT that. I just didn't see it. I am an android user, but not because I am in love with Android or can't part with it, but because I like slider/keyboard phones & the Droid line of sliders is my weapon of choice, currently a D4. I have been waiting for this iPhone 5 release thinking that this will be the phone that will finally convince me to jump ship to a touch screen phone. The Galaxy Nexus enticed me, the S3 almost did it, the Lumia 920 has me seriously thinking about it now, but I decided to wait for the iPhone 5 announcement before I make my final decision. All throughout the iPhone event I kept saying things like, that's nice, that's not bad, ok, finally they did that, well my phone already does that..... Nothing that really wow'd me! the 3 things I really wanted to see are not there; RAZR MAXX like battery life, a super cool looking design & BT 4.0. NFC would have been nice, but it will be another year before that really gets to be a requirement. Now I know design is a subjective thing, but this just doesn't do anything for me, neither did the 4 or 4S. Oh well, I guess I will wait to get my hands on a Lumia 920 & see how that goes. Otherwise, I hope the Droid 5 is one hell of an upgrade!
  • iPhone 5: Apple's worst kept secret

    A bad secret it was. All features were leaked before hand and there wasn't much enthusiasm overall.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • ...and there wasn't much enthusiasm overall.

      Coming from a Windows Phone fan, you ought to know.
  • Not so revolutionary.

    A "revolutionary piece of consumer electronics"? What's revolutionary about it? A 4" screen, less than HD resolution, disassemble into a million pieces to change the battery. Nothing revolutionary there. A faster processor -- every phone out now has a processor faster than the previous generation, and processors are advancing by the day. Nothing revolutionary there. This phone is a big yawn, except for the Apple sheep who think anything bigger than a 3.5" screen is new technology.
    Michael Cohan
  • Boring

    Good thing boring isn't patented, otherwise Apple would be in trouble today
  • Apple should have just announced the iPad mini

    Apple should have just announced the iPad mini, and that would have got me all excited. But, oh well this is just a fools hope.
  • What was revolutionary about the iPhone5?

    Bigger, faster, thinner, but nothing revolutionary.

    There are some things that were "new" to iPhones, but everything else was pretty much available already in many other phones.
  • it was bad

    redesigned just make it looks so ugly like a headset on the bottom
  • Upgrades

    Yes, I think the upgrade is worthwhile for anyone on a 4 or older. My 4 runs iOS 6 nicely, and I like the feature set, but 64 gig storage, and a significantly faster processor, meaning faster application launch, along with noticeably slimmer and lighter weight in my hands. I'm ready. My 4 still looks good, was replaced under warrantee 4 months ago, but the 5 is easily a better move. Also the iOS 6 features aren't usable on my 4. Ready to jump. bigger, faster, better feel. Time to move up.
    • Upgrades

      clarification That is "not ALL the iOS 6 features are usable on a 4"