iPhone 5: Apple's worst kept secret

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.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

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.

Editorial standards