The iPhone 5 is here, with a 4-inch screen, powerful A6 processor and 200 new features

12 Sep 2012

The Apple iPhone 5

After months of speculation, the iPhone 5 has landed and – though some features like NFC capability are noticeably absent – the new lightweight, slim iPhone with its 4-inch Retina display and high-performance processor doesn’t disappoint.

The iPhone 5, as Apple puts it, is not a new smartphone but a better one. The rumours were true and it does come with a 4-inch display, but the expansion is all in its height, making it a perfect 16:9 widescreen device that has more pixels than the iPhone 4S and more space for your screen, but still fits neatly into the palm of your hand. The longer screen means you see more in one look, enabling full-screen Safari display and a full five days in the Calendar app.

The new device is encased in an anodised aluminium body and will come in white and black models. It’s 18pc thinner and 20pc lighter than its predecessor, the iPhone 4S, and this difference is very noticeable once you hold the iPhone 5 in your hand. It’s also slim at just 7.6mm thick, making this a more pocket-friendly smartphone than its big-screen counterparts from Samsung and HTC. It almost feels like you’re holding a media player and not a flagship smartphone.

Powerful performance and new Apple Maps app

Another noticeable change is the inclusion of a more powerful A6 processor, which gives the iPhone 5 double the CPU and graphics performance of the iPhone 4S. At the launch, this was demonstrated at its best with Apple’s new Maps app – an effort to take on Google’s mapping service. At first, the vector-based street maps with turn-by-turn navigation are nothing new, but the 3D Flyover view is where Apple’s Maps app and the power of the iPhone 5 really show prowess. Selected cities come with 3D imagery that renders at super-quick speed and can be navigated using the usual pinch to zoom but also corkscrew gesture and two-finger motions to change the angle at which you are viewing the area.

white iPhone 5

Faster connectivity

Apps will not only be faster with the iPhone 5, but so too will connectivity – where available. According to Apple’s senior vice-president of worldwide marketing Philip Schiller, the new device will support what it calls ultrafast wireless standards, including LTE and DC-HSPA. The iPhone 5 also features dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi support for a wireless experience up to 150 Mbps, the company claimed.

8MP iSight camera

One of the most dramatic new reveals was a new 8MP iSight camera that allows extra photo editing capability, better performance in low-light situations and improved image stabilisation, plus the ability to create panoramic shots of up to 25MP in portrait mode to fit even more into a single image. As well as great photo opportunities, the iPhone 5 offers 1080p HD video recording from the rear camera, while the front-facing camera also records in 720p HD video (which also means HD Facetime calling) and can recognise up to 10 faces.

Siri gets smarter, dock gets smaller

Apple has also upgraded the unique selling point of the iPhone 4S, Siri. The voice-controlled personal assistant now knows more and offers more to users, such as sending updates to Twitter and Facebook, by simply speaking to the iPhone 5.

While much of today’s unveiling excited Apple fanboys and tech geeks alike, not all changes will be welcomed with open arms. To advance the technology in such a slim device, sacrifices have to be made and – as expected – the previous 30-pin dock connector has been reduced to a tiny new connector enigmatically called ‘Lightning’. This makes compatibility with previous iPhone accessories an issue, but a Lightning to 30-pin adaptor will be available – for a price.

iPhone 5

200 new features

In total, iOS 6 introduces more than 200 new features to the iPhone 5, including a Passbook app that allows users to keep tickets, boarding cards, vouchers and other such tokens in one place; and Facebook integration for Contacts and Calendar, with the ability to post directly from Notification Center.

The device also comes with a longer-lasting battery and new enhanced audio features, including a new beam-forming, directional microphone system for higher quality sound, while background noise fades away with new noise-cancelling technology.

“iPhone 5 is the most beautiful consumer device that we’ve ever created,” Schiller said. “We’ve packed an amazing amount of innovation and advanced technology into a thin and light, jewel-like device with a stunning 4-inch Retina display, blazing fast A6 chip, ultrafast wireless, even longer battery life; and we think customers are going to love it.”

The iPhone 5 will launch in the US and UK and various other countries on 21 September, while it will hit Ireland and 21 other countries on 28 September.

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic