Apple CEO Tim Cook took to the stage in San Francisco to unveil the iPhone 5 and the latest version of the company’s mobile operating system, iOS 6.
Yet despite the event’s goal — to amaze the public with a first look at Apple’s market-leading handset — gadget enthusiasts were instead met with familiar design elements, dimensions and specs thanks to leaked images and incessant coverage by gadget blogs and technology websites. It’s a sign that Apple, once the poster child of corporate secrecy, is increasingly having trouble keeping a lid on its new products, particularly its mobile slate.
As expected, the iPhone 5 sports a larger, 4-inch screen with a resolution of 1136 x 640 pixels and an aspect ratio that approximates the 16:9 HDTV standard. The growth spurt will allow the iPhone to display a fifth row of icons for the first time, not including docked apps. For comparison’s sake, the iPhone 4 and 4S were both fronted by a 3.5-inch, 960 x 640 display.
While taller, the iPhone 5 will be slimmer and lighter than its predecessor, measuring 7.6 mm thick versus 9.3 mm, and weighing 3.95 ounces, nearly a full ounce less than the 4S. Apple embraces its fondness for metallic surfaces by cladding the back with an aluminum panel. An insert along the top houses the 8 megapixel rear camera and flash.
Under the hood, the iPhone 5 gets Apple’s new A6 processor that, according to the company, packs roughly twice the processing and graphics rendering power of the A5 chip. The iPhone 5 also finally embraces fast 4G cellular networks with LTE network compatibility.
Apple used the occasion to also debut a new, smaller connector called Lightning, which the company claims is reversible and more durable. Customers that are heavily invested in the iOS gadget ecosystem needn’t fret just yet; the company is working on adapters to connect older peripherals.
The smartphone will ship with iOS 6, bringing with it the highly anticipated FaceTime over cellular feature (FaceTime currently only works over Wi-Fi). Other features include a new, in-house Maps application, a Passbook app for loyalty cards, event and boarding passes, and tighter Apple ID integration for cross-device (iPhone, iPad and Mac) synching, notifications and messaging.
iPhone 5 preorders kick off Friday, September 14. Available in black or white, it officially goes on sale a week later on September 21. Prices start at $199 (on contract) for the 16 GB version, climbing to $299 for 32 GB and $399 for 64 GB.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.