All of Apple’s phones so far have had 3.5-inch screens, but the iPhone 5 has a 4-inch display, Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the event in San Francisco.
That may reflect the popularity of larger devices offered by Samsung and other rivals, and it gives more real estate for apps and games. It also allows Apple to add an extra row of application icons on each page.
Despite the bigger screen, Apple said its new phone is its thinnest and lightest yet. It weighs 22 grams — 20 percent lighter than the iPhone 4S — and is 7.6 mm thick, or 18 percent thinner, it said.
It comes in black or white and the prices are the same as for the 4S — US$199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB, and $399 for 64GB, along with a 2-year carrier contract. The new phone can be ordered beginning Friday and the device will ship a week later in the U.S., U.K., Japan and other countries.
The iPhone 5 gets a speedy new chip, the A6, which marketing chief Phil Schiller said doubles the speed of both CPU and graphics operations over the A5. Operations like launching apps and viewing attachments will be twice as fast, he said.
He showed “Real Racing 3” and claimed the new phone offers “console level graphics”
The new phone also has faster wireless, including the addition of LTE wireless, which is also coming to Amazon’s new Kindle. LTE offers a theoretical maximum download speed of 100Mbps, Cook said.
A big change is a new connector to replace the pin socket used since the first iPhone. Called Lightening, the new connector is faster, but it means users who want to plug the iPhone 5 into an older accessory, such as a speaker dock, will need to use an adapter.
The bigger display size also creates a slight hiccup: Existing apps now have to run with a black border around them to fill the screen.
But the new display offers several benefits too, besides being larger. It has a retina display of 326 pixels per inch and 1136-by-640 resolution, and it’s “stunning,” according to Schiller. It provides 44 percent more color saturation and the touch sensors are integrated into the display itself, making it 30 percent thinner and giving a sharper image with less glare in sunlight, Schiller said
And Apple has updated its own apps to take advantage of the bigger display — the iCal app has a new five-day week view in landscape mode, for example.
The device also includes a new technology, wideband audio, that’s intended to make voice calls sound more natural.
And the new phone gets a new OS, iOS 6. It has better mapping, with turn-by-turn directions and sharper satellite imagery. The Safari browser will have full-screen mode, among many other improvements.
An upgraded camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with a five-element lens and a faster f/2.4 aperture, which should give better low-light photography. A “sapphire” cover protects the lens and gives sharper pictures.
The new iPhone adds 1080p video with better image stabilisation and the ability to capture stills while recording video.
The iPhone 5 also betters the battery life of the iPhone 4S, according to Schiller, with eight hours of 3G or LTE talk tie or browsing and 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing.
It also has better Wi-Fi, according to Schiller, including dual channel 5GHz 802.11n that gives bandwidth up to 150M bps.
The phone has a single baseband chip for voice and data, and a single radio chip, all of which helps reduce its size and weight.
Twenty carriers will support the new phone at launch, including Orange and Deutsche Telekom. Apple is working with AT&T, Verizon and Sprint to offer service in the U.S., and with other providers in Asia, Australia, the U.K. and Germany.
Apple is also expected to announce new iPad as the Wednesday event progresses.
The iPhone 5 launch comes as Apple fights to recover its dominance in the smartphone sector. Rival Samsung shipped nearly twice as many smarthones as Apple in the second quarter, as Apple buyers held off making purchases pending today’s launch, according to iSuppli in July.
Apple won a massive patent infringement court case against Samsung in the U.S. in August. Samsung must pay Apple around $1 billion in damages and make changes to some of its phones in order to keep selling them in the U.S.