Thinner, Longer, Faster: Apple Unveils iPhone 5

Iphone5-BAs promised and breathlessly awaited, at least among tech bloggers and media mavens, the iPhone 5 was formally introduced by Apple at its now-annual big reveal in San Francisco this afternoon (Sept. 12). As expected, the device will be enhanced along with most of its features. Because the overheated tech press is focusing on the specs, we will do a quick snapshot of the changes that will have some effect on marketing and media.

Everyone gets more real estate on which to play. The screen size has increased from 3.5 to 4 inches, with the added dimension coming in length. The taller iPhone 5, as it is now officially named, will have a screen resolution of 1136 x 640 but will retain its pin-sharp Retina Display pixel density. This will allow for an extra row of icons, which no doubt makes discovery within one’s own deck a mite easier. But it does also allow for more content exposed in apps and a new full-screen Web browsing mode in Safari. The 16:9 aspect ratio allows for full widescreen video viewing.

Apple says that old apps will run in their original aspect ratio in a box until the developers update them for the longer screen, but the company also insists that early experience shows updates can be done quickly. Apple’s Phil Schiller demonstrated that the extra real estate can be used for more sophisticated operations, such as more pleasing use of white space (in one example of a revised CNN app) and multi-pane functionality in ordering screens. Schiller also insisted the display will be sharper and with deeper color saturation, partly because the touchscreen technology has been revised.

The iPhone 5 should be able to handle richer content across both WiFi and cellular networks. WiFi has been enhanced to handle 802.11n networks running at 5 Ghz. The iPhone will be 4G, running on international LTE networks. Finally, the processor itself has been upgraded to an A6 chip that Schiller says is twice as fast in both graphics and functions processing. For games especially, this will be a substantial lift to near console-quality imagery, claims Electronic Arts Executive Producer Rob Murray.

In other technical matters, the iPhone 5 will have a new, smaller and faster connector. The camera has been enhanced to handle the longer aspect ratio. Audio output is improved, as is recording.

Releasing at about the same time as the iPhone 5 will be the iOS 6 update, which has already been covered as it has rolled out in beta form among developers. The Google Maps have been replaced by Apple’s own mapping system, including a 3D flyby effect. The device is also slightly thinner. Apple claims it has maintained the width of the iPhone and added length in order to maintain the iPhone optimal one-handed usability.

Of special interest to marketers will be the arrival of the iOS Passbook, which collects in one app actionable content like coupons, tickets, and boarding passes. For the sake of convenience, Passbook can be called up from the lock screen, making things like fast boarding pass or coupon retrieval much easier.

Siri’s voice search functions have been enhanced. It now can understand requests for things like restaurant recommendations. It can also post messages directly to Facebook via audio command.

Pricing will remain the same for the iPhone 5: $199 for a 16GN model, $299 for 32GB and $399 for 64GB (with two-year contracts). It ships September 21. Pre-ordering begins this Friday, September 14. iOS 6 will be released Sept. 19 and will be compatible with iPhone 3GS and all subsequent models as well as the iPad 2 and new iPad.  


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