The wait is over. Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the all new iPhone 5 in San Francisco today and it will be available for sale in Australia from 21 September.
There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love: I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been. We’ve always tried to do that at Apple since the very, very beginning, and we always will.
- Steve Jobs at the first iPhone launch, 2007
The new iPhone 5 doesn’t exactly live upto those lofty words, but then perhaps, it doesnt have to. It is thinner, faster, lighter than the iPhone 4S and improves it in many ways. Bigger 4 inch screen, new smaller reversible connector, 4G LTE support for Australia, nano SIM and new additions to iOS6 software. Yes the iPhone 5 is certainly better than its predecessor, but there is nothing in the new iPhone that is not already present in the market in some form or another.
What is unique however, is the Apple ecosystem that is so enmeshed into people’s lives that the hardware almost doesn’t matter. So don’t expect the lines outside Sydney and Melbourne Apple stores to disappear anytime soon.
Let us examine the updates in detail.
4 inch screen
The bigger Retina display has a resolution of 640 x 1136 pixels. Width remains unchanged while height has been increased for a widescreen aspect. Tim Cook said that keeping the width constant was important for usability, to ensure easy one-handed operation as the human thumb can only stretch so far.
The extra real estate is able to accommodate a fifth row of icons and widescreen videos. Existing apps will work fine without requiring any changes except they will be ‘letterboxed’ to allow for the taller screen. The new phone is 18% thinner and 20% lighter. Some reviewers go on to say,”it is so light that it feels hollow”. The glass plate on the back has been replaced with two tone aluminium.
Faster A6 chipset
The dual core A6 processor is a marked improvement in speed over the iPhone 4S. It is twice as fast and can handle twice the graphics compared to the older A5 chip. Yet ‘It is powerful, but not power hungry’. This low power consumption translates into 8 hours browsing time (on LTE), 8 hours talk time and 10 hours video playback time.
4G LTE for Australia
The iPhone 5 will work on GPRS, EDGE, EV-DO, HSPA, HSPA+, DC-HSDPA and LTE. And yes, unlike the New iPad, it will work fine on the 4G bands used by Optus and Telstra in Australia. To achieve full compatibility across all the LTE variants Apple have released 3 variants each customized for a different set of networks.
GSM Model A1429 is the one we will get as you can see from this table of networks supported by country.
Smaller Lightning connector
The new connector makes room for a bigger battery and processor. But is also makes all old accessories obsolete though you can get an adapter for $35. It is 80% smaller, reversible with contacts on both sides so it doesn’t matter which way you plug it in. This new connector is probably the one thing that is going to hold back the sales of iPhone 5 initially, especially amongst those that have purchased a new expensive accessory that wont work with an adapter.
8 MP iSight camera
The iPhone is one of the most popular cameras in the world. iPhone 5 keeps the back camera resolution same as iPhone 4S but it will now take pictures faster and get better results in low light conditions. New camera software includes panorama capability, better face detection and improved image stabilization and noise reduction.
We imagine 240 degree panoramas will look pretty impressive on that widescreen display.
Now for the software updates. As expected iOS 6 is deeply integrated into iPhone 5 and many apps have been given a face lift for the launch.
New Maps application
Apple have been moving away from Google maps and iPhone 5 comes with the fully loaded version of Apple’s own mapping software. It features 3D maps where you can fly over cities, turn-by-turn directions and real time traffic data. However it is not yet clear how much of the full feature set will be available here in Australia at launch.
Improved Facebook integration
Mark Zuckerberg spoke at Techcrunch Disrupt conference yesterday and talked about how they designed the Facebook App from scratch to take full advantage of iOS6 capabilities.
Among other features users will be need to log into Facebook just once and then access the network from any app without having to log in again. And Siri will be able to post Facebook status updates based on voice input.
Redesigned native apps
All native apps have been redesigned to take advantage of the increased screen estate - Calendar App, iPhoto, iMovie and Garage Band now stretch to utilize the full screen.
Passbook is a core feature of iOS 6. It is designed as a single point store for all tickets, coupons and passes. In Australia Virgin Airlines have already announced support for Passbook boarding passes and others are sure to follow in time.
All software changes will eventually find their way to the older gen iPhones.
iPhone 5 will come in black and white in 16, 32 and 64 GB versions for $799/$899/$999 respectively on outright purchase. Carriers are readying their iPhone 5 plans even as we speak and we expect the iPhone 5 16GB to be priced around $5-$10 on $59 Caps.
Telstra, Optus and Virgin subscribers will be able to enjoy 4G speeds while Vodafone subscribers will have to wait till 2013 before they get 4G LTE though the phone will work fine on the current network.
We’ll be ready to compare iPhone 5 plans as soon as they are announced.