After months of speculation, information leaks and Photoshopped pictures of false prototypes, Apple finally gave the world its first look at the new iPhone 5 and its new operating system, iOS 6.
On the morning of Sept. 12, hushed crowds waited patiently at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco to catch a glimpse, and hopefully get a little hands-on time with Apple's new smartphone. The press conference reinforced features debuted at Apple's Worldwide Developer's conference a few weeks ago, where the tech giant announced the first few features of iOS 6.
The biggest updates to the phone's software are the debut of Apple maps, which features turn-by-turn navigation, improved call performance and a new iTunes mini-player. Apple's digital personal assistant, Siri, will also be getting an update that allows it to launch apps, take notes and post to Facebook and Twitter. Siri will also get movie integration, using services like IMDB and Fandango.
Along with the new mini-player, iTunes will be completely redesigned in both appearance and features. iTunes fans will notice an improved search and playback functions and that podcasts no longer appear within iTunes, as Apple has added a dedicated Podcasts app.
On the hardware side, Apple announced that the iPhone 5 will feature a redesigned case, improved charger, better charging port and relocated headphone output. Apple also disclosed the full specs for their brand new A6 processor, which promises to improve phone speed and performance, as well as allowing the iPhone 5 to handle all of the new software updates.
The new iPhone 5 is 18 percent thinner than the iPhone 4S, and 20 percent lighter at 112 grams. As expected, the iPhone 5 has a bigger 4-inch screen, with an improved Retina Display. To the average user, that means a fifth row of icons on the home screen. That's pretty nice since it will let you cut down on the number of home screens. Third-party apps that haven't been updated will continue to work, but you'll see black borders on each side to avoid scaling or cropping. Apple also promises that wide-screen movies will look better, with 44 percent more color saturation than on the iPhone 4S.
Even the earbuds, now labeled as "EarPods", have been completely redesigned and improved. Apple promises that they will boost richer sound and clearer microphone pickup.
Another addition is an image signal processor in the A6 chip. This brings noise reduction and a smart filter that produces better low-light performance and captures photos faster. There's also a built-in panorama mode that stitches shots together for one large 28-megapixel photo. The secondary front camera now can shoot 720p HD video and it gets a backside illuminated sensor. You should now also be able to launch photography apps almost twice as quickly as before.
The iPhone 5 also gets an additional microphone, bringing the total to three. You'll find one on the bottom, one on the handset's front face, and one on its rear side. The noise-canceling feature should be improved as well, and there's a new wideband audio feature that promises more natural-sounding voices.
On the bottom of the iPhone 5, there's a new and long-anticipated smaller dock connector, called "Lightning". It's now all-digital, 80 percent smaller, and since it's reversible, both ends will be the same.
Pre-orders opened up worldwide shortly after the announcement and sold-out worldwide in a matter of hours, prompting Apple to push release dates back and increase their already impressive production schedule.
The iPhone 5 will be available in white or black and will retail for $199 for 16GB model, $299 for 32GB model and $399 for 64GB model. Look for it to hit shelves on Sept. 21 in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and Japan. More countries will see the iPhone 5 on Sept. 28.