The iPhone 5

Apple has announced the coming of the iPhone 5.

It is coming within the week, in fact. And even though it offers only minor changes and incremental performance increases, the expectation is that it will be the highest-selling phone in history. But what does it actually include?

It is old news by now that Apple last month successfully sued Samsung for damages, having proven to a court’s satisfaction that it owns the rights to rectangular shaped phones with rounded corners. It was awarded $1 billion dollars in damages, a ruling that the judged handed down while doing a Dr Evil impersonation.

Apple has just announced the imminent release of the iPhone 5, and one imagines that Samsung will be keen to return the litigious favour. The new Apple device is both larger and lighter, two features that Samsung should argue they came up with first. They’ve been doing larger and lighter for years.

New Screen

Witnessed in isolation, it is easy to miss the increase in dimensions and the decrease in weight. However, seen next to the existing iPhone 4, the new phone is noticeably longer, and with a commensurately larger screen. This allows an extra row of icons, which means that you will have to do less of that swiping that Apple also proved Samsung stole from them, and which wasn’t especially annoying anyway. The new screen will also be able to display widescreen movies in their native 16:9 format, so your night in with the family in front of the phone won’t be ruined by a skewed aspect ratio. Of course, other phones have been doing this for a while, even ones who put their moral crapulence beyond doubt with curved corners. The new display, for you information, has a resolution of 1136 x 640.

New Camera

There’s also a new 8MP camera, which can also record high definition 1080p video at 30fps. The new camera includes an improved dynamic low-light mode, and takes photos 40% faster, which is welcome. The video camera function has improved video stabilisation. You can also take photos while you're recording video.

New Hardware

It also features a new A6 processor apparently almost twice as fast as the current A5 one, although you always have to takes such specs with a grain of salt, since in the real world they don’t mean quite what you think they do. Stuff won’t run twice as fast, in case that’s what you’re thinking, and despite what Apple may claim. But it will feel noticeably quicker. It is also 4G capable, and, most importantly for Australians, it will work on the LTE networks here. Users who were stung by Apple’s 4G claims with the latest iPad can rest easy.

New Plug

On the downside, Apple has decided that the new phone will have a new plug (80% smaller). This doesn’t seem earth-shatteringly important, except that it won’t work with any existing iDevice accessories. The cost of acquiring the device must therefore include the cost of buying an adapter, and the sustained aggravation of remembering to take it with you. That’s truly an innovation I cannot see Samsung using, and has inspired widespread unrest among users. Many have claimed they won't buy the new iPhone because of it. I bet most of them do.

New Price, New Look

As ever, the new iPhone will come in a variety of storage levels, and in two different colours. The new (two-tone) look has broken up the traditional uniform gloss finish with a pretty smart-looking matte backing. As usual with Apple devices, it looks excellent, although this is of course a matter of taste. Storage-wise, there will be 16Gb, 32Gb and 64Gb models, which in Australia will cost:

  • 16Gb - $799
  • 32Gb - $899
  • 64Gb - $999 (or three cows and your firstborn child, whichever is cheaper)

Existing iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S models will see their prices fall. Given that the new device is less revolutionary than an incremental improvement, I expect to see a lot of people upgrading their aging iPhone 3GS phones to an iPhone 4S, so that a whole new batch of users can be underwhelmed by Siri.

New OS

To coincide with the iPhone 5 release, Apple is also unveiling the latest iteration of their mobile operating system. I will cover this in a subsequent post (believe you me), but right now it is enough to say that the upgrade will also work on the older iPhone 4 models (and iPads), which makes the case for grabbing a cheaper iPhone 4S even more compelling.