Apple has learned not to mess with a good thing.
The iPhone-maker finally revealed the latest iteration of its blockbuster smartphone on Wednesday, treating customers to a device that featured dozens of minor refinements, but no major departures from the formula that made the iPhone the most profitable gadget on Earth.
Perhaps the biggest changes to the new iPhone – dubbed the iPhone 5 – are external. The phone is longer, lighter and thinner that its predecessor, addressing a criticism Apple faced last year when it introduced the iPhone 4S – a phone that looked exactly the same as the previous iteration. However, hoping to avoid complaints from other smartphone users who found larger devices too cumbersome to operate with one hand, Apple has made no changes to the width of the phone.
Apple claims the new iPhone is the thinnest smartphone in the world, at 7.6 millimetres thick. The phone is also about 20 per cent lighter than its predecessor, at 112 grams.
The phone is slightly longer than the iPhone 4S – long enough to make room for a fifth row of icons on the home screen.
Apple has already updated most of its first-party apps, such as the iWork suite of tools, to take advantage of the taller screen, which also features the ultra-crisp, high-resolution "retina" screen. Apps made for older versions of the iPhone will run letterboxed on the new device.
As expected, the new iPhone will handle LTE, the next-generation wireless network that's many times faster than existing networks, and in some cases faster than wireless and wired Internet connections. The move could have some downside for Apple, given that Samsung is reportedly planning to sue the company over LTE-related patents, but few observers expected the iPhone 5 to miss out on the wireless technology, regardless of the potential courtroom implications.
The new wireless technology works across several LTE standards, and will be available on most Canadian carriers including Rogers, Bell, Telus and the sub-brands Koodo, Virgin, Fido. Wind Mobile and Videotron wireless signals appear to be incompatible according to early reports.
In virtually every respect, the iPhone 5 is an improvement over its predecessor – but not in any revolutionary way. The battery lasts longer, the processor is more powerful and the on-board cameras come with various enhancements, including a "panorama" mode that takes massive, sweeping pictures.
But besides changing the size of the screen, Apple has largely left the traditional iPhone formula intact. In fact, even the presentation itself stuck to the same script used by the company's late founder, Steve Jobs, with current CEO Tim Cook kicking things off with a slew of statistics touting Apple's dominance in the mobile marketplace, before unveiling the new phone.
Some features that were expected to be announced on Wednesday never materialized. The iPhone will not come with NFC, a wireless technology that allows for uses such as phone-based payment systems. Apple is also ditching its well-known connector cable, which it had used for nine years dating back to the iPod. Instead, the iPhone 5 will need a new, slimmer connector. While that will likely prove to be a headache for those who have the old cable and docking devices using the old standard, the company said it is building an adapter.
The iPhone 5 will be available in two colours, black and white. Pre-orders for the phone in Canada and the U.S. start on September 14, with shipping set for a week later. The new phone will be priced the same as the current iPhone, starting at about $200 with a contract. Canadian pricing without a contract is starkly different $699 for the 16GB model and $799 for the 32GB model and $899 for the 64GB model.
Perhaps more importantly for Apple's attempts to capture the low-end of the smartphone market, both the iPhone 4S and the older iPhone 4 will both see a price drop, with the latter device essentially priced at $0 with a contract.
According to Apple, the companion iOS 6 software will be available on Wednesday, September 19 as a free update.