By Alexandra Burlacu | Sep 15, 2012 12:17 PM EDT
The brand new iPhone 5 was the star of Apple's event on Wednesday, Sept. 12, and the company touts it as "the biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone." The next-generation iPhone sports an all-new design, a larger 4-inch Retina display, 4G LTE connectivity, a speedier processor, and a slew of other features, but is it a significant enough improvement to upgrade from the iPhone 4S?
The greatest and most attractive feature the iPhone 5 boasts is its new design. The new iteration is 20 percent lighter, 18 percent thinner, and 12 percent smaller by volume compared to the iPhone 4S. It measures just 0.3 inches in thickness and weighs 3.95 ounces, which makes it one of the thinnest and lightest smartphones currently on the market. Considering that Apple has also increased the size of the display, this is a significant achievement.
Every iPhone so far, starting with the original iPhone launched back in 2007, has packed a 3.5-inch screen. With the iPhone 5, however, Apple is finally catching up to current trends and with a 4 inch display. Meanwhile, a higher resolution of 1136 x 640 pixels makes up the same 326 pixel-per-inch (ppi) Retina display found on the iPhone 4 and 4S. Color saturation has also been enhanced, and is now 44 percent greater than before.
The greatest new feature, however, is 4G LTE support. The iPhone 5 is Apple's first LTE (Long-Term Evolution) phone, which means it will be able to tap into the ultra-fast 4G LTE networks from Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon, provided that users are in an LTE coverage area. The new iPhone also features support for a number of other networks worldwide. Moreover, the dual-band 802.11n wireless connectivity should provide a better Wi-Fi experience.
Previous rumors got it right: the iPhone 5 is powered by Apple's new A6 chip, which is up to twice as fast as the A5 processor found on the iPhone 4S, according to Apple. The new A6 chip also saps less power, and Apple claims the battery lasts for up to eight hours of 3G talk time, eight hours of 3G data, up to eight hours of data on 4G LTE, up to 10 hours of data on Wi-Fi, up to 40 hours audio, up to 10 hours of video playback, and up to 225 hours on standby.
Meanwhile, the iPhone 4S lasts for up to eight hours of 3G talk time, up to 14 hours of 2G talk time, up to six hours of 3G data, up to 9 hours of Wi-Fi data, up to 40 hours audio, up to 10 hours of video playback, and up to 200 hours on standby.
Apple has also upgraded its standard Apple Earphones to the brand new Apple EarPods. The EarPods sport a futuristic design, and have a built-in remote and microphone. According to Apple, the new earbuds have been engineered to minimize sound loss and maximize sound output.
In addition to the new EarPods, the smartphone itself has some sound improvements as well. The iPhone 5 has three microphones, placed on the front, back, and bottom, designed to deliver clearer audio. Meanwhile, noise-cancellation technology reduces background noise even more than on the iPhone 4S.
The iPhone 5 still packs an 8-megapixel sensor, but this time the camera is 40 percent faster, delivers better low-light performance, and sports enhanced noise reduction. Furthermore, the handset's gyroscope sensor, processor, and camera app work together to create seamless, high-resolution panoramas of up to 28 megapixels. Apple has also enhanced the front-facing camera to 720p for HD FaceTime Calls.
The new iPhone also packs a new "Lightning" connector, which is smaller and more durable than the 30-pin connector found on previous Apple devices. An adapter for older 30-pin devices should make the transition smoother.
Apple's new mobile operating system, iOS 6, comes with a slew of new features, and Siri has been upgraded as well. The new iOS 6 will be available for the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 on Sept. 19, as a free upgrade. Siri, however, is only available on the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5.
The iPhone 5 will be available for pre-order starting Friday, Sept. 14, and is going on sale on Sept. 21, with a starting price of $199 for the 16GB model and a two-year contract with Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint. As expected, Apple dropped the price of the iPhone 4S to $99 for the 16GB model, with a two-year contract. Meanwhile, the older iPhone 4 will be free with a two-year contract. However, while the new iPhone is a clear improvement over its predecessor, many are still not convinced whether it is worth upgrading.
The new-generation iPhone is arguably a great improvement over its predecessor, sporting both hardware and software enhancements. On the other hand, it brings nothing revolutionary or innovative, and while it is a bigger leap than the iPhone 4S was compared to the iPhone 4, it is still not groundbreaking. If you are satisfied with the iPhone 4S, the new iPhone is not a must-have.
"It's really based on the size of your pocketbook and how enamored you are of having the latest model," said Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power and Associates, as cited by MarketWatch.
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