Apple is still in the process of running through various product updates and rollouts in San Francisco, but the marquee event — the reveal of the all-new iPhone 5 — has concluded. The verdict: Apart from a modest change in the design and some improvements in speed and battery life, this is not a radically new smartphone. Here's a quick summary:
The new connector is the most controversial thing about the iPhone 5. Basically, Apple is replacing the familiar connector that was borrowed from the iPod eight years ago with a new, smaller connector. This is to make room inside the taller, thinner iPhone 5. But it strands the iNation with a bajillion connectors and chargers that have been amassed over the better part of a decade. Apple says it will provide an adapter, called "Lightning," for something like $15, but you know how it goes with fiddly little things like that. Apple better sell them in six-packs.
It's lighter, it's thinner, it's taller, it's faster — and the battery lasts longer. The iPhone 5 is a a little bit thinner (18 percent thinner than the iPhone 4S) and a little bit lighter (20 percent). The screen is 4 inches, which allows for five rows of icons on the display. It's supposed to be twice and fast as the 4 and even though it takes advantage of 4G LTE wireless, battery life is eight hours — 10 if you're running on wi-fi only or just running apps.
Prices are unchanged from the iPhone 4S. The 8GB iPhone 5 is $200 (I'm rounding up from the irritating "99" pricing), the 16GB $300 and the 32GB $400. The 4S drops to $100 and the 4 becomes...free! And obviously this is all pricing based on a wirless contract with the data plan.
About that data plan. CNBC helpfully pointing out during the Apple event that all the cool new stuff that the iPhone operating system, iOS (now upgraded to version 6), and the iPhone 5 together will provide will also be costly to consumers who aren't getting all-you-can-eat data plans anymore. So get ready for some bigger monthly bills.
Nothing new to see here, move along. Look, no one really thought we were going to be getting some wildly new iteration of the iPhone. Apple incorporated features that smartphone users have been asking for, although even the larger display isn't that much bigger. At some point, making the device thinner and thinner starts to seem like a stunt, unless you can somehow make it into a credit card.
Then again, Apple will sell a lot of these. Initial iPhone 5 sales could add up to 10 million, with 50 million a possibility through the end of the year. A JPMorgan analyst said that the iPhone 5 along could add as much as half a point to 2012 U.S. GDP growth. Here's the big question, though: Will the absence, and maybe even the impossibility, of delivering real sizzle with this product mean that Apple enters an innovation trough, improving familiar products while trying to build a new device for a new market (an iTV, perhaps). That could push Apple's stock price down. But that's just Wall Street stuff. Overall, this new iPhone should, you know, keep Apple in the smartphone game. Right?
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