SAN FRANCISCO -- Over the past several weeks and months, I can't tell you how often I've gotten the question, "When is the new iPhone coming out?'" We now know the answer to the question. Apple announced a brand new iPhone 5 today. The obvious follow-up question: "Is it worth it?"
My true answer must wait until I've had a chance to put the iPhone 5 through its paces, and details are still emerging as I sit in the audience at Apple's event here. But the new iPhone looks awfully inviting from my vantage point. Like many people, I've had an iPhone 4 that has frankly grown stale. But I also postponed the purchase of a new smartphone -- waiting to see what Apple would do.
The new iPhone 5 has the same retina display as on its predecessor. But Apple finally upped the screen size to 4 inches, up from the 3.5-inch display that was on all its predecessors. That permits a fifth row of app icons on the home screen. It's still a smaller screen than the display on many rival Android devices. But the extra real estate is welcome, just the same.
Apple says the new device a little taller than its earlier models and is the thinnest and lightest iPhone ever made -- 18% thinner, in fact, than its immediate predecessor, the iPhone 4S. And the iPhone 5 is one-fifth lighter than the 4S. It is made entirely of glass and aluminum.
GRAPHIC: A leaner, more powerful iPhone
VIDEO: Talking Tech: iPhone5
And yes -- as had been rumored and as I had hoped -- the iPhone 5 can tap into speedy wireless 4G LTE networks. Apple will be working in the U.S. with AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless, as well as several other carriers in Canada and overseas.Apple says users will get up to 8 hours of 3G talk time off its battery.
The iPhone 5, in black or white aluminum, ships Sept. 21 in the U. S. and will be available for preorder on Friday. Prices: $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB, $399 for 64GB. (With a contract, the iPhone 4 will be free; iPhone 4S, $99.)The new iPhone runs off a zippy A6 chip, Apple says, meaning you can launch photos, music, and various apps much quicker. I'm anxious to compare this to its predecessors.It has an improved iSight camera that Apple says increases performance in low light. Apple says it can capture pictures 40% faster than before.
Apple's Phil Schiller joked about the pictures you can take with the new camera: "Kids look happier." (I'll let you know if I'm happier after taking my own pix.) With the new phone, you can also capture panorama images. On stage, Apple showed a stunning 28-megapixels panoramic image of the Golden Gate Bridge.Apple also improved the front-facing FaceTime camera. And the phone has three microphones, and what the company says are better speakers.
Apple has incorporated new "wideband audio" technology to bolster sound by filling up more of the frequency spectrum.Now a controversial topic: iPhone has used the same 30-pin connector that has been on the iPhone since 2003. Of course, there are now lots of other ways to connect -- Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi syncing. And now Apple is evolving the connector to something called Lightning, playing off the name of Apple's other emerging connector, Thunderbolt.