Apple Announces iPhone 5, Swears It's Really Different From Last iPhone

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Sept. 12 2012 2:24 PM

Apple Announces iPhone 5, Swears It's Really Different From Last iPhone

iPhone 5 price
Apple's Phil Schiller announces the new iPhone 5 at an event in San Francisco.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple is unveiling the iPhone 5 today—and working very hard to convince everyone that it's a big leap from the last iPhone, the 4S.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

"We've updated every aspect of iPhone 5," CEO Tim Cook boasted. "Everything has been enhanced." Which is nice, but could also be read as a euphemism for, "There's not really any one thing here that's revolutionary."

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The most obvious difference is the one that rumor mills have been predicting for months: The iPhone 5 is taller than its predecessor, with a larger, four-inch display and a movie-friendly 16:9 aspect ratio when you turn it sideways. It looks lovely, though its ability to display a fifth row of apps and a full work week on its calendar probably won't rock many people's worlds.

Similarly, the hardware advancements are technically impressive, though probably not mind-blowingly so for the average consumer. The phone is 18 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than the 4S, yet twice as fast, thanks to its new A6 processor. It also comes with a new, smaller connector, called "Lightning," meaning that everyone is going to have to buy adapters for their old plugs and docks—or buy new ones. And it will run on super-fast LTE networks on many carriers (Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T in the United States). All that, plus longer battery life. It's safe to say Apple is doing its best to capitalize on Moore's Law.

The biggest software highlight is Panorama, a photo mode that seamlessly stitches together images to create, well, a panorama. New maps and GPS features, including turn-by-turn directions complete with 3D-modeled satellite images in a mode called FlyOver that Apple previewed at a conference earlier this year. Siri has also learned a few more tricks, like loading the latest NFL standings on command or pulling up Rotten Tomatoes reviews when you ask for a movie recommendation.

The phones will come in black and white, and the first ones will ship in the United States on Sept. 21, a week after pre-orders begin. The prices—$199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB, and $399 for 64GB—remain the same.

In short, the phone sounds like it's improved in just about every way—except, perhaps, in the excitement department.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

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