The iPhone 5 Is Here

There's something rather peculiar about Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) product launches nowadays. Thanks to a steady stream of supply-chain leaks and the never-ending rumor mill, careful watchers always have a very good idea of what to expect.

That rang true today, when Apple unveiled its iPhone 5 to the world. Just about every aspect of the event went according to expectations, and there really weren't any big surprises, for better or for worse. That being said, just because Apple didn't surprise everyone, that definitely doesn't mean it disappointed anyone. On the contrary, with analysts already expecting the device to see one of the biggest upgrade cycles in the "history of man" based in part on those same rumors as well as pent-up demand, coming in on target is hardly a bad thing.

The iPhone 5 is here.

"The biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone"
The physical casing has been redesigned, and while it looks similar, there are some important differences between the iPhone 5 and its predecessors. Apple has managed to slim down the device by 18%, from 9.3 millimeters to 7.6 millimeters, while also losing 20% of its weight, from 140 grams to 112 grams. The body is made out of glass and aluminum, the same grade used in its notebooks.

Source: Apple.

Apple didn't mention it by name, but it is using in-cell technology to slim down the device. That involves integrating the touch sensors directly into the display panel and eliminating the need for a separate layer. The display is now taller, measuring 4 inches diagonally, while keeping the same width and changing the aspect ratio to 16:9. The resolution is 1136 x 640, keeping the same Retina pixel density.

Get to the guts
The iPhone 5 comes with 4G LTE speeds, the first for the product family and the second Apple product to do so after the third-generation iPad. Instead of using separate chips for voice and data, the iPhone 5 uses one. That happens to coincide nicely with this baseband chip from Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM  ) , built on a smaller 28-nanometer process that helps improve power efficiency.

The Wi-Fi combo chip onboard also fits Broadcom's (Nasdaq: BRCM  ) bill, supporting dual-band frequencies of 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Broadcom announced these chips in February and is also moving down in its manufacturing process to a 40-nanometer one. The company says these newer chips can reduce power by as much as 40% to 50%, yielding even more power efficiencies. Dual-band Wi-Fi support is also something Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) made a big deal about at its Kindle Fire event last week.

On its A6 processor, Apple is playing this one close to the chest. The company simply showed a few vague stats that both the CPU and graphics should see twice the performance, without elaborating how many processing cores it features. That's exactly the opposite of what it did at the iPad event in March, when it devoted time to talking about the A5X and its dual-core CPU and quad-core GPU. The processor isn't even listed on the official tech spec page as it normally is, making me think Apple has stuck with a dual-core processor instead of moving up to quad-core. The chip is smaller, probably built on Samsung's 32-nanometer process, but Apple's not giving a lot of detail in this department.

Battery life has been improved relative to the iPhone 4S, an amazing accomplishment considering how much more powerful the device is and LTE's notoriety for battery drainage. This is particularly true considering the battery has roughly the same capacity, so those gains are the result of improvements in power consumption.

Shutterbugs
The primary image sensor remains at 8 megapixels, but Apple has made it smaller as well as continued to refine the optics system. The company now uses sapphire crystal for the lens, and the camera shoots 40% faster thanks to the A6 chip. The front-facing FaceTime camera has been greatly improved, up to 1.2 megapixels, and is capable of 720p HD video.

Now both image cameras are backside-illuminated sensors, but we'll have to wait for teardowns to know whether they're coming from OmniVision (Nasdaq: OVTI  ) or Sony. Based on OmniVision's recent guidance, I think it's safe to say it's the former.

The little things
The iPhone 5 has an improved speaker design, and Apple has now introduced a new dock connector called "Lightning." It's a rather cheesy name that naturally goes hand in hand with its Thunderbolt connector. The original 30-pin dock connector has been around since 2003, and Lightning has just 8 pins. It's also 80% smaller, all digital, and reversible so you can't plug it in the wrong way.

There's naturally an adaptor available so you don't have to trash all your third-party accessories. Apple is also releasing new earbuds, which it calls EarPods, that it says it's been designing for three years.

When can it be yours?
Preorders for the new device start on Friday, and it ships a week after that, on Sept. 21. The usual carrier suspects are AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint, as all three have LTE networks in various stages of deployment. There will be separate GSM and CDMA models for the different networks, a departure from last year, when the iPhone 4S supported both standards.

The on-contract price points remained unchanged, with previous models getting bumped down a notch.

Price With Contract

Model

$399 64 GB iPhone 5
$299 32 GB iPhone 5
$199 16 GB iPhone 5
$99 16 GB iPhone 4S
$0 8 GB iPhone 4

Source: Apple.

Last year, the iPhone 4S sold 4 million units on launch weekend. I think the iPhone 5 can move at least 6 million this time around. How many do you think Apple will sell? Chime in in the comments section below.

Don't forget to sign up for our new Apple research service, which comes with a bonus iPhone 5 report on how investors can profit on the new device. Sign up today to get it all, and it comes with free updates for a year.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple, AT&T, Verizon Communications, and Qualcomm, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Qualcomm, Amazon.com, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and Amazon.com and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (22) | Recommend This Article (39)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 12, 2012, at 5:51 PM, rosireddyr wrote:

    At least 8 million

  • Report this Comment On September 12, 2012, at 6:21 PM, wharang wrote:

    I am not really sold on this new one. it needs to be seen if the iPhone legacy can continue. it looks old with current smartphone standard. I don't see a reason to upgrade to this phone from iPhone 4/4S. I rather keep smaller sized phone for convenience among much larger screens.

  • Report this Comment On September 12, 2012, at 6:55 PM, chilero wrote:

    Instead of catching up to competition they are falling further behind.

    It looks old and outdated. It lacks NFC and wireless charging. The retina display, while still excellent, is only on par or even a little behind other phones. The camera, previously the best among smartphones may no longer be number 1.

    The excellent accessory market has to deal with an adapter or will require new accessory purchases.

    For many, an iPhone is also a fashion statement and a desire to be seen as part of a group. It may not be so cool to be part of this group anymore.

  • Report this Comment On September 12, 2012, at 7:19 PM, bordereiver wrote:

    Looks good to me, I will definitely buy and sign up with one of the fast connections. I was hoping for NFC, but will have to wait.

    My wife and son have already switched to Samsung, wife a Galaxy III and son a Note. They are very impressive, much lighter than my iPhone 4S. But I still hate android, so will stick with Apple. (Well, I must admit I hate it but own a lot of Google stock, and hope between AAPL and GOOG I will make a lot of money on one or both.)

  • Report this Comment On September 12, 2012, at 10:29 PM, chopchop0 wrote:

    Yup, the S3 has pretty much killed it. AAPL was the innovator, now they are playing catch-up

    Face unlock, smart dialing of an on-screen contact, a smart screen that stays awake etc. And of course the basics like a removable battery, expandable storage etc.

  • Report this Comment On September 12, 2012, at 10:46 PM, hegibson wrote:

    Maybe one day they'll do everything in white, even dress in white.

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2012, at 12:37 AM, TimTomson wrote:

    In addition to iPhone5 launch,

    Apple can finally ink a deal with China Mobile to sell the new iPhone, the impact of adding that carrier could dwarf all other factors — good or bad — influencing Apple’s iPhone launch.

    As for me, I did not missed recent >+$100 AAPL share rally, following the signal from http://bit.ly/Nx1WY8 ,

    I am using with good results so far.

    IMO AAPL is still a buy, but we shall be more careful now.

    Good Trading!

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2012, at 1:20 AM, mmmm101 wrote:

    Go to apple.com and watch the presentation. I didn't expect to be impressed, but was!

    Samsung products are light, but feel like toys. The Galaxy III has made a leap, but iPhone is still King of the Hill.

    Best

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2012, at 1:20 AM, RenegadeIAm wrote:

    American industries like this that dominate the world in profitability and innovation are unregulated and non-unionized and are staffed with unlicensed professionals (software developers)--many of whom don't even have a degree in engineering.

    Something to think about

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2012, at 10:51 AM, macspirit wrote:

    I think the new iPhone is amazing. The technology in it is substantial, and the whole is even greater than the sum of its many excellent parts. Add to that the ecosystem in which is resides, and I think it's pretty hard to beat Apple's comprehensive approach. But let me just say that I will NEVER buy any product associated with Google. And let's face it, there are those who won't buy (or admit to buying) any Apple product. Having worked for them for five years, and having followed them for much longer, I feel like I know them pretty well. Don't like the new iPhone? Great. Don't buy it.

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2012, at 6:09 PM, oberta wrote:

    Can we exchange the I-phone 3 series for this new I-phone 5 with additional payment?

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2012, at 6:27 PM, 48ozhalfgallons wrote:

    I can wait till someone gives me one like all the other Apple products I have. Free is good.

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2012, at 8:28 PM, rmedh wrote:

    Its all a con and eventually people will waken up to it. Apple have brought almost nothing to the table but they phone companies want to tie you to a 2 year deal.

    By which time Samsung and probably Nokia will have pushed even further ahead.

    Apple are now just bringing technology that was available to in 2010 to their fan base - Apple used to be about innovation - not any more.

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2012, at 8:38 PM, Snoopy2012 wrote:

    Only an idiot can think and expect an innovation every year. It took years of R&D and hard work for Apple to bring in the iPhone and iPad...revolutionary products are not pulled out of their butt. Wake up and smell the coffe.

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2012, at 8:40 PM, Snoopy2012 wrote:

    Only an idiot can think and expect a revolutionary product every year. It took years of R&D and hard work for Apple to bring in the iPhone and iPad...revolutionary products are not pulled out of their butt. Wake up and smell the coffe.

  • Report this Comment On September 13, 2012, at 8:42 PM, TheAbbevilleKid wrote:

    I feel the same as rmedh...

    Apple was the innovator of the smart phone. Their designs were something to be heralded in the beginning. But just because youre first, doesnt mean you will stay there without working hard to continue to innovate. The iPhone 5 is a rounded corner brick thats a year behind every other rounded corner brick available.

    This is how you honor Steve Jobs???

    ...by reminding the world why he was so great.

    Creative Product Innovation.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2012, at 12:45 PM, dwatson102 wrote:

    Apple has a hard business model to continue with./ They design everything up front. Others copy what they do and add a few gee gaws and wow, they catch up. Meanwhile Apple who does not copy anybody toils away trying to get something novel, useful, and non-obvious so others can copy. Personally I do nothing with Google becasue other than their driverless carr I have seen no innovation and a dishonest business model. They give away for free something that enables them to steal your data and sell it. The most visible and invasive virus ever is android. Go ahead android lovers, feed the beast.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2012, at 4:05 PM, CountZyx wrote:

    Have you seen that adapter? You totally have to trash your old accessories.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2012, at 4:08 PM, CountZyx wrote:

    If you feel even a little upset or angry about what people say regarding Apple, you might be a fanboy/fangirl.

  • Report this Comment On September 14, 2012, at 4:18 PM, ClotBoy wrote:

    It amazes me how the Tech "experts" all say virtually the same thing - nothing new and exciting about iPhone 5, However, the "real" analysts in SF for the show who got to hold the phone and play with said "I was amazed at how great the new feel and layout is". This iPhone 5 will be the biggest launch we've ever seen to date. Once you enter IOS you are assimilated - like the Borg on Star Trek Next Generation.

    Anything Apple does not short of bringing Steve Jobs back from the afterworld isn't good enough ...

  • Report this Comment On September 18, 2012, at 4:16 PM, haysdb wrote:

    I am more than happy to let Apple's financial performance speak for itself. Feel free to think the new iPhone is boring or has fallen behind or whatever. Tens of millions of people will disagree with you and buy the new phone. They "get" what makes Apple products unique and worth having vs. the hundreds of alternatives.

    As for being a year behind, that's nonsense. In what way? In cpu and screen technology, Apple leads. Apple leads in quality. Who else is making a phone as durable and light and thin as the new iPhone?

    The company has superior design, engineering, and management. I love their products and I love the stock, which comprises 50% of my individual stock portfolio.

  • Report this Comment On September 18, 2012, at 8:41 PM, mikecart1 wrote:

    The iPhone 5 is how you can pick out who is smart and who is not smart in a crowd. You can decide who is who.

    :)

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