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 (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.

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


$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.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.