Sept. 12. The big day is here, and the most anticipated product announcement of the season is over. They’re sweeping up at the Yerba Buena Center, and iPhone diehards are making plans for their annual “camping out at the Apple Store” ritual, while wireless carriers and retailers start blocking out vacation time in preparation for the iPhone launch.
We’ve seen rumors — and more bits and pieces than usual — but how accurate were the predictions in nailing Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) big reveal? Is the new iPhone everything we were expecting? Does it have what it takes to be the expected monster hit?
It had better. In five short years, the iPhone has grown from a completely new product line for Apple to its bread and butter, accounting for roughly half of the company’s revenue. The market has pushed Apple stock up 15% in the past six weeks (hitting yet another new high on Monday) in anticipation of this announcement, and competitors from Nokia (NYSE:NOK) to Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Motorola and Samsung are gunning for Apple as the one to beat with their newest smartphones, even as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) takes another kick at the can with its Windows Phone 8 launch.
We were pretty sure that something big was coming down the pipes. While there was no lost iPhone prototype this round, there was a steady stream of leaked parts and pieces. Cases, logic boards, connector ports, batteries, you name it; there were enough parts circulating for tech sites to physically assemble the new iPhone without having to find an intact version handily sitting in a bar.
Here’s what we thought we knew:
- Probably won’t be called the iPhone 5 — instead, likely to be the “new iPhone.”
- Two-tone metallic case in black or white.
- Thinner and longer.
- Screen boosted to 4 inches.
- 4G LTE support.
- Faster with new processor (possibly A6) and a memory boost to 1GB of RAM.
- 30-pin dock connector to be replaced by much smaller 9-pin version.
- Sept. 21 release date.
What Apple Released
The rumor mill really nailed this one (other than the name). The iPhone 5 that Apple revealed today looks like this:
- It will be called the iPhone 5.
- Two-tone aluminum-and-glass case with black or white front.
- 18% thinner and 20% lighter than the iPhone 4S (Apple claims it’s the world’s thinnest smartphone).
- A 4-inch screen, with 1136×640 resolution (still Retina, and the same width as previous models, but longer and able to accommodate another row of apps).
- Full range of high-speed wireless capability, including LTE.
- A new CPU (the A6) with double the processing power and double the graphics capability of the A5 in the iPhone 4S — while being smaller and more energy-efficient.
- Battery capability that exceeds that of the iPhone 4S (8 hours of 3G or LTE talk time).
- Camera is same 8-megapixel resolution, but with a sapphire crystal lens cover, low-light mode, 40% speed gain in image capture, panorama capability and improved video stabilization.
- Microphones increase from two to three for improved audio performance and noise cancellation.
- New digital dock connector (Apple calls it “Lightning”) that’s 80% smaller than the current, 30-pin dock.
- Pricing remains the same as iPhone 4S.
- Shipping starts on Sept. 21 for the U.S., Canada, U.K. and others.
In other words, a solid improvement on the iPhone 4S. Much more than an incremental update, but lacking any earth-shattering new developments.
And the Surprises
No Apple event is complete without surprises. While Steve Jobs was the master of this (having perfected the “one more thing” method of slipping in surprise announcements), the tradition continues on Tim Cook’s watch.
While the focus of this event has been largely on the iPhone (with a glimmer of hope that Apple might use it to trot out a new iPad Mini), Apple did include other product announcements.
Its iPod lines received a freshening, with a new iPod Touch receiving a 4-inch display, dual-core processor upgrade (for a claimed 7x performance jump), new iSight camera, a “loop” to attach a wrist strap (a la pocket camera) and a thinner, brushed aluminum case in a choice of five colors. It also gets Siri support.
The iPod Nano was redesigned, again, morphing this time to a thinner, rectangular device with seven color options and a built-in pedometer. Both use the new Lightning connector.
Meanwhile, iTunes — the media management software (originally released in 2001) and the online store — both receive a revamp, with a new visual style reflecting the fact that 60% of downloads are now coming from mobile devices.
The iconic (but crappy) white earbuds shipped with iOS devices are being replaced by new EarPods, which should increase sound quality for those who stick with the Apple freebies.
Apple stock hit record highs in the week leading up to this announcement. The iPhone 4S — which really was just a modest spec bump over the iPhone 4 — sold 4 million units on the weekend it was released. Despite an increasingly crowded smartphone field, expect the iPhone 5 to surpass that. Not only is it likely to be the must-have mobile device of the season, it has moved the bar enough that iPhone 4 holdouts who passed on the iPhone 4S release are likely to join in on the frenzy.
The new iPod Touch looks capable of being a hit, too, especially for Christmas — eye candy appeal along with upgraded gaming specs that have to worry Nintendo (PINK:NTDOY) and Sony (NYSE:SNE).
As a side note, expect the courtroom antics between Samsung and Apple to heat up. Smarting from its recent loss against Apple, Samsung has pre-emptively served notice it intends to sue Apple over the new iPhone’s LTE capability.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.