The entire consumer tech industry has learned to hold its breath in the months leading up to Apple’s (AAPL) fall media event while the tech press works itself into a frenzy of speculation.
That’s because a lot’s riding on every time the latest iPhone is announced.
Competitors discover whether they’ve been left behind. Journalists find out whether they’ve been duped by fake prototypes. Accessory makers and app developers learn whether their products have just been rendered obsolete. And iPhone fanatics inevitably start queuing up outside Apple Stores.
Well … Apple didn’t disappoint with its latest round of revelations:
The new flagship iPhone was announced and, as expected, it’s going by “iPhone 5S.” It comes in silver, gold (the rumors pegged that one) and “space grey.” And yes, it has a fingerprint scanner for security. The new flagship iPhone starts at $199 on contract, $649 off. Other features:
- A7 processor at 64 bits (the world’s first 64-bit mobile phone) with more than 1 billion transistors
- New M7 chip is a motion co-processor to free up the main CPU from monitoring gyroscope and other sensors
- Touch ID capacitive sensor (500 ppi resolution)
- Battery good for 10 hours of talk time
- 5 element lens with f/2.2 aperture, improved autofocus, image stabilization, auto levels, 15% larger sensor, burst mode, slow-motion capability and larger pixels for better low light performance, along with a dual element flash
- 16/32/64GB storage
Apple says the iPhone 5S is twice as fast as the iPhone 5, including in graphic performance — 56 times faster than the original iPhone from 2007. In a demo of Epic Games’ new Infinity Blade III game for iOS, the graphics on the iPhone 5S rival those of an Xbox 360 or PS3 video game console. That new M7 chip means the iPhone 5S has killer fitness tracker and location awareness capabilities too, while its advanced camera features continue the parade of bad news for digital camera makers.
And fingerprint scanning — the culmination of Apple’s purchase of AuthenTec last year — is here in the form of a new, Touch ID Home button. It not only unlocks the iPhone 5S, but it can be used to confirm iTunes purchases instead of a password. Multiple fingerprints can be used (so your spouse is not locked out) and the prints are stored on the chip — not in the cloud.
The iPhone 5S will be released Sept. 20.
The iPhone 5 is gone. The new low-cost iPhone option is the new iPhone 5C — the famed “colourful” iPhone, starting at $99 on a two-year contract (4S will be the “free on contract” offering), and $549 off-contract. Its polycarbonate case is available in five colors: green, white, blue, red and yellow. Apple is also offering custom color cases for the iPhone 5C that let buyers mix and match for more color combinations. Technical highlights include:
- A6 processor
- 4-inch Retina display
- Higher capacity battery than iPhone 5
- New FaceTime HD camera with larger pixels for better lowlight performance
- LTE plus 802.11a/b/g/n 2.4GHz and 5GHz
- 16GB or 32GB storage
The iPhone 5C also will be released Sept. 20, and Apple will take preorders for the device starting Sept. 13.
Apple’s new mobile operating system has received its biggest overhaul ever — a freshening it needed to compete against Google’s (GOOG) Android and Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows Phone 8. It introduces iTunes Radio, Apple’s answer to streaming music services like Pandora (P).
Besides providing the visuals and new functionality to keep Apple competitive, iOS 7 cuts off the iPhone 3GS altogether and has limited functionality for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S — look for the new operating system to kick off a round of iPhone owners upgrading their devices. Owners of new Apple mobile devices also get Apple’s iWork productivity apps as a free download.
Sept. 18 is download day for iOS7.
Will Touch ID be a Killer Feature or a Dud?
When Apple released the iPhone 4S — visually identical to the previous year’s iPhone 4 — it added an exclusive new feature that was intended to spur iPhone 4 owners into upgrading early. Unfortunately, Siri has been somewhat underwhelming so far as killer features go.
Touch ID could be a killer feature, but only if it smoothly relieves users of password tedium while resolving security concerns that have held back mobile payments — not if it ends up being a work in progress. However, the demos looked good. If Apple’s iTunes payment experiment flies, Touch ID could attract other retail/mobile payment partners.
On the low-cost front: The Chinese market is huge, and Forbes points out that if Apple can achieve just 10% market share with its Chinese partners, it would increase its iPhone sales volume by 60%. Apple’s deals with carriers like China Mobile (CHL) weren’t mentioned specifically, however, this is the first time new iPhones will launch in China at the same time as the usual first-run countries.
If you’re an iPhone fan, you’re probably pretty happy with today’s event. Apple investors don’t seem as keen, driving AAPL down 2% today, but between a big upcoming upgrade cycle and possible traction in China to look forward to, things should be looking back up sooner than later.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.