Apple's iPhone 5

Putting all anticipation, agitation and speculation to rest, Apple has finally unveiled the iPhone 5. As expected, the handset is larger than previous models, with a 4in Retina display. It has 16:9 aspect ratio to better accommodate gaming and video playback. It is also thinner; measuring just 7.6mm front to back. The device runs on an Apple-designed A6 processor, which the firm claims is “up to twice as fast compared with the A5 chip”, although the device does not have an NFC chip to enable contactless payments.

The handset will cost $199 on a two-year contract for a 16GB version of the phone in the US, $299 for a 32GB version and $399 for a 64GB version.

There is an LTE version of the handset available, which Apple claimed is optimised for better battery life. The device also boasts next generation wifi connectivity, using the 802.11n protocol.

The iPhone 5 runs on the iOS6 platform, which Apple showcased in June this year. The firm has developed and designed its own mapping software for the OS, which also includes support for more languages for Siri, Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant tool. Users will be able to share photo streams via iCloud and the new iOS platform includes Facebook integration for Contacts and Calendar.

The arrival of the handset is expected to spur an immediate rebound in Apple’s smartphone shipments in 3Q12 and 4Q12, following a decline in 2Q12, according to research firm IHS. In 2Q12, Apple suffered a 26 per cent drop in shipments to 26 million units, down from 35 million in the 1Q12.

“Apple’s smartphone shipments typically are weak during the quarter preceding the launch of a new iPhone model,” said Wayne Lam, senior analyst, wireless communications at IHS. “Buyers historically have delayed their purchases until the newest model is available. Then they rush out to get the latest and greatest version once it’s being sold, leading to a spike in demand. IHS predicts the same pattern will occur with the iPhone 5.”

However, while research firm Ovum expects that the new iPhone will be Apple’s most successful smartphone to date, it warned that the tech giant may have peaked in the smartphone space with the launch.

“Whilst the company is still reaping the rewards of the brand equity of the iPhone, consumers are notoriously fickle when it comes to buying handsets,” commented Adam Leach, leader of Ovum’s Devices and Platforms practice. “Without the continued innovation which we are accustomed to with Apple, the company risks losing consumer appeal. The iPhone re-defined the smartphone category in 2007 but it can’t rely on past success to guarantee its future or rely on litigation to keep its competitors at bay.”

The handset will go on sale in the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore on September 21, 2012.

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