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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) introduced the iPhone 5, as expected, at a media event in San Francisco today. The device, details of which had been widely leaked in the months leading up to the event, will support LTE, have a larger screen and will run on Apple's updated iOS 6 software.
For the first time, Apple will add in LTE connectivity to its premier mobile product, along with HSPA+ and dual-carrier HSDPA. "There's now a single chip for voice and data, and a single radio chip," Apple's Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said according to The Verge. "And we have a unique Apple advantage with a dynamic antenna."
Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) will support the LTE iPhone in the United States, as will Rogers, Telus and Bell Mobility in Canada.
The iPhone 5 will sell for $199 for the 16 GB model, $299 for the 32 GB model and $399 for the 64 GB model, all with a two-year contract. The 16 GB iPhone 4S, introduced in October 2011, will drop to $99 with a two-year contract, in keeping with past Apple practice to lower the price of older models. The 8 GB iPhone 4, introduced in 2010, will be free on contract.
Pre-orders for the iPhone 5 will start Sept. 14 with the gadget going on sale Sept. 21 in the United States, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. That will give Apple a full week to record iPhone sales for the third quarter. Apple said more countries will follow the week after and that by December the iPhone 5 will be available in 100 countries for 240 carriers.
The iPhone 5 will have a 4-inch screen, up from 3.5 inches on the previous models, as well as a 1136 x 640 screen resolution. The larger screen real estate allows Apple to add in a fifth row of application icons to the screen. As expected, Apple will use in-cell LCD technology, making the display thinner by integrating touch sensors into the LCD. The gadget is made entirely of glass and aluminum. Schiller said it is the thinnest phone Apple has ever made, 18 percent thinner than the iPhone 4S and 20 percent lighter.
Interestingly, the iPhone 5 will also ship with Apple's redesigned earphones, dubbed EarPods. The company said the new EarPods will fit more snugly in users' ears and will provide better a audio experience.
Some analysts are predicting a blowout in iPhone sales. "We believe that if the 21st is the actual ship date, Apple could sell 6 million to 10 million iPhone 5s in the final week of September barring supply issues," Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote in a research note last week, according to AllThingsD, which noted that Apple sold 1.7 million iPhone 4s during that gadget's first weekend of sales and 4 million units of the iPhone 4S during that device's first weekend of sales.
Others are more skeptical. NPD Group analyst Stephen Baker wrote that Apple's iPhone 5 sales in the United States could be dampened by a number of factors, including a maturing market, the need to actively steal market share from other platforms as well as carrier dynamics.
"Last year's iPhone 4S launch could still take advantage of selling into what remained of the huge untapped base of potential subscribers at Verizon and Sprint who were not available to them previously," Baker wrote in a NPD blog post. "This year's introduction faces the specter of a much smaller base of previously unavailable consumers, based on their carrier preferences. None of this should of course be construed that Apple can't, or won't, have an extremely successful launch in the U.S. when the iPhone 5 comes to market. It merely points out that as the market matures the challenges of growing faster than the industry multiplies."
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