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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) introduced the iPhone 5, as expected, at a media event in San Francisco. The device, details of which had been widely leaked in the months leading up to the event, will support LTE, have a taller screen and will run on Apple's updated iOS 6 software.
Apple added LTE connectivity to its iconic iPhone for the first time. The device will sell in two different versions in the United States: One that will support the 700 MHz C Block LTE network of Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and the 1900 MHz LTE network of Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), and a separate version that will support the 700 MHz B Block and AWS LTE network of AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T). Apple will also sell a version that supports international LTE networks.
A week after the nation's three Tier 1 carriers launch the device on Sept. 21, a number of smaller carriers will also begin selling the iPhone 5. Leap Wireless' (NASDAQ:LEAP) Cricket, C Spire Wireless and Cellcom have announced they will sell the iPhone 5 starting Sept. 28. Other current iPhone carriers, such as Appalachian Wireless, Alaska Communications and GCI of Alaska and nTelos Wireless, also confirmed will join the ranks of these smaller iPhone 5 carriers.
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 has a 4-inch Retina display, 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 phone is made entirely of glass and aluminum.
The iPhone will sport an Apple-designed A6 application processor, which Apple said is twice as fast as the dual-core A5 chip inside the iPhone 4S. Forward Concepts analyst Will Strauss speculated that the A6 is a quad-core 28nm implementation of ARM Holdings' Coretex-A9 processor The gadget has a "dynamic antenna" and supports not only LTE but also CDMA-1xEV-DO, HSPA+, HSPA, dual-carrier HSDPA, EDGE and GPRS, as well as 802.11n Wi-Fi at 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Strauss said it unlikely that any company but Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) "could have provided the single-chip baseband modem and single-chip multi-band RF transceiver."
Verizon's LTE network currently covers 75 percent of the U.S. population, around 235 million POPs, and the carrier plans to hit 260 million POPs by year-end. AT&T's LTE network covers more than 75 million POPs, and the carrier plans to expand that to 150 million POPs by year-end. Sprint Nextel just turned on its LTE network in July in a handful of markets, but the carrier plans to cover 123 million POPs by the end of the year. Sprint announced earlier this week it will be bringing LTE to 100 new markets in the "coming months" including Boston; Chicago; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Miami; Nashville, Tenn.; New Orleans; New York; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C.
Sprint has already touted that its LTE iPhone will be the only one in the United States paired with an unlimited data plan. Verizon confirmed it will add the FaceTime video calling feature over cellular, which is enabled via Apple's iOS 6 software, at no extra charge. AT&T is offering that feature as well but only to customers on its new Mobile Share plans, which sparked a backlash against the carrier from public interest and consumer groups.
In terms of network coverage, Verizon's extensive LTE network, covering 75 percent of the U.S. population, could give it a leg up on its U.S. competitors. Verizon's network was also named the fastest in a recent report from wireless testing company RootMetrics. Forrester Research analyst said Verizon's LTE superiority will give it a "clear advantage" over its competitors. Despite unlimited data Sprint also doesn't have as much spectrum to devote to LTE as Verizon does: Sprint's LTE network works in a 5x5 MHz configuration and Verizon's LTE network works in a 10x10 MHz configuration. Typically more spectrum delivers faster speeds. AT&T noted that its HSPA+ network is faster than Verizon's CDMA EV-DO network outside of LTE areas.
In Canada, Rogers, Telus and Bell Mobility will offer the iPhone 5. In Europe, Everything Everywhere will launch the LTE iPhone in the U.K., meaning it will also support the 1800 MHz band there. Deustche Telekom was also named as a partner for Germany. In Asia, Apple has announced Japan's SoftBank and KDDI, Korea's SKT and KT, Hong Kong's SmarTone and Singapore's SingTel.
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Article updated Sept. 13 with additional information.