WWDC once again came and went without any new iPhone announcements, re-affirming that that 2011 hadn't be a fluke. Fall was the new summer. So it was that Apple announced another iPhone event for September 12, 2012. There Apple SVP of worldwide marketing announced the biggest thing to happen to the iPhone since the original iPhone. Big as in in thinner and lighter. Big as in screaming fast LTE. Big as in a taller screen. Big as in the iPhone 5.
iPhone 5: Loving it was easy
iPhone 5, codenamed N41/N42 and model number iPhone5,1, was the fourth major redesign and the second major improvement to the iPhone's display. It went from a 3:2 aspect ration to a more cinematic 16:9. The density stayed the same, at 326ppi, so that resulted in a size increase to 4-inches and pixel count increase to 1136x640 to fill up all that extra space. It allowed for an extra row of icons, an extra message, and extra everything in general. Apple also switched to in-cell technology, which let them combine the touch sensor and LCD into one layer. If the pixels previously looked like they were painted beneath glass, the iPhone 5 made them look like they were painted inside the glass. It also reduced reflections. Somewhat. Apple had succeeded in once again making the best, if not the biggest, display in the business.
The iPhone 5 also debuted Apple's first custom processor. Previous Apple A-series processors had been based on existing ARM reference designs. For the Apple A6, Apple licensed the ARM v7s instruction set and made their own design -- a 32nm CMOS dual-core Apple CPU that can run from between 800MHz and 1.2GHz. And they topped it off with a triple-core PowerVR SGX543MP3 GPU and 1GB of RAM. It was roughly twice as fast. Again. There was no new storage option, however, so 64GB remained the max. The battery did creep up again, though, to 1440mAh. That, along with new efficiencies, increased useful battery life.
The Apple A6 image signal processor (ISP) added spatial noise reduction as well as increased speed. Because of the 25% thinner body, Apple wasn't able to include a better physical camera (cameras love depth) but they somehow managed to squeeze a camera into it that was just as good as the iPhone 4S. Re-branded under the old "iSight" name, Apple did add a new, dynamic low-light mode which they claimed was up to 2 f-stops better. Apple also claimed the 5-element lens has been aligned with even greater precision for even greater sharpness. Also, the surface of the iSight was switched to sapphire crystal to make it more scratch resistant. The front, FaceTime camera went 720p, becoming FaceTime HD.
In their efforts to save space, Apple once again went to a smaller SIM card. This time, the nanoSIM. They added 4G LTE support, thanks to Qualcomm MDM9615 and RTR8600 chipsets, with a maximum theoretical speed of 100mbps. Because of the thinness and their obsession with battery life, however, they didn't add dual radios. Since LTE doesn't support simultaneous voice and data, the GSM iPhone 5 had to drop down to HSPA+ while talking. Since EVDO Rev. A also doesn't supported simultaneous voice and data, the CMDA iPhone had to drop data entirely. For areas without LTE, Apple added DC-HSPA+, and it's still impressive theoretical 42mbps capacity. Wideband audio was added for the few carriers that actually supported it. Bluetooth was already maxed out at 4.0, but thanks to a Murata Wi-Fi module, which included the Broadcom BCM4334 chip, the iPhone 5 gained 802.11n on 5GHz as well.
Apple also added a 3rd mic for better noise cancellation and beamforming not just for phone calls, but FaceTime, Siri, and other, newer technologies.
The iPhone 5 was also a turning point in another major area. After 10 years of 30-pin Dock connector, Apple swapped it out for the smaller, more flexible Lightning connector. 80% smaller and offering 8 all-digital signals to be precise. It caused a lot of pain for a lot of people who'd accumulated a lot of Dock connector-based accessories over the years, and Apple dropped the ball in a major way by not having their adapters on the shelves in anything approaching a reasonable amount of time. It was a necessary and good change, however, and over time the changing pain diminished.
Pricing was unchanged at $199, $299, and $399 on contract.
iPhone 5: Bored all the way to the bank
The iPhone 5 launched in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the UK on September 21, 2013. By the end of the year it was available in 100 countries on 240 carriers. Apple also launched iOS 6 with it. They sold 5 million the first weekend.
Competition for Apple and the iPhone had never been more fierce. Some in the media and in the markets began to run with the "Apple is doomed" meme, and Apple's ability to innovate and excite was called into question. At WWDC 2013, however, Apple began to strike back. iOS 7 was coming. But what would come with it?
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