The 16 Most Important New Features in Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone 5

The iPhone 5 is here amid much fanfare (predictably) from company execs at another polished Apple product launch. “It’s an absolute jewel…the most beautiful product we have ever made..,” said marketing chief Phil Schiller.

We can just take his word for it, let’s break down the most significant updates to the iPhone 5:

1) Lighter and Sleeker: 18% thinner and 20% lighter than the 4S at 7.66mm and 112 grams. Made only of glass and aluminum. (T3Live take: Thin is in, lighter is better in today’s mobile world. It will be tempting to carry this sleek phone around naked, without a clunky case.)

2) Larger screen: 4″ diagonally as opposed to previous 3.5″ on the 4S. Creates 5th row of icons on home screen. (T3Live take: Bigger is not always better, it’s how well you can work it. Screen size is a divisive mobile topic.)

3) Improved display: Retina display has 44% more color saturation, and the touch sensor is integrated into the display – an emerging trend in phones. (T3Live take: When you combine a larger screen with almost 50% better color saturation on the retina display, you have to think it will be a pretty picture, unlike anything we’ve seen on mobile.)

4) Faster cellular wireless: Supports all kinds of of 3G radios, and for first time includes support for 4G LTE in the US on Sprint, AT&T and Verizon. Also, a new dynamic antenna automatically switches to your most powerful signal. (T3Live take: Speed kills, and today’s attention-span-deprived consumer demands lightning fast load times and broad coverage. The question here is whether immature 4G networks can handle the increased load?)

5) Faster Wi-Fi: Not only are cellular speeds improved, the iPhone 5 supports more, faster flavors of Wi-Fi. (T3Live take: Who cares? It’s all about cellular. Faster Wi-Fi can’t hurt, though.)

6) 2x faster CPU and graphics with A6 processor: Dramatically enhanced media and gaming experience. (T3Live: EA Sports Demo at the iPhone5 presentation underlines Apple’s desire to further capture market share in the handheld gaming market. With the new chip, the dynamic gaming experience comes closer to rivaling what you would get, for example, on a PS Vita.)

7) Longer battery life than 4S: Supports 8 hours of 3G talk, 3G browsing or LTE browsing. 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing or video, 40 hours of music, and 225 hours of standby time. (T3Live take: Battery life on my 4S is extremely disappointing, with the battery running out in half a day under heavy usage, so I consider an improvement that area extremely important. With so many functions on the new phone, it should be a starting point.)

8) Camera improvements: Same basics as the improved 8 mega pixel 4S camera. New features are dynamic low light mode, better aligned lenses with a sapphire crystal (extremely hard) lens cover. A6 chip also enhances noise reduction, 40% quicker capture speed and low-light performance. New panorama mode allows you to sweep, for high resolution panoramic shots. (T3Live take: Panorama feature sounds really cool. The improvement to 8 megapixels made for the 4S was a big move, so these new enhancements are just gravy. There is little to carry around a separate camera anymore for the casual photog.)

9) Video improvements: Video stabilization, face detection and the ability to take photos while recording. (T3Live take: SEE ABOVE. Nice improvements on what was a good video camera on the 4S. Photos while recording was already on other competing devices.)

10) Audio improvements: Adds a third microphone (journalists rejoice) with one at the back, front and bottom. Helps for voice recognition and noise cancelling. Built in speaker is louder and clearer despite being in smaller handset. Wide-band audio also will make voice calls more natural. (T3Live take: This is perhaps the most underrated improvement. A third microphone makes the casual experience much better, and makes the phone a more versatile professional recording device. Improved built-in speaker is cool, too.)

11) New dock connector: Called “Lightning”. Replaces connector that has been in iPhones since 2003. “A lot has changed and it is time for the connector to evolve.” It is 80% smaller, all-digital, and reversible. Partners creating new docks to support connector, and there is also adapter that lets you plug in the old cords to iPhone 5. Touted by Apple as more durable, easy to use. (T3Live take: Old connector was feeling outdated, this is a natural evolution, but it’s annoying to need an adapter for old accessories. Another example of Apple reaching into our pockets because they know they can.)

12) New Maps app: Drops default Google Maps. This Apple-designed Maps app includes clear flyover satellite imagery. (T3Live take: Demos were cool during the presentation. As long as it works as well as Google Maps, I’m happy. Apple is really taking direct aim at Google.)

13) Improved integration with iCloud: Ability to share tabs from Mac using iCloud, ability to share photo streams with contacts through iCloud. (T3Live take: Can’t complain.)

14) Siri getting smarter: Siri is growing up before our eyes. She now keeps up with Sports scores and standings, and can pull-up movie info and ratings, and help book a restaurant reservation. (T3Live take: I always though Siri was a little…ditsy. It’s a natural progression to make her a little smarter and better at interacting with other apps and dynamic data. Apple has a big future planned for Siri.)

15) FaceTime over celluar: Video calls, known as FaceTime, were unveiled on the iPhone 4S, but only on Wi-Fi. Now, on most carriers, you can make FaceTime calls over cellular. (T3Live take: Nice feature that is byproduct of network build-out, but will gobble up large amounts of data on now-restricted plans. Probably best to stick to FaceTime on Wi-Fi.)

16) Earpod headphones: Apple also unveiled a new set of standard headphones that will come with all iPod and iPhones, dubbed the earpod. Apple spent the last several years scanning thousands of ears and performing research to make their standard headphone more comfortable and to improve sound quality. (T3Live take: Definitely THE most underrated part of this presentation, assuming they actually can stay in my ears unlike the old ones!)

Price: Same as the 4S – $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB, and $399 for 64GB, with 2 year contract. (T3Live take: Anything else would have seemed downright greedy and generated bad press.)

So there you have it. Overall, it’s about what was to be expected: exciting enough to capture the imagination of Pavlovian consumers, but not so cutting edge that Apple-crazed techies are not already speculating about what could be in the iPhone 6 release! The iPhone 5 is significantly more exciting, with many more new features, than the iPhone 4S was at its release, and that phone blew sales expectations out of the water. With Samsung and other handset makers scrambling following the landmark Apple patent ruling last month, the iPhone 5 is set to take the consumer world by storm this Holiday season.

Apple will start taking pre-orders on Friday, first orders ship on September 21.

Apple has sold 240 million iPhones, and expects to sell many more with the iPhone 5, with many speculating the new device could add as much as 0.5% to US GDP. The stock closed the day on the highs after bouncing around within a 12 point range during the announcement, which can be considered a major win for Apple (AAPL) bulls following a massive run higher over the last month and a half.

By John Darsie

Disclosure: Author has no relevant positions

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