Is The New iPhone 5 Worth The Hype?



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After much hype and even more speculation, Apple unveiled the iPhone 5 today. And she is a thing of beauty.

All in all, the new iPhone is faster, slimmer, and more powerful than its predecessor — and that alone makes it worth the upgrade. But the engineering wizards at Apple have managed to once again do what it seems only they can do: pack more iPhone into a smaller package. The new iPhone has a bigger screen than ever before, a slim, new cable for connecting to your computer, and the software firepower of iOS 6. Make no mistake, Apple's latest mobile device is a serious successor to the revolutionary iPhones that came before it.

Apple put its iPhone 5 on a diet: It's 20% lighter than the 4S, and 18% thinner, making it the world's slimmest iPhone. And forget the plastic back on the iPhone 3 — this is a beauty entirely made of aluminum and glass.

And yet, even with this scaled-down silhouette, Apple bumped up the display size to four-inches, giving you considerably more screen — more e-mail, more Tweets, more everything — and another row of your favorite apps on the home screen. Apps that haven't updated to the larger-screen size will still run, but with black letterboxed borders on the sides.

Inside the phone, the single voice and data chip, upgraded antenna, LTE capability (which means super-fast speeds), and turbo-charged Wi-Fi make for even speedier wireless than before. And the A6 chip provides faster graphics and a faster CPU — nearly two times faster than the previous version.

For video, you can now take photos while you're shooting a movie. And movie mode provides face detection tech and stabilizing software for professional-quality imagery. You won't be able to ditch your fancy digital, but the iPhone's photo capacity has improved.

Apple also introduced a brand-new cable, called Lightning, which will replace that wide 30-pin connector that attaches to the bottom of your old iPhone. Like the iPhone 5 itself, the Lightning cable is a super-slim, 8-pin connector. And in case you've already invested in a bunch of peripheral gadgets, Apple's working on an adapter to connect those 30-pin relics to your new phone.

Apple also debuted a finalized version of iOS 6, which the company first previewed back in June. Maps now comes with searchable points of interests, and turn-by-turn directions aided by GPS. Social media junkies will be happy to know they can tweet and post to Facebook right from the Notification Center, rather than going through an app. The Safari Web browser goes full screen on the gorgeous new display and also syncs the tabs you have it open on your other devices through iCloud.

One of iOS6's new native apps is Passbook, which stores your digital gift cards and e-tickets all in one place. You can access your Starbucks card or even a boarding pass right from the lock screen — and the trees are more than happy about it.

If you're psyched about the iPhone, the bright spot is that you won't have to wait long: Preorders for the iPhone 5 start on Friday, September 14, and your brand-new baby will ship September 21. iOS 6 will be available to download on September 19 as a free upgrade for anyone with an iPhone 3GS or newer, iPad, or iPad 2. The pricing for the iPhone 5 is the same as the 4S: $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB, $399 for 64GB (the 4S is dropping down to $99 for 16GB).

Having a rage attack? Don't stomp on your 4S just yet. We chatted with a couple experts, and they gave their off-the-cuff, totally frazzled, mid-live blog opinions. One editor, who prefers to stay anonymous, said that the $99 price point on the 4S makes it a great deal. Terrence O'Brien at Engadget is also hyped about the LTE, which he says means you'll be getting "ultra-fast data." But both agree that updating ASAP is unnecessary. So, wait until your contract runs out, because while the new iPhone is fast and pretty, your old one is still good...for now. Sam Biddle from Gizmodo offers a contrary opinion: "If your contract is up, go for it—the iPhone 5 is better than its predecessor is literally every single way: faster, lighter, skinnier, brighter. Just make sure you try one in person before buying to make sure your fingertips reach all the way to the top of the taller screen. You don't want your hands cramping up." Will you ditch the old model for the new, or are you sticking to it 'till number 6 inevitably rolls out?

Photo: Courtesy of Business Wire