The worst-kept secret of 2012, the iPhone 5, is finally out of the bag. With its 4-inch Retina display, A6 processor, improved camera and other goodies, the new iPhone is sure to be another Apple blockbuster.
But what will the new hardware mean to iPhone 5 owners? Here are a few things to expect.
A Lot of Black Borders
The iPhone 5’s 4-inch display is a bump up from existing iPhone (and iPod touch) 3.5-inch screens, and apps will need to be revised to take full advantage of the larger display.
Apple’s native apps, as well as its iWork and iLife apps, have been optimized to take advantage of the iPhone 5’s bigger screen real estate. Apps that haven’t been revised—which will be the vast majority, at least initially—will be surrounded by black borders on the iPhone 5’s display, not unlike a letterboxed, widescreen movie on your TV.
iPhone Apps that Look a Bit Like iPad Apps
Apps optimized for 4-inch screens can display more interface elements, graphics and other information than 3.5-inch-native apps. For instance, the iOS Calendar app in landscape on an iPhone 5 displays five days instead of just a bit more than the three days you see on current iPhones. On an iPad, the Calendar app shows all seven days in landscape mode.
At the iPhone 5 unveiling, Apple showcased new versions of the CNN and OpenTable iPhone apps. The blog Marketing Land posted some before-and-after pics of OpenTable. The pictures show that when using the “Find a Table” feature, OpenTable on the iPhone 5 displays specific restaurant photos to choose from—something the 3.5-version app doesn’t do—as well as the location, date and time, and party-size search fields, which are all you see in the current iPhone version of OpenTable.
Less Flicking Around to Find Apps
Thanks to the larger display, the iPhone 5 will have a fifth row of app icons on home screens. iPhone 5 users will be able to put more of their must-have apps on the home screen without having to put them into folders—for some reason, I truly dislike using folders on the iPhone.
Faster Web Browsing and App Launching
At the iPhone 5 event, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, said the iPhone 5’s new A6 chip will help Web pages load twice as fast. No doubt the iPhone 5’s 4G/LTE radio will speed up Web surfing, too.
Schiller said everything will be twice as fast as before on an iPhone 5, including launching apps. That’s a good thing. When I need an iOS flashlight app to help me find the keys I dropped in a movie theater, I don’t want to waste time.
More Color Saturation and an Easier Time Looking at Apps Outside
The iPhone 5 has touch sensors integrated into its display, which Schiller said will result in sharper images, 40 percent more color saturation and less glare in direct sunlight. I’ve had to duck into a shady spot countless times to read my iPhone screen outdoors, so I’m hopeful, and just a bit skeptical, about the “less glare” part. (Then again, I’m drawn to shady spots.)
Speaking of images, the A6 chip will let developers create games that rival console games, Schiller said. Case in point: Electronic Arts’ Real Racing 3, which the company showed off at the iPhone 5 unveiling. The game includes such graphic details as functional rearview mirrors, and it will offer “console-quality” graphics, according to an EA spokesperson.
Awesome Panoramic and Low-Light Photos
The iPhone’s upgraded, eight-megapixel rear-facing camera, along with the A6 chip’s new image-signal processor, will help shutterbugs capture great photos, even in low-light situations, according to Apple. A new Panorama feature—variations of which have been available on other phones and digital cameras for quite some time—will make it easy to capture full 360-degree images.
A lingering question: Will the iPhone 5’s LED flash cease to make people look like those yellow-eyed children in Village of the Damned? I sure hope so.
A Richer Music-Listening Experience
A better speaker has long been on my iPhone wish list, and Apple said the iPhone 5’s speaker has been improved. In theory, this means it might be possible to enjoy Pandora or Spotify without using earbuds or an external speaker. Now hear this, Apple: Thank you!
The iPhone 5’s improved speaker will reportedly result in improved audio for phone conversations too. But who uses their iPhone for talking?
Of course, iOS 6, which Apple said will be available for download on September 19, will come with all sorts of new features, new native apps (such as Apple’s Maps and Passbook) and more. Stay tuned for ongoing coverage.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.