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iPhone 5 thinner, faster but missing 'wow factor' - critic

Published: 5:41AM Thursday September 13, 2012 Source: ONE News/ Reuters

Apple has taken the wraps off its fastest, thinnest iPhone today, but the smartphone fails to include some key features its rivals have tapped into.

The new phone hits stores in the US, Australia, the UK and several other countries on September 21, and customers can pre-order their iPhone 5 beginning September 14. It will be available from the Apple online store and select Apple authorised resellers.

The iPhone 5 will roll out worldwide to 22 more countries, including New Zealand, on September 28.

The smartphone will be available in New Zealand for a recommended retail price of NZD$1049 for the 16GB model, NZD$1199 for the 32GB model and NZD$1349 for the 64GB model.

The iPhone 5 sports a 4 inch "retina" display, ability to surf a high-speed 4G LTE wireless network, is 20% lighter than the previous iPhone 4S, and comes in either white and silver or black and slate.

However, it is not a radical new design, and instead looks like an elongated iPhone 4.

"There is not a wow factor because everything you saw today is evolutionary. I do think they did enough to satisfy," said Michael Yoshikami, chief executive of the wealth management company Destination Wealth Management.

What is different about the new iPhone?

Several features that are becoming standard across other smartphones are not in the iPhone 5.

A near-field communication chip, for instance, is missing from the phone. This enables users to pay for goods at certain retailers by tapping their phones, as available in Android models such as the Samsung Galaxy S3.

Apple has instead included a new in-house app called Passbook that organises a user's electronic airline tickets, movie tickets and restaurant loyalty cards.

Also not included in the upgrade is the ability to share media, such as photos and videos, simply by touching two devices together, like most Android phones can do.

iPhone users will continue to use their fingers to unlock their devices, with the ability to unlock your phone using facial recognition not included in the new phone.

And the screen may be bigger, but it is still smaller than the Samsung Galaxy S3, which is 4.8 inches.

A controversial new adapter for the iPhone 5 which users will have to buy in order to continue using Apple's older accessories will cost $30 ($35NZD), it has emerged on Apple's website.

The lightning connector for the iPhone 5 is much tinnier than the 30-pin connector which has been Apple's standard since 2003.

What do you think of the new iPhone? Let us know on the ONE News Facebook page .

The latest iPhone comes as Apple tries to fend off competition that has reached fever-pitch.

Google's Android has become the most-used mobile operating system in the world, while key supplier and rival Samsung Electronics has taken the lead in smartphone sales.

Rivals have been first to market with phones that have bigger displays or run on faster wireless networks. Apple closed that gap with the unveiling of the newest iPhone.

Now, Microsoft is pushing its Windows Phone 8 operating system as a third alternative to Apple and Google's.

The iPhone 5 will hitch a ride on the three largest US carriers - Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc, and Sprint, marketing chief Phil Schiller told a packed auditorium at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco.

New features

One enhancement to the iPhone was improved battery endurance - the iPhone 5's power core can support eight hours of 4G Web browsing.

"It has always been a major drawback on Android phones," said Yoshikami.

"To have a thinner phone with a bigger screen with more battery life is a pretty impressive technology advancement."

The iPhone 5 comes with Apple's newest "A6" processor, which executives claimed runs twice as fast as the previous generation.

It will have three microphones and an 8 megapixel camera that can take pictures in higher resolutions.

The new iPhone will improve on the search capabilities of its Siri voice assistant and will use Apple's own mobile mapping service instead of Google's software.

Comedian Ricky Gervais tweeted today: "Cant wait for the new iPhone 5. I've had this mint condition, perfectly good, antique iPhone 4 for over a year now. Embarrassing."

How many sales are expected?

CEO Tim Cook, who took over from the company's late co-founder Steve Jobs last year, began Wednesday's event by saying the company's notebooks now rank tops in US sales, leading in market share in the past three months.

But it is the iPhone that carries the weight of Apple's future on its slim frame, especially with the company continuing to play its cards close to the vest about future growth drivers, including an oft-rumored TV device.

Analysts have forecast sales of 10 million to 12 million of the new smartphones this month alone.

Apple has sold more than 243 million iPhones since its 2007 arrival, and the device proceeded to upend the industry and helped usher in the current applications ecosystem.

Cook told the audience that its apps store now has more than 700,000 on tap - the industry's largest library.

Apple also is making a lot of headway in a corporate market that has been dominated by struggling Canadian smartphone maker Research in Motion. Cook said almost every Fortune 500 companies was testing or using its iPhones and iPads.

Globally, Samsung leads the smartphone market with a 32.6% share followed by Apple with 17%, according to market research firm IDC. Both saw shipments rise compared to a year ago, with Samsung riding its flagship Galaxy S III phone.