INTRODUCING: The iPhone 5

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has finally unveiled the long-awaited iPhone 5, featuring a taller screen, thinner and lighter body, and 4G wireless compatibility. The new smartphone, launched by senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, at the company’s media event in San Francisco, has a screen display that measures 4 inches diagonally and features five rows of icons, plus the four shortcuts on the bottom.

“It is an absolute jewel,” Schiller said. “It is the most beautiful product we have ever made, bar none.”

The 326 ppi Retina display on the device has an 1136 x 640 resolution and is taller, but has the same width as its predecessors. Older apps will run letterboxed, which means their aspect ratio will be maintained using black borders on either side so that the display is centered. Schiller said application developers who received a preview of the device said apps can be updated “very quickly.”

The device is calibrated to run on the faster LTE wireless technology and will support the networks of Sprint (NYSE:S), AT&T (NYSE:T), and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) in the U.S. and several others in Europe and Asia. However, it does not support either near-field communications or micro-USB compatibility.

The phone comes in black and white, with the former flaunting an anodized back and the latter featuring a raw aluminum back. It will be similar in pricing structure to the iPhone 4S when it was first launched last fall. The 16 GB model will retail, with a two-year contract, for $199, the 32 GB version will cost $299, and the 64GB model will be available for $399. iPhone 4 will now be free on contract, while the 4S will sell for $99 with a two-year contract.

Pre-orders will start on Friday, September 14, and the phone will start shipping on September 21 in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, France, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Another 20 countries will be added next month in what is the fastest phone roll-out by Apple ever.

The phone will come with a new dock connector, called Lightning, to replace the traditional 30-pin connectors used in current Apple mobile devices. Schiller said Apple will provide adapters so that iPhone 5 owners can use their phones with current accessories. The phone does not support wireless charging, which had been rumored.

The phone features an A6 processor that is twice faster than the A5 and is the thinnest and lightest iPhone yet at 7.6 mm and 112 grams. The device features an 8-megapixel camera with a 3,264 x 2,448 backside-illuminated sensor, five-element lens, and f/2.4 aperture. There is a new panorama mode that allows picture stitching for multiple images into one larger shot. Videos offer better stabilization, facial recognition, and still capturing. The front-facing camera is now 720p and FaceTime will be available through LTE, though it’s not clear which providers will support it.

While the iPhone 5 will come loaded with Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS 6, the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, new iPad, iPad 2, and iPod touch will be able to download the new software on September 19.

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