The Only Thing You Need To Read About iPhone Launch Day

Well, it’s here. Everything you need to know about the new iPhone (and iPods).

So yes, there’s a new iPhone today:

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

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It’s called the iPhone 5:

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The main difference is that it’s got a taller screen:

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- It’s 4 inches, with a resolution of 1136 × 640, so it’s exactly 176 pixels taller than every iPhone screen since 2010. The phone itself is the same width as the last two but it’s 18% thinner and 20% lighter. So it’s skinny like a model.

- Those 176 extra pixels get you, well, basically just some more space. Apps look the same, but they’re taller in the middle. More STUFF. The screen is exactly as sharp as before, though. Somewhat better color, and more accurate touchscreening.

- It’s real, real close to having 16:9 aspect ratio (if you care about that kind of a thing). So, like, if you’re watching a movie with the phone turned sideways, it’ll fill the whole thing — in that situation, it’ll feel a lot bigger than the old iPhone. In most other situations it might just feel kinda long, though?

- Old apps that aren’t optimized will look like your DVDs on your ancient CRT TV — letterboxing galore.

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But it’s also got much faster Internet

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- It’s the first iPhone with legit 4G — the same 4G all your friends with Android phones or on Verizon have been using for the last year (if you’re into jargon, I’m talking about LTE). All you 4S owners who think you have 4G right now? No. Sorry. You’ve been fooled. (The above graph is an iPad benchmark, but the iPhones are on the same network with similar hardware. Expect similar results.)

- What means is that it’ll feel like you’re on Wi-Fi all the time (if you have 4G coverage); which doesn’t mean browsing will feel all that much faster, but streaming music and video will work a lot better. Using your phone as a hotspot is like a million times better with 4G.

- You can keep your old (sort of) unlimited plan on AT&T if you’re upgrading to the iPhone 5, but Verizon is effectively going to force you get to get a new Mobile Share data plan when you upgrade. That said, you won’t get to use FaceTime over the air without a new AT&T plan.

- 4G is one of the main reasons the new iPhone is taller. This is big dirty secret about large-screen phones: Like, sure, the bigger screen is a nice feature, but 4G eats up battery like crazy, and the old design didn’t have any spare space. The long weird design is a compromise, in a way — it doesn’t magically fit your hand better than the old one, even if that’s what Apple’s saying.

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And a new shrunken dock connector:

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- It’s tinier because it only has 8 pins instead of 30.

- You can’t plug it in the wrong way anymore, since it’s the same on both sides.

- It’ll be on every other Apple device out there.

- There’s a $30 (!) adapter

- But yes, it will break compatibility with a ton of old accessories. And all your spare cables.

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The back is made out of metal

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- You now have to worry precisely half as much if you drop your iPhone, since the back isn’t made out of oh-so-shatterable glass anymore. Let’s take this moment to reflect on the fact that Apple released two incredibly delicate, very slippery, mostly-glass iPhones, and that we all bought them anyway.

- It’s using a unibody-style construction so it’s more sturdy — just like Apple’s MacBooks Air and Pro (this is a really good analysis)

- Those two strips are there to let in the Wi-Fis and GPSes and the 4Gs

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You can get a lot of the new features on your old phone

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- The new iPhone comes with iOS 6, a whole new version of the iPhone/iPad software. But old phones get it too.

- Facebook is built into the iPhone THERE IS NO ESCAPE

- The oh-so-slightly better Siri is gonna be on the 4S too.

- It’s got Apple’s wallet thing that stores airline tickets and movie tickets and tickets tickets tickets, PassBook.

- The Music app is nicer to look at, and podcasts now have their own app.

- The App Store does a few things differently, which I love. It doesn’t kick you out of the app every time you do an update, for example.

- It’s easier than ever to blow people off when they call you. There’s an entire new set of buttons for it!

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Siri is smarter:

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But we’re all losing Google Maps:

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- Google and Apple don’t really like each other very much! So Apple decided to kick Google off the iPhone homescreen and replace its map app with their own.

-There are some great things about it: it does turn-by-turn navigation, even from Siri; it’s got these cool 3D maps for big cities.

- But it’s actually worse, in a lot of ways? Like it doesn’t do public transit directions. It uses Yelp for restaurants and stores and points of interest, which seems to be missing a lot. I’ve been using it for a few months and it’s been pretty frustrating — and it didn’t magically get better after launch.

This it turning into a pretty big problem for Apple, because people are used to their maps apps working. They did for five years! Unless Google swoops in with a standalone app, this is also a pretty good reason to consider another phone.

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And there are lot of more subtle changes that you might not notice:

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- Apple says the new processor is twice as fast, and that the phone will have “console quality” graphics. They say stuff like this every time — what it means, mostly, is that apps will open faster and run better and websites will load more quickly.

- Both the cameras are new. The front (FaceTime) camera can do HD video for FaceTime; the rear (iSight) camera is still 8 megapixels, but it’s faster, better in low light, and comes with a built-in panorama feature. 28 megapixels!

- It’s got this thing called Wideband, which is the industry jargon term for “very clear phone calls.”

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You will notice this:

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Pull-to-refresh email! Maybe pointless, but stupidly addicting.

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Anyway, it’s still very much the same iPhone as always:

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If you bought an original iPhone in 2007, used it for a week then fell until a deep coma and woke up TODAY, you’d be able to us the new iPhone just fine.

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And it’s priced as such

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- As always, the new iPhone starts at $200, and cost a hundred bucks more for each new level of storage: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB.

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But check this out:

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- The iPhone 4S now starts at a hundred bucks, and the iPhone 4 is free on contract. You probably don’t want one of those, though — by the time your contact is over it will be more than four years old.

- The 3GS is dead. RIP shiny round iPhone. I hope they have scratch remover in heaven.

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The reviews have been pretty good


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You can read a good roundup here, but here’s the gist:


-It’s thinner
-It’s MUCH lighter
-The larger screen is an improvement
-The internet is significantly faster
-The camera is a little better


-iOS 6 has some problems — mainly, the maps are terrible
-It’s still largely the same product as before, which isn’t an objective problem, exactly, but is frustrating for people who want something a little fresher out of their second, third or fourth iPhone

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So, well, iPhone pre-orders are sold out right now

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

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Online orders are delayed by about a month.

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But you’ve still got a pretty good chance of getting one at an Apple store, even if you haven’t lined up

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

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Apple has gotten much better about anticipating demand, and stocks accordingly.

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Also, there’s some other stuff coming out today:

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- The iPhone Mini is here! Except it’s not an iPhone, it’s an iPod.

- It’s got a full touchscreen, like an iPod Touch. It is an iPod touch mini. The screen is pretty small though, at 2.5 inches. The original iPhone was about 3.5, for comparison.

- It ironically reminds us of a Samsung MP3 player from 2007.

- It comes with a built-in pedometer and radio and lots of colors and all that, but no apps. Seems like a little bit of a strange choice, since it’s $150 and there’s a new iPod Touch. OH YEAH! THAT:

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The new iPod Touch is as tall as the iPhone 5 and skinny as heck:

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- Just over 6mm thick.

- It’s got the A5 processor, which is an upgrade from the old touch but not the new A6 processor from the iPhone 5. It’s the one that’s in the iPhone 4S, so you can expect the same kind of performance.

- The camera does HD video, like before, but it does 5MP stills now. It’s probably going to be about as powerful as the iPhone 4 camera, then, which is good but not great.

- It comes it like a BILLION colors. Correction: 5. Primary, mostly.

- Price is still $200 and up. But the new new one starts at $300.

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Apple’s selling a lanyard for it. But it’s not just any lanyard!

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- It’s, well, ok, yeah, it’s just a wrist strap.

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The weirdest thing? The EarPods. They remind me of a crab:

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Here they are inside of your head

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- Mainly, it’s just nice to get rid of the old earbuds, which were probably the worst thing Apple made. Apple says the EarPods, well, you know what they say: They sound better! They fit better! I hope they do, because they old ones sort of hurt. Reviewers say they… fine. Better. Not great.

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There’s also a new iTunes coming soon and it seems less awful?

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- It’s coming in October.

- It’s been completely redesigned, along with the App Store and Music Store (and the new App Store and Music Store do seem spiffier on iOS, so I’ve got my fingers crossed).

- It uses iCloud to do things like pick up movies where you left off and stream stuff you buy from any of your iTunes libraries.

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Anyway, good luck out there.

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