Thinner, faster iPhone 5 is here; starts shipping September 21

Last year around this time we all thought we'd already be talking about the iPhone 5, but when Apple showed off its new phone, it was the iPhone 4S instead. Today the company once again held the tech world captive while it presented its new smartphone, and this time it is indeed the much-anticipated iPhone 5.

Key upgrades to the iPhone 5 include: A larger, 4-inch Retina display, updated camera technology featuring panorama mode, 18% thinner and 20% lighter design than the 4S, and an all-new processor offering up to double the speed for apps and games.

The iPhone 5 will cost the same as the iPhone 4S when it came out a year ago: $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB, and $399 for 64GB, all with new 2-year agreements through the carrier of your choice (check our Early Termination Fee calculator to see how much it will cost you to switch). Pre-orders will open on Friday, September 14, with phones shipping on September 21.

The next iPhone
As the myriad rumors leading up to the event have indicated, Apple's new handset is indeed a complete redesign, though it's not necessarily as big of a change as we saw when the rounded iPhone 3GS form factor was abandoned with the more industrial-looking iPhone 4. The iPhone 5 looks a lot like its predecessor, though its body has been stretched to accommodate the larger, 4-inch screen. The rear of device does away with the monotone coloring of the iPhone 4, instead favoring a two-tone look, with a middle section set off by a no-gloss matte finish on the black model, and a brushed aluminum back on the white version.

The screen is by far the most noticeable change, and although Apple devotees have enjoyed upgrades along the way — like ultra-sharp Retina display technology — the iPhone 5 is the first phone to break the 3.5-inch display barrier that has been in place since the original iPhone.

[Related: Should You Sell Your Old Phone?]

The new 4-inch screen also features Retina resolution (326 pixels per inch), and while it may not be as large as some of its Android competitors, the new screen's added real estate will definitely please iPhone fans hungering for extra pixels. The larger screen affords an extra row of apps on the phone's home screen, meaning an additional four icons on each page.

The new phone is 18% thinner and 20% lighter than the iPhone 4S, making it the thinnest and lightest iPhone yet, despite its larger size.

Finally, 4G on an iPhone
The other very important feature of the iPhone 5 is its support of 4G LTE, bringing it up to par with the latest Android smartphones on the market. Of course, whether or not you'll be able to benefit from this inclusion is largely up to your provider's coverage area. The iPhone 5 will be available through Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon, so you'll have plenty of choices in this regard.

The iPhone 5 also features an upgraded processor — Apple's new A6 — which offers up to double the graphical performance for apps and games.

Photo buffs will be pleased to learn that the new handset's camera capabilities have received a bit of an overhaul as well. The lens remains the same 8 megapixels, but features a new dynamic low-light mode for optimal photos in imperfect lighting conditions. The camera is also 40% faster than before, and also features a new built-in panorama mode which can capture multiple shots and stitch them together, resulting in a huge 28-megapixel image.

The iPhone 5 can capture 1080p video with the rear-facing lens, and 720p video with the front camera.

Throwing away the standard iPod connector that has been part of the iPhone line since its inception, the new phone features a "Lightning" port, which is 80% smaller. Apple assures us that a plethora of new Lightning-compatible accessories are already on the way, but if you have been collecting charging cords over the years, Apple has also created an adapter to ensure they dont go to waste.

iOS 6 adds new features
The next evolution of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 6, will see its debut on the new iPhone as well. We've already learned a great deal about iOS 6, including its support of offline maps for navigation, but we learned a few more details today.

For example, the virtual assistance application Siri will be getting an upgrade, making it more useful for sports scores and movies. You'll also be able to launch apps just by asking Siri to do it for you.

How it stacks up

Screen Size
Galaxy Note II - 5.5 inches, 1280 x 720, 267ppi
Galaxy S III - 4.8 inches, 1280 x 720, 306 ppi
Motorola RAZR HD - 4.7 inches, 1280 x 720, 312ppi
Lumia 920 - 4.5 inches, 1280 x 728, 332 ppi
iPhone 5 - 4 inches, 1136 x 640, 326ppi

Operating system
Galaxy Note II - Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
Motorola RAZR HD - Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
Galaxy S III - Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
Lumia 920 - Windows Phone 8
iPhone 5 - iOS 6

Lumia 920 - 8.7 megapixels (rear), 1.3 megapixels (front)
Galaxy Note II - 8.0 megapixels (rear), 1.9 megapixels (front)
Galaxy S III - 8.0 megapixels (rear), 1.9 megapixels (front)
Motorola RAZR HD - 8.0 megapixels (rear), 1.3 megapixels (front)
iPhone 5 - 8.0 megapixels (rear), 1.2 megapixels (front)

Galaxy Note II - 3,100mAh (No official stats given)
Motorola Razr HD - 2,530 mAh (10 hr video playback, 6hr web browsing, 6hr GPS usage)
Galaxy S III - 2,100 mAh (No official stats given)
Lumia 920 - 2,000 mAh (10hr 3G talk time, 67hr music playback, 6hr video playback)
iPhone 5 - (8hr 3G/LTE talk time, 10hr web browsing via wifi)

Galaxy S III - 70.6 x 136.6 x 8.6 mm, 133g
Motorola RAZR HD - 67.9 x 131.9 x 8.4 mm, 146g
Galaxy Note II - 80.5 x 151.1 x 9.4 mm, 180g
Lumia 920 - 70.8 x 130.3 x 10.7 mm, 185g
iPhone 5 - 58.6 x 123.8 x 7.6 mm, 112g

New iPods also on the way!
It wasn't just the iPhone that got a refresh today: Apple's iPod line is also poised for all-new versions of the iPod touch and iPod nano.

The new iPod touch takes after its popular sibling, the iPhone 5, with Apple adding a 4-inch Retina display onto the flagship device in its hit personal media player collection. The new iPod touch also packs a 5 megapixel camera capable of recording 1080p video on the fly, Siri, Apple's famed virtual assistant, and a newly trimmed down aluminum design. The iPod touch will take after the smaller members of the iPod family, featuring a wide choice of color, so you can finally tote around that pink iPod touch you've had your heart set on all this time. The new touch goes on sale in October, priced at $299 for 32GB of storage and $399 for a 64GB model, but you can pre-order it today.

Apple also showed some loved to its diminutive iPod nano, slimming it down to a wafer-thin 5mm and boosting its display size to 2.5 inches, and adding an FM tuner and support for bluetooth headphones. The new iPod nano will come in seven colors, and retail at $149 in October.

This article was written by Mike Wehner and originally appeared on Tecca

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