Apple Inc. has finally released not one, but two phones – the iPhone 5C and the 5S – proving many of the predictions being churned out of the rumour mill were actually true.
In a short, hour-and-a-half announcement at its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Apple announced the 5C as a lower-end phone, with the 5S being its higher-end sibling. Both phones will run the iOS7 operating system, which Apple introduced this summer.
Coming out in candy-coloured green, grey, light blue, pink, yellow, and white, the 5C sports a polycarbonate wrap around its front, back, and sides, while the front is covered with glass. The phone’s body is encased in a steel frame, and the display measures about 4.9 inches and weighs about 132 grams.
It has an eight megapixel (MP) HD camera that can run FaceTime, with five lenses. It also holds an A6 chip inside, and it supports more LTE broadbands than other smartphones on the market, Apple said.
Pricing starts at $99 for the 16 gigabyte (GB) version on a two-year contract, or $199 for 32 GB. Colour cases are $29. The phone goes on pre-sale on Sept. 13, becoming available in the U.S., Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and the U.K. on the same day.
While the announcement for the 5C came and went fairly quickly, Apple had a slew of new features to announce alongside its rollout of the 5S.
For starters, Apple dispensed with the black version of its flagship phone, swapping them it out for variants in champagne (or gold), white, and “space grey.” The phone is actually slightly smaller than the 5C, coming in at 4.87 inches versus the 5C’s 4.9-inch display.
Yet compared to the 5C, its processing power is a lot faster. It houses an A7 chip in its innards, with what Apple calls “desktop class architecture” as it’s a 64-bit chip. That’s the first 64-bit chip to appear in a smartphone and Apple said it will double the 5S’ speed, compared to the 5. It is also 56 times faster than the original iPhone. However, the 5S will require a new developer kit, though it will be backwards compatible.
As a few more new tricks in the bag, the 5S also runs OpenGl ES 3.0, a 3D graphics engine for gaming. And for developers interested in building out more health-related apps, the phone has an M7 chip, or a “motion co-processor,” giving them an application programming interface to track users as they walk, sit, or drive. Nike Inc.’s already first out of the gate, having built an app using this new feature ahead of the product launches.
One thing the rumour mill got right was the fingerprint scanner, branded as “Touch ID,” something that may not have seemed likely but has definitely arrived. Apple announced its 5S phones would come equipped with a Home button at the bottom of the phone, made of sapphire crystal and ringed by a little steel circle for users to touch with their fingers. The iPhone 5S uses their fingerprints to unlock the phone, and it can recognize more than one finger registered with its system. Users can also use Touch ID to make purchases in the iTunes store, instead of having to punch in a password each time.
And of course, today’s smartphones need to have decent cameras, if they are going to have any clout among consumers. Like the 5C, the iPhone 5S also has an 8 MP camera. But its camera’s sensor size is bumped up to 1.5µ pixels for better performance in low light situations, and it runs Apple’s True Tone flash for better colour tones, can do a burst mode, and sets white balance and exposure automatically.
Pricing is set at $199 for a 16 GB model with a contract, $299 for 32 GB, or $399 for 64 GB. Leather cases in pastel colours have a price tag of about $39. However, the 5S won’t be available for pre-sale. Instead, it will become available online and in-store on Sept. 20, also in the U.S., Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and the U.K.
And to cap it off, Apple released its new prices for its past phones. The 4S is now free with a two-year contract, while the company made no mention of the iPhone 5.
That’s most likely because the iPhone 5C already fulfills the niche of a cheaper, updated phone, while the 5S is now the premium version. Still, even the 5C is not exactly at a bargain basement price.
Now all that’s left to do is to see if consumers will bite, said Tony Cripps, principal device analyst at Ovum Ltd., a U.K.-based analyst and consultancy firm.
“Anyone expecting Apple to come truly down market with the iPhone 5C was fooling themselves. The day that happens is the day the company signals that it has run out of headroom for expansion … It does though indicate an acceptance that the consumers in the upper reaches of the smartphone mid-market are increasingly looking to distinctive devices of their own, and are not happy to accept cast-offs or dumbed-down versions of former flagships,” Cripps said in a statement.
“Colour variations and a clear design of its own is a good way to do this and clearly Apple isn’t too proud to follow its smartphone rivals in using this tactic … Apple is certainly offering meaningful innovation here. Moving to a 64-bit architecture means Apple can genuinely claim to have brought something new to the smartphone party.”