Everything you need to know about today’s iPhone 5 event

The iPhone 5 is finally here.

After Apple in 2011 unveiled the iPhone 4S — when everyone and his mother expected the iPhone 5 — the wizards of Cupertino introduced a smartphone for everyone. Want something smaller? Check. How about a big screen? Got you covered. Need power? No problem. Although this was the first post-Steve Jobs iPhone rollout, there was enough technology and geekitude on display today that even the Man in Black would have had a tough time fitting in just one more thing.

Most of the rumors about the iPhone were confirmed. The iPhone 5 sports a 4-inch (1136 x 640) display enclosed in an aluminum and glass shell. That larger display is becoming defacto on smartphones. Not to be outdone designwise by Android, Apple pushed suppliers to use an in-cell manufacturing technique that embeds the technology used in an edge-to-edge touchscreen, eliminating the need for a separate layer.

The new iPhone will also offer LTE, a much faster alternative to the 3G transmission technology found in the iPhone 4S. The LTE iPhone will be available from Sprint, Verizon and AT&T in the U.S., Rogers, Telus and Bell in Canada and other carriers through Europe. Even before the iPhone 5 was introduced on the San Francisco stage, talk was of the new handset being a “world phone.” True to form, the next-gen iPhone also supports HSPA+ and DC-HDSPA cellular networks. Apple was supposed to introduce LTE with what became the iPhone 4S but reportedly held off on the feature, fearing the technology would deplete the iPhone’s battery life, giving the device a black eye. That worry appears to be gone, as the iPhone 5 promises 8 hours of LTE or 3G browsing or talk and 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing.

Even if you don’t leave home and prefer Wi-Fi, Apple had something of interest. The new phone includes both the standard 2.4 GHz and the less-crowded 5 GHz version of 80.11n. The upshot: wireless transmissions at 150Mbps.

The iPhone is increasingly becoming known not just as a phone or a mobile app platform, but for terrific photography. To that end, Apple beefed up the iPhone’s hardware and software, most notably providing FaceTime HD, for 1080p images, but also a rear camera that can handle low-light situations and noise-reduction filters for crisper photos. All of this using the same 8MP camera. However, the camera is now capped with a saphire crystal, slimming it down to a quarter of its former size while also providing what Apple claims is 40 percent faster photo capture.

Two more hardware upgrades of note for the iPhone 5: Apple introduced its new 9-pin connector, dubbed “Lightning,” which presumably echoes the “Thunderbolt” I/O accelerator introduced earlier for Macs. Although the new connector will require adapter for new hardware, Apple touted the new connection as more flexible, robust and an advance.

All of these hardware advances could have been done without a souped-up CPU. The iPhone 5 gains the A6, a processor said to be 2 times as fast as the A5 in the iPhone 4S and the new iPad. While more powerful, the A6 is 22 percent smaller.

Apple is expected to begin taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5 on Sept. 14 with units shipping Sept. 21. Pricing is $199 for the 16GB version, $299 for a 32GB model and $399 for the 64GB iPhone 5.

The introduction of the iPhone 5 also meant saying goodbye to the iPhone 3GS. Additionally, Apple made the 8GB iPhone 4 a “free” unit, as well as slashing the price on a $16GB iPhone 4S to just $99. Both price cuts should act to increase crossover purchases from Android owners or feature phone users intrigued by the iPhone, but not wanting to pay $199 for the smartphone and whatever data plan they choose. Speaking of the iPhone 4S, you may want to check how it compares to the iPhone 5.

Surprisingly, there was news from Apple that didn’t revolve around the iPhone. First, the iPod touch received a makeover with a 4-inch screen. The touch is widely viewed as a “gateway drug” used to hook teens and accustom them to the iPhone. After all, the iPod touch is basically an iPhone without the radio chip. Another iPod, the iPod nano, was also updated to a touchscreen. Lastly, Apple also announced new in-ear buds, affectionately known as EarPods.

And there still are Mac owners out there. For them, they received word that iTunes will be updated and redesigned to fit the iOS pattern making its way across all Apple devices. Speaking of iOS, iOS 6 will be available later this month, Apple announced. In the meantime, iOS 6 GM is already available to developers.

What did you think? What Apple announcement most impressed you — and what (if anything) took you by surprise?

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