Today at a special event in San Francisco, Apple introduced the iPhone 5 with a taller screen that stretches to 4 inches. The new device also features LTE connectivity with a single chip that works in many countries worldwide.

“It’s a jewel. It’s the most beautiful product we’ve ever made, bar none,” said Apple’s Phil Schiller.

“”We take changing the iPhone really seriously. We don’t want to just make a new phone, we want to make a much better phone,” Apple’s Jony Ive opined in a promotional video shown during the event. “iPhone 5 is the result of this. For the first time, we’ve increased the size of the display. You can see more of your content, but still comfortably use it with your hand…Never before have we built a product with this level of fit and finish.”

There are black and white versions of the iPhone 5. The black version has a black anodized back and a raw aluminum back graces the white version.

You can Pre-order the iPhone 5 beginning September 14th and it ships on September 21 in 9 countries and 22 more on the 28th.

Screen and Thickness

Schiller also said that this is the ‘thinnest and lightest iPhone yet’ at 7.6 mm thick, which is 18% thinner than the iPhone 4S and 20% lighter at 112 grams.The iPhone 5 features a 326 PPI Retina display. The new screen on iPhone 5 is 4 inches with dimensions of 1136 by 640 pixels at a 16 x 9 aspect ratio.

Screen Shot 2012 09 12 at 12.10.26 PM 520x496 Apple introduces iPhone 5, 4 screen, 7.6mm thick, 112 grams, 4G LTE capable, A6 processor, Lightning dock connector

There are 5 rows of icons now, instead of four, as the screen has been elongated vertically with 176 rows of pixels. There were several apps shown during the demo, like CNN and OpenTable, which showed off the use of the larger screen real-estate. The screen itself is 30% thinner, which leads to a thinner phone overall.

Screen Shot 2012 09 12 at 11.48.28 AM 520x140 Apple introduces iPhone 5, 4 screen, 7.6mm thick, 112 grams, 4G LTE capable, A6 processor, Lightning dock connector

Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the new iPhone 5’s thickness vs. the iPhone 4s:

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During the assembly process, each iPhone 5 aluminum housing is photographed by two high-powered 29MP cameras. A machine then compares the images with 725 cut inlays to find a precise match.

Screen Shot 2012 09 12 at 12.15.30 PM 520x286 Apple introduces iPhone 5, 4 screen, 7.6mm thick, 112 grams, 4G LTE capable, A6 processor, Lightning dock connector

All of the apps in Apple’s iLife suite have been updated to take advantage of the new screen and developers can ship their current apps without any changes. They will be centered on the screen and letterboxed on the sides until developers can update them with compatibility.

The screen has 44% more color saturation and supports the full sRGB color space. “It’s now the most accurate display in the industry,” said Schiller. The touch sensor is now built completely into the display using ‘in-cell’ technology, allowing the device to be thinner.

LTE, Processor and Battery Life

The radio in the device is LTE capable and supports HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA and 5Ghz WiFi as well. The carriers available include 6 carriers in Canada, KDDI, KT, SK Telecom and more in Asia, T-Mobile Germany and Everything Everywhere in the UK and, of course, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint in the US.

Screen Shot 2012 09 12 at 11.59.02 AM 520x375 Apple introduces iPhone 5, 4 screen, 7.6mm thick, 112 grams, 4G LTE capable, A6 processor, Lightning dock connector

The new A6 processor in the iPhone 5 features 2x faster CPU and 2X faster graphics capabilities.

The battery life of the new iPhone 5 has not been affected by the beefier capabilities, says Schiller. It features 8 hours of 3G talk time, 3G browsing OR LTE browsing and up to 225 hours of standby time. The iPhone 4S, in comparison, had 8hr calls, 6hrs 3G, 9hrs WiFi and 200hrs standby time.

The camera in the iPhone 5 has an 8 megapixel sensor, is backside illuminated and has a five-element f2.4 aperture hybrid IR filtered lens.

Screen Shot 2012 09 12 at 11.59.53 AM 520x290 Apple introduces iPhone 5, 4 screen, 7.6mm thick, 112 grams, 4G LTE capable, A6 processor, Lightning dock connector

The lens cover is ‘sapphire crystal’, which Schiller sais aids in image capture quality and protection. The new image processing chip,  in the iPhone 5 features spatial noise reduction and a smart filter which reduces noise algorithmically. Image capture is now 40% faster as well.

The camera also features a built-in panoramic mode which can shoot up to a 28 megapixel still image stitched together out of a bunch of captures. Just tap the panoramic button and pass the camera over the scene.

New video features include improved stabilization, video face detection for up to 10 faces and the ability to take still photos as you record.

Facetime and Audio

The front-facing iSight camera has now been updated to HD 720p quality and you can now do FaceTime over 3G (provided your carrier supports it).

The audio capabilities of the new phone have gotten a nice boost as well, with 3 microphones for noise cancellation and wideband audio support.

Phone 5 introduces new enhanced audio features including a new beam-forming, directional microphone system for higher quality sound, it also includes support for cellular wideband audio which should improve clarity and more natural sounding speech. Wideband audio will be supported by over 20 carriers worldwide at launch.

Screen Shot 2012 09 12 at 12.02.16 PM 520x155 Apple introduces iPhone 5, 4 screen, 7.6mm thick, 112 grams, 4G LTE capable, A6 processor, Lightning dock connector

iPhone 5 also comes with the new Apple EarPods with a tweaked design for a more natural fit and increased durability, and an incredible acoustic quality typically reserved for higher-end earphones.

Screen Shot 2012 09 12 at 12.16.58 PM 520x301 Apple introduces iPhone 5, 4 screen, 7.6mm thick, 112 grams, 4G LTE capable, A6 processor, Lightning dock connector

Apple is also upgrading the Dock Connector for the first time ever, with a new system it calls Lightning. It’s 80% smaller than the older connector and Apple has partnered with Bose, JBL, B&W, Bang and Olufsen and a bunch more to produce accessories for it. It’s got an all digital, 8-signal design, adaptive interface, improved durability, and it’s reversible, so you can stick it in any way you want.

There is also an adaptor that will convert your old cable to the new Lightning connector. “We needed to manage space inside the phone carefully. We created a new connector,” said Apple SVP of Hardware Bob Mansfield.

Pricing and availability

The pricing of the iPhone 5 stays the same, and it is available for pre-order immediately in 9 countries, with more available on the 28th.

That’s $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB, and $399 for 64GB for an iPhone 5, along with 2-year carrier contract.

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The initial countries are US, Canada, France, UK, Germany, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, with 22 more following on the 28th including Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The iPhone 4 drops to Free and the iPhone 4S drops to $99. The iPhone 3GS has been discontinued. All of the devices will get the iOS 6 update.

A host of live blogs of today’s event including GDGTThe VergeEngadget and Macworld are available. Some images via Wired under Creative Commons license.

Apple has never been stronger

“Now, when you look at each of these,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook, when referring to the new devices revealed today, “they are incredible industry leading innovation by themselves. But what sets them apart and what places us way ahead of the competition is how well they work together.”

“Only Apple could do this. Apple has never been stronger. And that’s because of our employees. They are doing the best work of their lives.”

Months of speculation

The release of the new iPhone today follows a typically hot period of speculation on behalf of the tech press and enthusiasts about the new model and its capabilities. The leaks of parts including the back plate, front glass and many internal components allowed people to piece together a relatively accurate picture of the device in the weeks leading up to the event. Not since the complete leak of a prototype iPhone 4 has such a detailed composite image resolved this early.

The general look and some of the features had recent affirmation in the form of a post by Rene Ritchie of iMore. Ritchie’s sources were the first to nail down the September 12th date for the event, a report which turned out to be accurate.

The possibility of a larger screen has been a hotly debated topic for months now. The logistics of how Apple would implement it were brought up by an anonymous caller to The Verge’s podcast and then reproduced on its forums.

Importance of the iPhone

The iPhone has become the most important announcement that Apple makes each year, as the device now provides over 60% of the company’s revenue every year, far eclipsing its Mac business. Recently, the iPhone’s revenue actually surpassed all of Microsoft’s.

The iPhone has grown exponentially every year since its release. The curve in the Comscore chart below displays just how dramatically the iPhone has become an essential component of Apple’s success each year.

 Apple introduces iPhone 5, 4 screen, 7.6mm thick, 112 grams, 4G LTE capable, A6 processor, Lightning dock connector

The new iPhone was expected to have LTE due to multiple leaks surrounding battery life, anonymous sources and a late leak of a possible PCB board containing a Qualcomm communication chip that is capable of LTE.

 Apple introduces iPhone 5, 4 screen, 7.6mm thick, 112 grams, 4G LTE capable, A6 processor, Lightning dock connector

 Apple introduces iPhone 5, 4 screen, 7.6mm thick, 112 grams, 4G LTE capable, A6 processor, Lightning dock connector

More to follow

Picture(s) by Dennis Goedegebuure, originally posted at DPictures.com at Apple White Logo, color background. Creative Commons 2.0 License: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)