After much speculation, milling rumors and endless Web chatter about the possible launch of an iPhone 5, Apple made an official announcement on Wednesday, Sept. 12, that the newest iteration of its beloved device has arrived.

The company debuted the iPhone 5 at an event at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. While no official video stream of the conference was made available by Apple, tech websites Engadget and Mashable provided live blog announcements made at the event to help unveil the next-generation iPhone and its new features.

So what does the new iPhone 5 have on your existing smartphone? Here are some of the new features that might impact government.

  • iPhone 5’s New Look — According to Engadget’s live blog, the new iPhone 5 is made entirely of glass and aluminum, and is the thinnest and lightest iPhone to date, according to Apple. The iPhone 5 is 7.6 mm thick and 18 percent thinner than previous models.

Though the iPhone 5 is still the same width as previous iterations, it is now taller, allowing for visibility of five rows of icons on the home screen in addition to the four shortcuts that display at the bottom of the screen. “All the first-party apps have been optimized to show a bit more stuff,” according to the live blog. “In ‘Calendar’ we see a full five-day workweek now.” And according to Apple, the new iPhone has less glare in sunlight.

  • Supports LTE — Apple announced that the new iPhone 5 will support LTE for an “ultra fast wireless connection.” Within the U.S., cellphone carriers Sprint, AT&T and Verizon will all support LTE.
  • Improved Camera and Photo Features — Although the next-gen iPhone still includes an 8-megapixel, 3,264 x 2,448 backside-illuminated sensor, five-element lens and f/2.4 aperture (the same features as the iPhone 4S), there’s now a sapphire lens crystal cover for the phone’s camera, a new image processor to reduce noise and a “smart filter” for better color-matching. According to Apple, image capturing is now 40 percent faster with the new iPhone. 
  • Enhanced Video — The new video capability on the iPhone 5 is still 1080p, but has better video stabilization and facial recognition capability. Three microphones have been installed on the new iPhone model on the front, back and bottom of the phone.
  • New Cable Connector — While many iPhone users may enjoy the use of their current iPhone connector, Apple announced that the new iPhone 5 will connect to a brand new cable connector they’ve named “Lightning.” Apple claims Lightning’s design is more durable, but the company plans to unveil new accessories and adaptors for users who have docks with the previous design. Pricing for the new Lightning connector was not mentioned during the conference. Wireless charging is not available on the new iPhone 5.

iOS 6 Enhancements

What are arguably some of the more impressive enhancements come from iOS 6, which means all iPhone users can take advantage without upgrading the device itself (with a two-year contract, iPhone 5 costs $199 for the 16 GB model, $299 for the 32 GB model, and $399 for 64 GB model ).

One such upgrade in iOS 6 is a new feature called Shared Photo Streams — once photos are taken, users can share them for others to view and comment on. Siri is also more robust in iOS 6 — it can share the latest sports scores and stats, show the latest movie reviews and showtimes, open apps, and post to Facebook and Twitter.

Also new in iOS 6 is brand new maps functionality — Apple is saying goodbye to Google Maps and introducing its own product, one that gives turn-by-turn spoken directions, interactive 3-D views, and Flyover feature.

iLove You, iLove You Not

So far, opinions on the new iPhone 5 — before and after the announcement of the launch — are a mixed bag.

According to a July article by Bit, Anthony Caruana addressed speculations about the iPhone 5’s new connector. Because Apple’s cable connector worked across all of Apple’s mobile devices, he said, customers developed a loyalty to the company since all their devices could be charged into a single connector — making a different sized connector for the iPhone 5 a bad decision for the company.

“All those accessories will either be rendered useless or you'll need a small adapter — hardly an elegant solution,” Caruana said.

According to CNET News, one reader said the iPhone 5 appears to be improved, but may lack a certain “it” factor.  “There is no disappointment here for me. Apple added all of the elements that made the iPhone 4S less-than-desirable. I think hype is a terrible thing because it makes people believe that EVERY new product Apple comes out with will be life-changing and extraordinary. What more, at this point in time, can you ask for in a smartphone?”

But whether individuals are rejoicing the launch of the iPhone 5 or sneering that Apple has another iPhone model added to its legacy, some analysts say the iPhone could help stimulate the U.S. economy fairly significantly.

In a note to his clients, JPMorgan’s Chief Economist Michael Feroli wrote that sales of iPhone 5 could boost annualized GDP growth by $3.2 billion, or $12.8 billion at an annual rate. The 0.33 percentage-point boost, “would limit the downside risk to our Q4 GDP growth protection, which remains 2.0 percent.”

iPhone 5 will be available for purchase on Friday, Sept. 21, and customers can pre-order their iPhone 5 beginning this Friday, Sept. 14.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.