Apple has unveiled the iPhone 5, saying it is thinner and lighter than the previous model, even though it has a bigger screen. Australians will be able to buy one next Friday.
The iPhone 5 comes in either white and silver or black and slate and will be sold in Australia for $799 for the 16GB model, $899 for the 32GB model and $999 for the 64GB model. Apple said customers could pre-order from this Friday. Online retailer Kogan.com.au, which obtains goods cheaper from overseas markets, announced it was accepting pre-orders on the 16GB model for $699.
Apple also launched a new iPod Touch and iPod Nano, which can be pre-ordered tomorrow and will be available next month. The new Touch costs $329 (32GB) or $439 (64GB), while the Nano can be had for $169 (16GB).
The bigger screen - 4 inches measured diagonally - creates room for another row of icons on the screen and lets widescreen movies fit better. Previous iPhone models carried 3.5-inch screens.
The new phone is the year's most eagerly awaited phone launch, and analysts expect Apple to sell tens of millions of units before the year is out. The release on September 21 is expected to help Apple recapture attention and revenue after it lost the lead in smartphones to Samsung this year.
Meanwhile, the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 have been reduced in Australia to $679 and $449, respectively. The iPhone 5's new operating system, iOS 6, will be available to download on older models on September 19.
The first launch countries for iPhone 5 are Australia, the US, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Britain. A week later, the phone will be available in 22 more countries, including Italy, Poland and Spain. Prices for overseas locations were not announced.
The iPhone 5, made entirely out of glass and aluminium, will also come with the capability to connect to the fastest new wireless data networks, both in the US and overseas. That's another feature that was widely expected and some competing phones in the US have had this ability for a year and a half.
Apple confirmed the new phone will work on 4G networks in Australia including those of Telstra, Optus and Virgin Mobile. Vodafone announced a 3G+ network upgrade today but they won't begin rolling out 4G until early next year. It said it would still carry the iPhone next Friday.
With the new model, Apple is ditching the connection port it has used for iPods, iPhones and iPads for nearly a decade in favour of a smaller, narrower one. That means Apple is still the holdout in an industry in which other manufacturers have settled on a standard connector for charging and computer backups.
A separate $35 adapter will be available so that the new phone will be able to connect to sound docks and other accessories designed for the old phones.
Thanks to new technology that eliminates a separate touch-sensing layer in the screen, the phone is 18 per cent thinner and 20 per cent lighter, Apple marketing head Phil Schiller said. He spoke at an Apple event in San Francisco.
The camera on the back of the iPhone 5 has the same resolution as the one on the iPhone 4S, but takes pictures faster and works better in low light, Apple said.
The front-facing camera is getting an upgrade to high-definition, letting users take advantage of the faster data networks for videoconferencing.
One feature missing from the new phone is a chip for near-field communications, or NFC. Other top-of-the-line phones are incorporating such chips, which let phones work as credit cards at some store payment terminals. They also enable phones to share data when "bumped" into each other.
Fairfax Media reported speculation this week that Apple could in future introduce mobile payments without NFC by allowing people to pay for goods at retail stores by using their iTunes accounts.
Apple also announced a new iPod Touch model that brings over the changes applied to the iPhone 5, including the bigger screen and smaller connection port. For the first time, Apple's voice-controlled personal assistant software, Siri, will be available on the iPod.
Apple is also updating its iTunes software for the Mac and PC, with what is says is a "dramatically simpler and cleaner interface". It will be available as a free download in October.
In another audio-related update, the white earbuds that ship with all of Apple's portable devices are getting an update. Now called EarPods, they're tube-shaped, which Apple says will help meld them to the shape of one's ear. The EarPods took three years to design, Apple said. They will go on sale next week as a stand-alone accessory but will be included free with new devices.
Apple's main announcements were largely in line with investors' expectations, and their response was tepid. Apple shares rose $US9.13, or 1.4 per cent, to close at $US669.72.
The shares have been on a tear as expectations rose for the iPhone 5, rallying 16 per cent since Apple's latest earnings report, in July. On Monday they hit an all-time high of $US683.29
Sales of Apple's iPhones are still strong. Samsung benefited from having its Galaxy S III out in Australia in May and the US in June, while Apple was still selling an iPhone model it released last October.
Amid expectations of a new iPhone, Amazon, Nokia and Motorola all tried to generate interest in their products last week, hoping that a head start on the buzz would translate into stronger sales.
Makers of consumer electronics are also refreshing their products for the holiday shopping season.