Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller announces the new iPhone 5 during an Apple special event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on September 12, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Getty Images)
A closed image greeted Apple Store visitors who ventured there during the presentation Wednesday.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple introduced its latest iPhone on Wednesday, unveiling major redesign changes at an event that has become an annual spectacle for tech geeks and early adopters of the newest, coolest personal tech devices.
The latest and the 6th version of the phone -- to be called iPhone 5 -- is taller, thinner, faster and brighter, with new features installed seemingly as a response to stepped-up competitive pressures from Samsung, HTC and Nokia.
PHOTOS | Apple unveils iPhone 5
With consumers increasingly turning to smartphones for photography and viewing videos, Apple's most significant upgrade is the new 4-inch screen that will make the device about half an inch taller than the previous models. A faster processor will speed up app functions and multi-tasking.
The battery will last eight hours for phone calls in 3G networks and up to 40 hours for music playback. "It is an absolute jewel. It is made entirely of glass and aluminum," says Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, who introduced the phone on stage at the event in San Francisco.
Speculating about Apple's annual updates to its devices in weeks and days leading up to the event has become something of a global sport on tech blogs and Twitter. Photos of the new iPhone model that are believed leaked from China have circulated on the Internet, and several details -- some accurate, others not -- have trickled out in recent weeks. "The iPhone has become indispensable for many Americans," says Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics. "Apple has managed to turn each new product introduction into a must-see event. It's like the Super Bowl of the tech industry."
Details of the new phone:
-- Taller screen: Perhaps the least surprising of the new features given all the leaks, Apple is seeking to catch up with Samsung and Nokia by introducing a 4-inch screen, a move that again affirms consumers' move toward larger phones. The 4-inch screen, compared to the 3.5-inch screen of the previous models, has a 16:9 aspect ratio. The "retina display" also will render clearer pictures and videos. The width remains unchanged. The larger screens also allows developers to create "better applications," Schiller says. "It should be easy...More apps on every screen."
In comparison, Samsung's Galaxy S3, its high-end model for the Android market, features a 4.8-inch screen, while Nokia Lumia 920's screen is 4.3 inches tall.
-- Thinner panel: To score style points and make up for the added weight brought on by the larger screen, Apple has made iPhone 5 thinner --0.3 inches vs. 0.37 inches. The back of the phone is also now made of metal, which should make it more durable.
-- Faster processor: Typical of new models, iPhone 5 has a faster processor. The new "A6" chip is 22% smaller and about twice as fast.
-- Adapting to faster wireless networks: iPhone 5 is finally ready for U.S. wireless carriers' fastest "4G" data networks called Long-Term Evolution. It made little sense last year for Apple to release iPhone 4S with LTE connectivity since the carriers' LTE networks were still limited. But the carriers have since made great strides in expanding their networks, and are phasing out non-LTE phones. The new iPad also includes 4G LTE connectivity.
-- New connector: Called "Lightning," the new connector replaces the current model that has not been updated since 2003.
-- Improved camera: The 1080p high-definition video will have an improved video stabilization feature. The 720p, 8-megapixel camera can capture panoramic shots better than the previous model, Schiller says. The faster chip in the phone also allows the camera to capture images more quickly and perform better in low light conditions, he says.