SAN FRANCISCO - The new iPhone 5 is thinner and lighter than previous versions with a taller screen, and will be in stores in Canada, the U.S. and several other countries on Sept. 21.
The taller screen means another row of icons will fit on the screen, but the phone isn't wider or taller than its predecessors.
The iPhone 5 is the year's most eagerly awaited phone launch, and analysts expect Apple Inc. to sell tens of millions of units before the year is out.
It will come with the capability to connect to the fastest new wireless data networks, both in the U.S. and overseas. That's another feature that was widely expected. Some competing phones have had this ability for a year and an half.
The bigger screen moves Apple somewhat closer to competing smartphones, but the iPhone is still small compared to its main rivals.
Samsung Electronics Co., Apple's biggest competitor, has increased the screen size of its flagship phone line every year, and it's now 4.8 inches on the diagonal, about 45 per cent larger than the one on the new iPhone.
The new iPhone is lighter than Samsung's new Galaxy S III.
Sales of Apple's previous generation iPhones are still strong, though the company lost the lead in smartphones to Samsung this year. Samsung Electronics Co. benefited from having its Galaxy S III out in the U.S. in June, while Apple was still selling an iPhone model it released last October.
The new iPhone will allow Apple to recapture the attention and the revenue.
The iPhone 5 is also a formidable threat to BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion.
The Waterloo, Ont.-based company — once known as Canada's high-tech heavyweight — has been working to turn around its operations as consumers switched to the iPhone and other smartphones running Google's Android operating system.
The company's future success rides on the unveiling of its BlackBerry 10 operating system, which has suffered two major delays that have pushed its debut into early 2013 — past the holiday shopping season that Apple has squarely in its sights.
The other Sept. 21 launch countries are Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the UK. A week later, the phone will be available in 22 more countries, including Italy, Poland and Spain.
In the U.S., pre-orders will start on Friday, Sept. 14.
With the new model, Apple is ditching the connection port it's 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 where other manufacturers have settled on a standard connector for charging and computer backups.
There will be adapters 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, said Apple marketing head Phil Schiller. 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.
The iPhone 5 will arrive with a new version of Apple's operating system, iOS. It will be available for download to older phones on Sept. 19.
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.
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 your ear. The earpods took three years to design, Apple said. They'll go on sale Wednesday as a stand-alone accessory, but will be included free with new devices out in October.
Apple's main announcements were largely in line with investor expectations, and their response was tepid. Apple shares fell $1.64, or 0.3 per cent, to $658.95 in afternoon trading.
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.
Peter Svensson contributed from New York.