Apple announces an iPhone upgrade in the 5s

Everyone saw it coming, and everyone was right: Apple was announcing a new phone this week, even if it’s not quite the iPhone people quite expected.

Quoted by Apple people as the “most forward-thinking smartphone in the world,” the iPhone 5s is Apple’s much-anticipated update to last year’s iPhone 5.

“iPhone 5s sets a new standard for smartphones,” said Apple’s Philip Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing. “Packed into its beautiful and refined design are breakthrough features that really matter to people.”

The new model sports a similar look to the iPhone 5 with upgraded internals and a new camera, improvements that won’t be major to all customers, but are hardly surprising given that the new phone comes with the “s” added to the name and not an increase in number.

Outside, the phone is still encased in an aluminium unibody chassis, just like on the iPhone 5, but it will now come in gold, silver, or “space grey,” with the same 7.6mm thickness as before. In fact, outside of the colouring, it’s really the same body.

Inside, there are some differences, with a new A7 processor designed to bring 64-bit processing to the smartphone, capable of delivering more graphics and power-intensive applications, which developers will no doubt be keen to take advantage of.

Power efficiency has been a known problem in the iPhone range since the Retina screens showed up, and while the 4 inch display still boasts the same 326 pixels per inch of the iPhone 5, a new motion coprocessor will let parts like the compass and accelerometer run without taxing the main processor and thus overworking the battery for no reason.

There’s also a new camera on the back, set to 8 megapixels and including support for f/2.2, a slightly bigger sensor, and the world’s first “True Tone” flash which is capable of changing colour and intensity to more properly match what you’re shooting, lessening the colour casting and blowout flash-lit images often provide.

The camera software can also shoot in slow motion at 120 frames per second as well as multiple shots in succession.

And then there’s the most notable part called “Touch ID,” which incorporates a fingerprint sensor into the home button. Laser cut sapphire crystal has been used for this, and every time you need to scan your fingerprint, the sensor takes a picture and stores fingerprint information inside the A7 processor of the iPhone 5s, allowing you to securely use your iPhone to buy apps, music or books on the iTunes Store.

There is probably more that Apple can do with the iPhone 5s Touch ID system, but as yet, hasn’t announced anything outside of content purchasing and a password system.

Beyond these features, it’s pretty much the same iPhone 5 you’ve come to know over the past year, with support for 4G LTE (Cat3), Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, and the upcoming iOS 7 update.

We’re a little curious why Apple hasn’t included Near-Field Communication yet, support for Cat4 LTE, or even 802.11ac support, as these all seem like technologies that would have helped the iPhone 5s appear more future-proof, at least on the surface.

That probably won’t matter to a lot of people, and if that includes you, you’ll be able to find the iPhone 5s in stores from September 20, available for $869 for the 16GB model, $999 for the 32GB model, and $1129 for a 64GB model.