The catalyst that most investors have been hoping for and expecting for months has finally arrived. No, not QE3. Rather, Apple (AAPL) finally revealed the iPhone 5 at its press event in San Francisco this morning. While rumors of the phone's new features and release date have been going on for months, the official announcement helped to push shares of the tech giant up 1.2 percent in earlier trading.
As expected, the new smartphone features a wider screen, and is 20 percent lighter and 18 percent thinner than its predecessor. Some other new features include LTE connectivity for AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ) and Sprint (S) carrier networks, improved retina display for better resolution, faster processing speed, longer battery life, FaceTime capability over cellular networks, among other improvements. Also, the new miniature dock connector "Lightning" was also introduced.
The pricing for the iPhone 5 remains the same as previous versions, and the company plans to begin shipping on Sept. 21, though pre-orders will begin on Sept. 14.
While the improved functionality of the phone will certainly attract users, the question is whether this latest version of the iPhone has enough new features to generate excitement from a maturing smartphone market. As eweek noted from an NPD research report:
The report says the company risks falling into the same trap that Nokia and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) have fallen into. Without a redesign of the iOS user experience and underlying software platform in the next two years, Apple will find itself with an outdated smartphone platform that needs replacing, according to the report.
In a separate NPD blog post, Stephen Baker says that Apple could face stiffer competition now that the smartphone market has shaken out many of the lesser competitors like RIM (RIMM) and Nokia (NOK). Of course, the Samsung (SSNLF) patent win should at least help it in the near term. Apple led all smartphone makers in the second quarter with a 31-percent share of the market. Samsung came in second with 24 percent.
Though Google (GOOG) has dominated the smartphone OS market with Android and has been speculated to be considering developing the hardware to go along with it. Microsoft (MSFT) are no pushovers either.
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