Apple unveils colorful iPhone 5C, 64-bit iPhone 5S with fingerprint sensor


— 3:36 PM on September 10, 2013

The latest iPhone launch event took place this morning in San Francisco, and the news was pretty much what everyone expected. Apple took the wraps off a low-cost, plastic-coated iPhone 5C and a faster, blingier flagship handset called the iPhone 5S. The company also set a date for the release of iOS 7 (September 18), and it announced that its iWork productivity suite now comes free with new iOS devices.

Ooh, software bundles. Exciting!

Yep; those leaked pictures were spot on. The iPhone 5C has a one-piece, steel-reinforced polycarbonate frame that covers the sides and back of the device. It will come in green, white, blue, pink, and yellow, and there will be matching iOS 7 backgrounds for each polycarbonate hue. (In other news, I hear Redmond wants its photocopiers back.) Internally, the iPhone 5C is similar to last year's iPhone 5, with the same A6 chip under the hood. However, Apple has improved the front camera, and it's enlarged the battery. As a result, 3G talk time and LTE Internet browsing have both gone up from 8 to 10 hours, and standby time has increased from 225 to 250 hours.

Pre-orders for the iPhone 5C will begin on September 13. With a two-year contract, the 16GB version will set you back $99, and the 32GB model will cost $199. Apple will offer soft silicone cases for $29 a pop, as well. The cases have a funky cut-out pattern that looks right out of a 1970s acid trip.

Now, what about the iPhone 5S?

Apple's new top-of-the-line phone looks superficially similar to the iPhone 5, but it has better hardware and some other improvements. It features a new processor called the A7, which is Apple's first 64-bit system-on-a-chip (and, the company claims, the first 64-bit smartphone SoC ever). The A7 purportedly delivers up to twice the CPU and graphics performance of the A6, and it adds OpenGL ES 3.0 compatibility to enable additional eye candy.

Riding shotgun with the A7 is the M7, a coprocessor that's "designed specifically to measure motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass." The M7 chip will allow, for instance, the Maps app to switch automatically from driving to walking directions if you step out of your car. It will also let fitness apps to do their thing "without constantly engaging the A7 chip." I assume power savings will ensue.

The iPhone 5S has a capacitive fingerprint reader built into the home button. The sensor can be used to unlock the phone and to enter your iTunes password. Apparently, fingerprint information won't be uploaded to Apple's servers, keeping it safe from prying eyes. Unless, you know, someone hacks into your phone, or something.

Last, but not least, the iPhone 5S sports an improved camera sensor and a two-tone flash with white and amber LEDs. Thanks to a new signal processor inside the A7 SoC, the iPhone 5S has a 10-FPS burst mode for photo capture, a 120FPS slow-motion mode for 720p video, and some image stabilization mojo. According to Apple, the stabilization feature works by "taking four photos with a short exposure time. Then the best parts of those photos are combined into one image with as little noise, subject motion, and hand shake as possible." Sounds nifty—although I don't know how well it will handle moving targets.

The iPhone 5S will be available on September 20. Pricing with a two-year contract will be $199, $299, and $399 for the 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB versions, respectively. Apple will offer the phone in silver, "space gray," and gold, which looks just as gaudy as it sounds. You'll be able to mask the gaudiness with $39 leather cases, which will be offered in beige, brown, black, green, blue, and red. Come to think of it, some of those phone-case color combinations are bound to be even gaudier than the gold phone on its own. Ugh. Jony, what have you done?

Check out The Verge's live blog of the launch event for more details.

   
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