The new iPhone 5, unveiled by Apple Inc. on Wednesday, is larger, thinner, and more powerful than its predecessor.
But will that be enough to put some distance between Apple and a growing pack of aggressive competitors?
That was the subtext of the nearly two-hour presentation on Wednesday as Apple rolled out its flagship product and a host of other updated devices and services in San Francisco.
Although Apple changed the mobile phone landscape completely when it launched the first iPhone in 2007, Google’s Android platform is now the most-used mobile operating system in the world, and recently Samsung has sold more phones.
“It’s now a very crowded marketplace, and Apple needs to leapfrog the competition,” said Michael Oh, president of Tech Superpowers, an independent Apple retailer with stores in Boston and Foxborough.
Oh said “he liked what he saw” at the presentation, saying the company “focused on the details, which is what Apple is famous for.” Among those details: a faster processor, a thinner device, and better battery life.
“Those are touches that will keep people happy with this device in their pocket for the next year or so,” Oh said.
At the event, chief executive Tim Cook and other Apple executives presented a line of products that were primarily upgrades of existing lines: from the iPhone to the iPod Touch to the iconic earbuds that are used with Apple’s portable devices.
The main event, the new iPhone 5, is taller than its predecessor — with a 4-inch display, up from the current 3.5 inches — enough extra screen space for an additional row of icons. A faster processor and the ability to connect to faster 4G LTE cellular networks mean the device will be speedier and more responsive. This version also has improved cameras on both sides of the iPhone 5 that function better in low light and for videoconferencing.
Yet, Wednesday’s announcement also came on the tail end of a stream of new smartphones and devices, their release timed to co-opt Apple’s buzz. Nokia Corp. launched two new smartphones last week; Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility division announced three. A week earlier Samsung introduced a smartphone based on a Microsoft platform. Amazon.com Inc. recently expanded its Kindle Fire tablet line and announced new standalone e-reader models.
In addition, some existing Android phones in the United States already offer the high speed 4G LTE connections that Apple promised on Wednesday.
Even with its unaccustomed second-place ranking in the smartphone market, Apple remains heavily dependent on the iPhone: Sales of the device and related items accounted for nearly 60 percent of the company’s revenues in the first quarter of 2012.
Moreover, the California company has been aggressively trying to protect its technological hegemony, launching numerous patent-infringement cases against rival Samsung. In August, a California jury concluded that Samsung copied six patents on Apple devices and awarded the company $1.05 billion in damages.
Boosters feel Apple has a chance to once again outpace its rivals. Tim Bajarin, the president of Creative Strategies, a technology consulting firm based in Campbell, Calif., who has used the new iPhone 5 “multiple times,” said that the experience of using the iPhone 5 has persuaded him that Apple has “another monster hit” on its hands.
“It’s thinner, it’s lighter,” he said. “When you hold it in your hand, it feels like a fine piece of jewelry.”
Among the other Apple upgrades announced Wednesday: new versions of the iPod nano and iPod Touch, an upgraded iTunes service, and a redesign of the iconic earbuds — now called “EarPods” — that ship with Apple’s portable devices.
The 16-gigabyte version of the iPhone 5 will cost $199. It will cost you $299 for the 32-gigabyte version, while the 64-gigabyte phone will retail for $399. All prices assume a two-year contract with a provider. Apple said that it will accept preorders starting on Friday. It will be available in stores in the United States on Sept. 21.