Last updated: February 17. 2013 12:10AM - 365 Views

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Apple fans the world over will soon be able to get their hands on the new iPhone 5. Apple on Wednesday said the phone will be in stores in the U.S. and several other countries on Sept. 21.

In the U.S., pre-orders will start on Friday.

As expected, the new iPhone is thinner, lighter and faster than the preceding versions, featuring a lightweight aluminum chassis.

They've upped the size of the display to 4 inches, and best of all, Apple has finally added 4G LTE capability to the iPhone, giving users access to high-speed Internet. Augmenting this is a faster processor.

The new iPhone is just .3 inches thick, nearly 20 percent thinner than the iPhone 4S, and it's 20 percent lighter as well. This is made possible in part by advances in touch-display technology, combined with the materials used in the case.

The iPhone 5 comes with a new release of Apple's mobile operating system. Named iOS6, it will replace built-in Google functionalities such as mapping technology with Apple's proprietary apps, and add a turn-by-turn navigation capability to Siri, Apple's virtual assistant.

They've added an additional microphone and updated the connector plugs, which were bulky compared to those used by competing Android devices, but will offer adapters to preserve compatibility with older accessories.

Apple also announced slightly improved functionality in the existing 8-megapixel camera, a high-definition front-facing camera, and improved battery life – allowing up to eight hours of talk time and Internet use.

Always style conscious, Apple will offer the iPhone 5 in both white and black. The white version will feature an aluminum back plate.

The iPhone has been trailing its primary competitor, Android, in sales for some time, in part because Android devices have offered 4G, larger screens, and faster processors than the existing 4S. The iPhone 5 levels the playing field, at least until the arrival of the latest Android phones later this year.

Apple certainly knows how to get their fans get worked up into a froth over these releases – typically an incremental improvement over last month's model ("it's got an even better 8 megapixel camera" and "this one has a higher number than the last one") and the crowd goes wild.

To Apple lovers: Congratulations on the arrival of your latest bundle of joy. Please enjoy 4G, I've loved it for the past year or so, and I won't accuse Apple of stealing the technology from Samsung, Motorola or HTC.

To Android users: Prepare to spend the next three months staring off into space as iPhone users declaim that their phones are now superior to yours by virtue of being comparable to them.

As typical of past releases, for most carriers the iPhone 5 will be $199 with a two-year service contract, with the 4S dropping to $99. The iPhone 4 will be available for free with a service agreement.

Nick DeLorenzo is director of interactive and new media for The Times Leader. E-mail him at ndelorenzo@timesleader.com.

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