Apple Inc’s new iPhone goes on sale today with a bigger screen and 4G wireless technology, as the company seeks to safeguard its edge over rivals like Samsung Electronics Co and Google Inc.
The iPhone 5 fulfilled many of the expectations laid out by gadget geeks and technology analysts ahead of its Wednesday unveiling, but offered few surprises to give Apple shares — already near record highs — another major kick.
“There is not a wow factor because everything you saw today is evolutionary. I do think they did enough to satisfy,” said Michael Yoshikami, chief executive of wealth management company Destination Wealth Management.
Apple shares ended the day up 1.4 percent at US$669.79.
The latest iPhone comes as Apple faces competition beyond current key competitors Samsung and Google. Late entrant Microsoft Corp is now trying to push its Windows Phone 8 operating system as an alternative to Apple and Android, the most-used smartphone operating system in the world.
Analysts have forecast sales of 10 million to 12 million of the new iPhones in this month alone.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook opened the event in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center, but it was marketing chief Phil Schiller who introduced the iPhone 5 and took the audience through the new phone’s features.
The iPhone 5 sports a 4-inch “retina” display, can surf a high-speed 4G long-term evolution (LTE) wireless network and is 20 percent lighter than the previous iPhone 4S.
It ships starting Friday next week in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Britain. It will hit 100 countries by the end of the year in the fastest international rollout for an iPhone so far.
The stakes are high with the iPhone, Apple’s marque product, accounting for nearly half its revenue. The California company has sold more than 243 million iPhones since 2007, when the device ushered in the current applications ecosystem model.
However, Samsung now leads the smartphone market with a 32.6 percent share, followed by Apple with 17 percent, according to market research firm International Data Corp. Both saw shipments rise compared with a year ago, with Samsung riding its flagship Galaxy S III phone.
Available for pre-order today starting from US$199 with a data plan, the iPhone 5 comes with Apple’s newest “A6” processor, which executives said runs twice as fast as the previous generation. It will pack three microphones — enhancing built-in voice assistant Siri — and an 8 megapixel camera that can take panoramic views.
It will hitch a ride on the three largest US carriers: Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc and Sprint.
One popular enhancement was improved battery endurance — the iPhone 5 can support eight hours of 4G Web browsing, the company said.
While Apple played catch-up on many of the new phone’s features — Samsung and Google’s Motorola already have larger and 4G-ready phones — analysts say the device’s attraction is the way its software and hardware work in tandem.
“Where they are pushing the envelope, and where they remain the one to beat, is on the experience those features bring to the consumer,” Gartner Research analyst Carolina Milanesi said. “While other vendors continue to focus just on the hardware — delivering the speeds and feeds and bigger batteries — Apple focuses on pulling the operating system, the hardware and what you can consume on the hardware.”