Apple announced the iPhone 5 on Wednesday and a host of changes to the smartphone's features, and to other products, such as the iPod and even iTunes. But analysts are divided about how long Apple can continue to wow its fans with competitors hot on its heels.
The iPhone 5, the sixth version of the phone, is taller, thinner, faster and brighter. But some of its features have already been introduced by Samsung, HTC and Nokia, notes Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics. "When you see the magic show too often, magic starts to fade away," he says. The iPhone 5 is "a very solid device. But it's nothing that we haven't seen from others in bits and pieces."
But Forrester analyst Charles Golvin shrugged off competitive concerns. "This is no longer about an individual device. It's a battle of the ecosystem, and Apple is far ahead," he says.
The iPhone 5's new features attest to fast-changing consumer behavior with the phone, which has become a centerpiece of daily routines. Consumers increasingly turn to smartphones for photography and viewing videos. Apple's most significant design upgrade is the 4-inch screen, which makes the device about half an inch taller than previous models. The improved iSight camera increases performance in low light and captures pictures 40% faster than before. The faster A6 chip should also help multitaskers flip from app to app. It also refreshed the phone connector.
IPhone 5 is also now ready for U.S. wireless carriers' fastest 4G data networks, called Long-Term Evolution. It made little sense last year for Apple to release iPhone 4S with LTE connectivity, since the carriers' LTE networks were still limited. But the carriers have since expanded their networks, and are phasing out non-LTE phones.
Apple's competition with Google's Android will get a boost with its latest operating system, iOS 6, which will be installed with more than 200 new features. In iOS 6, Apple's own map replaces the current Google Map and will offer turn-by-turn directions, using the voice of the Siri digital assistant. A feature called Passbook keeps passes, tickets and coupons organized in one place.
Entner says the iPhone 5 underscores Apple's ability to integrate features better than others, and its fans will flock to the new device, given that many have waited for two years to upgrade. In a report, Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan, estimated about 8 million iPhone 5s will be sold in the fourth quarter.
Apple shares climbed $9.20 Wednesday to close at $669.79.
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