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The much-awaited iPhone 5 will be compatible with Australian LTE networks when it touches down in Australia later this month, Apple has confirmed.
The consumer electronics giant unveiled the sixth-generation smartphone this morning, offering a thinner but taller, 4in form factor, as well as a new processor claimed to have two times the graphics processing power of its predecessor.
It will launch in nine countries on September 21, with pre-orders available from this Friday. Apple said it would sell the phones outright at $799 for 16GB of storage, $899 for 32GB and $999 for 64GB.
But the phone's launch will mark the first time Apple will offer compatibility with fourth-generation LTE mobile networks in Australia.
Like the third-generation iPad, the iPhone 5 is compatible with US 4G networks operating over the 700 MHz spectrum bands and operated by AT&T and Verizon. The company was forced to stop promoting the tablet as being 4G-capable in Australia after it was ruled as misleading.
However, the new iPhone will also operate as an LTE device over 1800 MHz spectrum, offering significantly faster downloads and uploads.
Telstra, Optus and Virgin Mobile will offer the phone over the two LTE networks currently available in Australia. The release of the iPhone is likely to bolster use of Australian LTE networks, which thus far have relied on a small number of devices to encourage use while the major carriers build out their coverage.
The carriers are yet to release pricing information.
Apple also used the phone's launch to confirm long-running rumours of a new dock connector, dubbed "Lightning", with a 80 percent smaller connector than the previous 30-pin port.
The company said it was working on an adaptor to convert the existing 30-pin capable accessories.
Along with LTE compatibility, the phone is the first of Apple's to offer dual-band 802.11n wi-fi compatibility.
Apple also talked up the smartphone’s battery, claiming it offers eight hours of 3G talk time, 3G and LTE browsing time, and 10 hours of browsing on wi-fi.
It said the battery is capable of 10 hours of video playback and 40 hours of music playback, with a 225 hour standby time.
The iPhone 5 is Apple’s thinnest smartphone yet, with its width trimmed down by 18 percent to 7.6mm, 20 percent lighter than its predecessor at 112 grams, and larger with a 4in screen over the iPhone 4s’ 3.5in display.
The larger screen size enabled Apple to add a fifth row of icons to the 1136 x 640, 16:9 aspect ratio "retina" display.
The smartphone’s eight-megapixel camera has also been updated and slimmed down by 25 percent, which Apple said won’t affect its performance.
Despite the new features, Apple did not launch any near-field communications capabilities on the phone, as expected by some.
"I think Time Magazine said it best 'it is the phone that has changed phones forever' and boy were they right,” Apple chief Tim Cook said at this morning’s launch.
"We started with that first iPhone, and each and every year we introduce new versions. Each time setting a new bar."
Despite ongoing legal battles between Apple and core smartphone rivals Samsung and HTC, the iPhone 5 is most likely safe from potential injunctions on patent grounds ahead of the all-important Christmas season, according to intellectual property analyst Florian Mueller.
Mueller noted that even if the companies Apple is currently embroiled in court battles, timing means it is likely to have sold tens of millions of iPhone 5s before any injunction kick in.
"There is no serious dark cloud hanging over iPhone 5 in any jurisdictions for at least the remainder of the year," Mueller said.
Apple has faced temporary injunctions on its products, while attempting to have injunctions placed on rivals' products, in various countries as legal battles ensure in Europe, the US, Asia and Australia.
Samsung has won against Apple in the Netherlands and Korea and been awarded injuctions blocking the older iPhone 4 only. According to Yonhap News, Apple has requested a stay of enforcement of the injunction.
Samsung's head of mobile, Shin Jong-kyun, told reporters at the company's Gangnam headquarters that there will be no agreement with Apple.
"We negotiated with Apple following the San Jose court's instructions for the top executives to meet numerous times but it was no use," Shin says, adding "an agreement seems out of question".
He indicated Samsung could sue Apple over LTE patents in the iPhone 5.
Samsung, however, significantly lost a patent trial against Apple, and was ordered pay the Cupertino company $US1 billion in damages.
The Cupertino company is locked in to an extensive legal war with competitors around the world. In April, Mueller estimated the number of legal disputes between Samsung and Apple to be at least 50, maybe as many as a 100, in ten countries across four continents.
Though initial trials in the US and South Korea have been completed, the Australian court case has become one of the longest of its kind, with hearings expected through until the end of the year and a judgment not expected until sometime next year.
In separate actions, Apple is also fighting with Google/Motorola Mobility, which has won two injunctions in Germany and Taiwanese manufacturer HTC, which has so far scored no legal victories.
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