iPhone 5 officially announced with 4-inch display, A6 CPU and LTE; on September 21st

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Apple may be notoriously secretive and tight lipped, but the company appears to be getting worse and worse at actually keeping things under wraps. The iPhone 5 appears to be the most leaked handset in existence. Thankfully, the suspense is over, the next-gen iPhone is finally here and it does, in fact, go by the numerical title of 5. Just like the parts that have been circulating on the web, this is a glass and aluminum two-tone affair and, at 7.6mm it’s a full 18 percent thinner than the 4S.

It’s even 20 percent lighter at 112 grams, which is even less than the mostly plastic Galaxy S III. It’s all those “magical” things and it packs a larger 4-inch in-cell display. The new version of Apple’s Retina panel is 1136 x 640, which clocks in at a more than respectable 326ppi. It also sports better color saturation with full sRGB rendering. That new longer screen allows for an extra set of icons to be displayed on the home screen, and first party apps have already been tweaked to take advantage of the additional real estate. The iWork suite, Garage Band and iMovie have all been updated. Older apps will still work too, though they’ll be displayed in a letterbox format until an update is issued. The tweaked ratio puts the iPhone 5 display closer to 16:9, but it’s not quite there.

The most exciting news is likely the addition of LTE. There’s still HSPA+, EV-DO, EDGE and all that jazz on board, but it’s the true 4G that is really generating excitement. In the US Sprint, Verizon and AT&T will all be able to take advantage of the single chip (data and voice) LTE solution inside. And, if you’re stuck on one of those tiered data plans, the 802.11 a/b/g/n antenna should help you keep your wireless usage in check. Notably missing however is NFC, which had been rumored to make its Apple debut with the iPhone 5, but is nowhere in sight. What that means for the burgeoning mobile payment industry (or for Apple’s ability to keep pace with its competitors) remains to be seen. However, it does add EV-DO rev. B to the mix and keeps both GLONASS and GPS for navigating your way around the globe.

If the brand new radios weren’t enough of a raw spec update to get your geek blood pumping, the new A6 CPU (probably quad-core) inside should push you over the edge. Apple claims its a full two times faster than the chip inside the 4S, but we’ll have to wait and see how accurate that assertion is. The A6 is reportedly 22 percent smaller than its predecessor, which probably helped Cupertino achieve such slim dimension on the iPhone 5 and it’s also more energy efficient — allowing the handset to chug along for 8 hours of talk time, despite the addition of LTE. Keeping your data usage to Wi-Fi will allow you to milk up to 10 hours out of the device.

As for the camera, it’s more or less the same as that in the iPhone 4S, just a little bit slimmer. It’s a backside-illuminated 8 megapixel sensor with a 5 element lens and an f/2.4 aperture. The biggest improvement in the image capturing department is the “shutter” speed. Apple is claiming the new setup is 40 percent quicker at turning a beautiful sunset into a cold hard series of 1s and 0s. There’s also a new panoramic shooting mode that stitches together an “effective” 28 megapixel photo. And, what camera update would be complete without the ability to capture 1080p video. The front facing cam has also received a mighty boost, getting its own backside-illuminated sensor capable of capturing 720p clips. Even better, that iSight cam can be paired up with FaceTime for high-res video chats over that fancy new 4G network you’ll be surfing on.

Apple even gave the microphone an upgrade to a five-magnet transducer that should improve voice quality on networks that support it and enable Siri to better decipher your mumblings. And, as expected, the dock connector has gotten a long-overdue revamp. The eight-pin plug is 80 percent smaller and all digital — it even has a catchy marketing name: Lightning. If you’ve got a bunch of accessories designed for the old connector, you’re not completely left out in the cold. Apple will happily sell you an adapter, of course, provided that’s a luxury you’re willing to spend $29 on.

Obviously, no new iPhone would be complete without a new version of iOS, and the 5 will be rocking iOS 6 right out of the box. The latest mobile system from Apple packs a boat load of exciting improvements, including tweaks to Siri and the new Passbook (which would have worked really well with that rumored, but ultimately non-existent NFC chip).

When the iPhone 5 ships, you’ll have your choice of two colors: black or white. The white has a raw aluminum back (not unlike the original iPhone) and the black sports a dark anodized body. As expected the iPhone 5 will start at $199 for the 16GB model, while the 32GB will cost $299 and the 64GB $399 with 2 years carrier contracts (in US) — so no changes there. Shipments in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore start on September 21st, but you’ll be able to pre-order starting on the 14th. Apple plans to add 20 more markets on September 28th like Italy, Austria and many more.

Apple Iphone 5 taller screen and the Banner at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts of San Francisco

We’re just two days away from September 12th, the biggest date for Apple this year when the new iPhone 5 is expected to make its first official on-stage appearance, but Apple has already started preparing and has hung the banner for the upcoming event at the “Yerba Buena Center for the Arts” in San Francisco.

At first sight, it’s just a colorful mix of colors in no particular order and no significance, giving away no details about the iPhone 5. But look at it closely, with the investigative eye of an Apple fan and you’d see what seems like vertically stretched out icons of some of the stock applications in iOS.

Dive deeper into the conspiracy theories and you start to wonder why would Apple show stretched out icons of its applications. The only logical answer seems to be that it’s a hint that the new iPhone will feature a taller display, hence the stretched out icons on the banner.

The new iPhone is rumored to come with a 4-inch screen with a new aspect ratio of 16:9, perfect for watching video online. Now, is that digging too deep or do you think this could well be Apple’s hidden message?