Connected: IPhone 5 features key improvements

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Apple's unveiling of the iPhone 5 is one of the biggest announcements for any product I've ever seen that looks very much like its predecessors. But there are key differences under the hood that are impactful. So instead of waiting for an iPhone 5 to arrive at my door for a review, this time I'll share some insights based strictly on publicly released information.

The most visible changes to the iPhone 5 over previous models is that it is slightly longer with a larger screen, somewhat thinner (18 percent), and one-fifth lighter. Most people are not likely to notice these differences until they have a chance to hold the old and the new in their hands at the same time.

The larger screen means you can show 20 app icons at once, instead of the previous 16 -- so you'll need to scroll less. It should also increase your ease of watching videos or reading an e-book.

But it's the improvements and changes you don't see that I believe are likely to have more impact on the user experience. The camera, for instance, captures images faster, so you can take pictures in low light situations. And the iPhone 5 includes a panorama mode, so you can stitch together wide shots. It also takes HD video.

When I'm making videos, I always see shots that I wish I took as still photos -- and the iPhone 5 lets you take those stills, while you're capturing your video. This is the kind of feature that, all by itself, would make purchasing an iPhone 5 worthwhile.

In just the few days since Apple's announcement of the iPhone 5, there have been a lot of rumblings about its new Lightning Port connector. That's the port at the bottom that connects the phone to speakers, docking stations and your wall outlet for charging. It's much smaller than the old 30-pin connector -- and incompatible with old devices.

Stop grumbling! It's about time Apple caught up to the other phone manufacturers who have been offering small, micro-USB ports for years. I would have been even happier if the company moved completely to micro-USB, finally making a real standard in the industry. But they didn't -- and it sounds like they have done it right, or at least as right as you can be by not using the industry standard. The cords that plug into the port are reversible, making life easier in a subtle way.

Unfortunately, that means if you have accessories that plug into older iPhones, they won't work without an adapter, which will set you back $30 if you want to use those old devices with your iPhone 5.

The other important cord is the one connected to the EarPods -- Apple's name for the ear buds you get with your iPhone 5. The design looks to be a real improvement over generic ear buds.

Apple sold more than 2 million iPhone 5 devices in the first 24 hours, so the demand is there, even if the changes over previous models are more subtle than in past product introductions. I'll look forward to doing a full review after I have time to spend with the iPhone 5 -- for what seems like the few remaining humans who haven't yet ordered one yet.

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Follow David Radin on Twitter @dradin, or learn more at www.megabyteminute.com.


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