Apple unveiled the highly anticipated iPhone 5 featuring an updated 8-megapixel backlit CMOS sensor, durable sapphire glass lens cover and larger, 4", 16:9 screen. A more powerful A6 processor allows improved noise reduction, 40 percent faster capture and improved low-light performance through a 'dynamic low light mode,' that Apple isn't giving further details of. Now that it’s here, you probably want to know: is it worthy of the hype? Read on for more news on that larger screen.

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At first glance, the iPhone 5 might not look like a huge visual leap forward compared to the iPhone 4S. Though similar to its predecessor (with buttons in the same place as the 4S), it sports a lengthened design and an even thinner depth than the iPhone 4S. At today’s press event in San Francisco, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller called the iPhone 5 “the world’s thinnest smartphone,” at 18 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than the iPhone 4S.

The iPhone 5 is the first iPhone to see a bigger display profile, boasting a 4-inch screen with 16:9 aspect ratio.

The biggest visual feature sure to set tongues wagging: a significantly bigger screen. Ever since its initial release, iPhones have sported a 3.5-inch screen. The iPhone 5 is the first iPhone to see a bigger display profile, boasting a 4-inch screen with 16:9 aspect ratio. The iPhone 5 still maintains the same pixel density of the iPhone 4S (326ppi), resulting in a resolution of 640 × 1,136 pixels, allowing it to maintain use of the Retina moniker. That means more resolution real estate for photo reviewing capabilities, a bigger and better picture for everything else you do on your phone and a fifth row of home screen icons. The screen also sports 44% better color saturation and full sRGB rendering. However, it still lags behind other screen behemoths in the market such as the yet-to-be-released Nokia Lumia 920 (4.5-inches at 332ppi) and the Samsung Galaxy S III (4.8-inches at 306ppi). 

The new screen uses a technology called in-cell touch. In the past, iPhones screens consisted of three separate layers – a Corning Gorilla® Glass® protective layer, a touch recognition layer, and finally the LCD screen. A series of touch sensors detected finger taps and swipes to give the phone touchscreen capabilities. The iPhone 5 does away with the touch sensor layer entirely, integrating those sensors right into the LCD display and leading to the phone’s thinner design. 

The new hardware specs also bode well for photo buffs: the new iPhone is fast, running on a new A6 processor. Overall, the company claims graphics and CPU speeds twice that of the A5 chip in the iPhone 4S.

Apple shared a gallery of images from the new iPhone 5.

The iPhone 5’s camera is the same 8-megapixel, five-element lens with f/2.4 aperture as the iPhone 4S, but 25 percent smaller than its predecessor. This time around the lens is protected by a durable piece of sapphire crystal. The camera also has the same 3,264 by 2,448 backside-illuminated sensor. 

A new dynamic 'low-light mode' evaluates nearby pixels to give photographers up to two f-stops great performance in low light. The camera’s lens cover is a sapphire lens crystal cover, which is durable and clear. A new Panorama mode stitches together multiple photos in real-time as you sweep your phone back and forth. Using image stabilization and removing extraneous artifacts from the picture, Panorama mode produces pictures at a full 28 megapixels. Once you’ve taken photos, a new feature called Shared Photo Streams lets you share a stream of photos with family and friends through just a few finger taps. They’ll receive a pop-up notification when your photos arrive on their phones.

The iPhone 5’s video capabilities are improving, too. While the 1080p quality remains the same on the rear camera, the front camera takes a step up to 720p. When shooting video, there’s better video stabilization and the ability to snap photos while you’re recording. There’s also facial recognition for up to 10 people at a time. 

New microphones on the iPhone 5 add to the video capabilities. There are three now, up from two on the 4S — one on the front, one on the back and one of the bottom of the device. The device also offers better noise-cancelling effects and 'wideband audio,' a wider audio spectrum for better voice transmission (think clearer-sounding FaceTime chats).

When you upload photos and videos or use video chat, the iPhone 5 has the potential to be a lot faster. It features 4G LTE wireless service, with a single chip for voice and data, as well as a single radio chip. All three major U.S. carriers—Verizon, AT&T and Sprint—will support LTE. Apple execs said that LTE is 'potentially faster than a wi-fi connection,' which may be true, depending on your provider. It also gives the iPhone 5 a definite edge over its predecessor: LTE has the potential for three times quicker data speeds than the iPhone 4S, at almost 23 megabits per second.

There are big changes to the device’s dock connector, too. The new connector unveiled at the event is called Lightning, and it’s 80 percent smaller than the previous dock connector cable shipped with all Apple products. Adapters for all the previous peripherals are on their way, Apple confirmed.

Also on display at the event were the features of Apple’s new iOS 6 operating system. The new Maps app will use Apple’s own maps software, instead of piggybacking off of Google’s like on previous iPhones. There’s a lot more visual functionality here: you can zoom in and out on 3D buildings in portrait or landscape mode with enhanced satellite imagery. Siri will now read your turn-by-turn directions, and she can also post statuses to Facebook and Twitter at your command. Safari now has iCloud Tabs, a feature that syncs your open tabs across Apple devices. Open a tab on your MacBook and it’ll open up in Safari on your iPhone 5. In iOS 6, the browser also has a full-screen view accessed by tapping on-screen arrows. 

The iPhone 5 keeps the same pricing plan as the 4S under contract: $199 for the 16GB, $299 for the 32GB and $399 for the 64GB model.

Preorders will begin on Sept. 14, with the iPhone 5 starting to ship Sept. 21.

Story by Logan Kugler and DPR staff.