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Apple dips toes into lower-priced waters with colorful $99 iPhone 5C

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 11, 2013
Apple CEO Tim Cook and other executives today unveiled the iPhone 5S and the plastic-backed iPhone 5C, the first time in the six-year history of the iconic smartphone that the company has gone with a two-tier strategy.

Inside, the iPhone 5S relies on an Apple-designed A7 chip, Apple's first 64-bit processor, that Schiller said was twice as fast as the A6 in last year's phone, and with double the graphics performance. As has been its habit, Apple did not reveal the A7's clock speed or the number of cores it contains. The iPhone 5S also has a longer-lasting battery that will run 10 hours of LTE talk time, Wi-Fi browsing or video play, and up to 40 hours of music.

Phil Schiller, Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing, reveals the iPhone 5S Touch ID fingerprint recognition feature. (Photo: Stephen Lam/Reuters)

A new motion processor, dubbed the M7, is also tucked inside the iPhone 5S and continuously measures motion data generated by the built-in accelerometer, gyroscope and compass. Schiller said it and the new CoreMotion API in iOS 7 would kick start a new wave of health and fitness apps.

Milanesi and Gottheil saw the motion processor as the foundation for more ambitious moves in wearable computing, the category that pundits have predicted will eventually result in an "iWatch" device worn on the wrist.

"Absolutely," said Milanesi when asked if the 5S's motion processor was a precursor to bigger things. "It's clear that they are working on something, but haven't figured it out yet. In the meantime, they're giving you something you can use now. More importantly, they'll learn what users want and what kind of apps can be developed [for wearables]."

Another new feature of the iPhone 5S trumpeted by Schiller was the long-rumored fingerprint scanner. Dubbed Touch ID, it's based on a capacitor built into the Home button on the bottom front of the iPhone 5S. "Touch ID reads your fingerprint at an incredibly detailed level," Schiller claimed.

Apple said Touch ID would be used to unlock an owner's iPhone, as well as for authenticating iTunes purchases without a password. The fingerprint data will be encrypted and locked inside the phone's A7 SoC, not stored on Apple's servers or backed up to its iCloud sync service.

The iPhone 5S will also go on sale Sept. 20 in Apple's retail stores. The first wave of markets -- the U.S., Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore and the U.K. -- will be followed by enough others to reach 100 countries by December, Cook said. Carrier partners and some authorized resellers will also begin selling it Sept. 20, as well.

Online and phone pre-orders (for the iPhone 5C only) will start three days from now, on Friday, Sept. 13.

The iPhone 5S will be priced in the U.S. at $199 for a 16GB model, $299 for 32GB, and $399 for 64GB of storage space, the now-standard prices; all assume a two-year contract with a carrier.

 

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