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Apple iPhone 5: First Impressions

SAN FRANCISCO ( TheStreet) -- Apple (AAPL - Get Report) finally unveiled its eagerly anticipated iPhone 5 at a packed press event in San Francisco this week and TheStreet was among the horde of journalists crammed into the tech giant's demo room to get a look at the device.

Touted by Apple as "the biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone" the first thing that strikes you about the new device is its form factor. Some 18% thinner and 20% lighter than its predecessor, the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 is just 0.3-inches thick and weighs in at a mere 3.95 ounces.

Still, the device felt sturdy enough, and at 4.87-inches, is slightly longer than the 4.5-inch iPhone 4S. Both devices are 2.31 inches wide. The sense that the iPhone has been lengthened, though, is exacerbated by the new phone's 4-inch screen, which is one of its most attractive features.

Although the iPhone 5's display is only 0.5 inches larger diagonally than that of its predecessor, it feels like a significant change, enabling five rows of application icons, compared to four on the iPhone 4S. Users can also see more of their emails now, as well a five-day calendar view. The iPhone 4S only offers a three-day calendar view.

Apple also made great play of the iPhone 5's camera during the launch event, which I got a chance to quickly demo. The new Panorama feature is particularly impressive, with the iPhone providing straightforward prompts as you rotate the device to shoot a panoramic video. Essentially, the phone works out which position it should be held in to avoid jerkiness, and urges you to keep an on-screen arrow as close as possible to a line that appears on the screen.

Another plus on the iPhone 5 is the iOS 6 Maps app. The new Flyover view, for example, gave me a crisp view of central London while the turn-by-turn navigation feature looks a useful addition, particularly for those among us with a poor sense of direction.

I also liked the iPhone 5's aluminum design, and found the new "black and slate" and :white and silver" color combinations pleasing. Overall, I felt that Apple has continued the somewhat industrial, slightly more grown-up design aesthetic it adopted with the iPhone 4.

Pricing for the iPhone 5 starts at $199 for the 16 GB model, rising to $399 for the 64 GB version. The device will be available in nine countries, including the U.S. and the U.K., on Sept.21, with pre-ordering starting on Friday.

Apple shares closed up 1.39% at $669.79 on Wednesday.

--Written by James Rogers in San Francisco.

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