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iPhone 5: skinny li'l fella with better display, camera, software

No surprises – and no NFC – but a thoroughgoing upgrade

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As you might imagine, the iPhone 5 will ship with iOS 6, and Apple iOS headman Scott Forstall was more than happy to go over its high points onstage at the San Francisco event.

One of its new features, as had been reported previously, sticks a finger in the eye of Apple's rival Google: a new version of the Maps app produced by Apple and featuring such niceties as turn-by-turn direction (supported by TomTom), fly-overs, easy camera-angle changes, and 3D buildings.

You can now post to Facebook or tweet directly from Notification Center, web pages in Safari can now be displayed ion a full-screen mode, and browser tabs can be shared among your devices over iCloud. Mail now includes the VIP feature found in Mountain Lion, which lets you elevate chosen message-senders to special status, separating their message from those of the common rabble.

Forstall also demoed iOS 6's Passbook app, which allows you to keep all your digital tickets, coupons, airline boarding passes, and the like in one app. One "cool thing" about Passbook, he said, is that even if your phone is in lock mode, a time-sensitive item such as your boarding pass will appear on the lock screen so TSA can scan it and get you on board that flight to grandma.

iOS 6

iOS 6 will also run on existing iDevices ... well, some of them, at least

He also promised that Siri has been upgraded to better serve you, adding intelligence on sports, the ability to launch apps with voice commands, provide movie info and listings, make restaurant reservations, and post to Facebook. After the disappointment of the original "beta but not really beta" Siri, we'll wait to take the new gal out for a ride before we believe Forstall's promises.

If you've been successfully seduced by Schiller and Forstall, you can put in your pre-order for an iPhone 5 beginning this Friday, September 14. Shipments will begin on September 21 in the US, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, with 21 more countries added in another week, and 100 countries by the end of this year.

In the US, the phone will be available at three prices and RAM levels: $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB, and $399 for 64GB, all with a two-year contract. Carriers may also offer a 16GB iPhone 4S for $99, and an 8GB iPhone 4 for free. And speaking of older iDevices, iOS 6 will be available on September 19 for the iPhone 3GS, 4, 4s, new iPad and iPad 2, and the 4th-generation iPod.

By the way, the next time you're in Eritrea, make sure to tell Bob what he missed. And possibly slip him your now out-of-date iPhone 3G or original iPad. ®

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Apple has no love for The Reg, so we're never invited to their soirées. The info we reported in this article came from the live blogs of Ars Technica and AnandTech. Thanks, guys 'n' gals.

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