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What the iPhone 5 Offers: Phone, Camera, Music, Internet

The iPhone has many best-of-class features, but perhaps its most unusual feature is the lack of a physical keyboard or stylus. Instead, it has a super-high-resolution touchscreen (326 pixels per inch) that you operate using a pointing device you're already intimately familiar with: your finger.

And what a display it is. It's possible that you've never seen a more beautiful screen on a handheld device in your life.

The iPhone's built-in sensors detect

  • When you rotate the device so it can adjust what's on the display accordingly.

  • When the iPhone gets near your face so it can turn off the display to save power and prevent accidental touches by your cheek.

  • What the current ambient lighting is like to adjust the screen's brightness. The iPhone even has a gyroscope for advanced motion sensing and includes GPS sensors so your phone can determine where in the world you are.

The new M7 coprocessor in the iPhone 5s reduces the burden on the A7 processor by collecting motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass and passing it to apps that need it without engaging the A7 chip. In addition, the M7 uses significantly less power than the A7 would require, so battery life is spared. You can't say that isn't cool! One favorite example of the M7 coprocessor at work is that the iPhone 5s rarely asks if you want to join a Wi-Fi network when you're in a moving car.

Here is a brief look at some of the iPhone's features, broken down by product category.

The iPhone as a phone and digital camera/camcorder

On the phone side, the iPhone synchronizes with the contacts and calendars on your Mac or PC, as well as contacts and events on iCloud, Google, Yahoo!, and Facebook. It includes a full-featured QWERTY virtual keyboard, which makes typing text easier than ever before — for some folks. Granted, the virtual keyboard takes a bit of time to get used to, but you'll eventually be whizzing along at a much faster pace than you thought possible on a mobile keyboard.

The 8-megapixel camera in the current iPhone lineup (4s, 5c, and 5s, and also in the original iPhone 5) as well as the 5-megapixel camera in the iPhone 4 are now paired with iOS 7's improved Camera and Photos apps, so taking and managing digital photos and videos on your iPhone is a pleasure rather than the nightmare it can be on other phones. Plus, you can automatically synchronize iPhone photos and videos with the digital photo library on your Mac or PC.

The iPhone 5s has a camera that sports improved optics, a larger sensor, bigger pixels, 33 percent better light sensitivity (than the iPhone 5 and 5c cameras), image stabilization, and True Tone flash, making it the best iPhone camera yet.

The iPhone 5 offers visual voicemail, which lets you see a list of voicemail messages and choose which ones to listen to or delete without being forced to deal with every message in your voice mailbox in sequential order.

Finally, all iPhone models (except the iPhone 4) come with Siri, an intelligent voice-controlled assistant that understands what you tell him or her (most of the time). That reads "him or her" because iOS 7 introduces an optional man's voice for Siri. Regardless of which sex you choose, Siri can figure out what you mean and determine which (if any) iPhone app should be used to find the right answer. And, like a real personal assistant, Siri replies in a natural-sounding human voice. One last thing: Both flavors of Siri take dictation!

The iPhone as an iPod

The late Steve Jobs said it best: The iPhone is a better iPod than any iPod Apple has ever made. You can enjoy all your existing iPod content — music, audiobooks, audio and video podcasts, iTunes U courses, music videos, television shows, and movies — on the iPhone's gorgeous high-resolution color display, which is bigger, brighter, and richer than any iPod display that came before it.

Bottom line: If you can get the content — be it video, audio, or whatever — into iTunes on your Mac or PC, you can synchronize it and watch or listen to it on your iPhone.

The iPhone as an Internet communications device

Not only is the iPhone a great phone and a stellar iPod, it's also a full-featured Internet communications device with a rich HTML e-mail client that's compatible with most POP and IMAP mail services, with support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. Also on board is a world-class web browser (Safari) that, unlike on most other phones, makes web surfing fun and easy.

Another cool Internet feature is Maps. By using GPS, Maps can determine your location, let you view maps and satellite imagery, and obtain driving directions and traffic information for much of the United States. You can also find businesses such as gas stations, pizza restaurants, hospitals, and Apple Stores with just a few taps. And the Compass app not only displays your current GPS coordinates but also orients Maps to show the direction you're facing.

You might also enjoy using Stocks, an included app that delivers near real-time stock quotes and charts any time and any place, or Weather, another included app that obtains and displays the weather forecast for as many cities as you like.

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