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New Features of the iPhone 5 & How Travelers Will Benefit

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This morning, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, unveiled the much-anticipated iPhone 5 as well as the new iOS6. What does that mean for travelers? Turns out, a lot.

The phone will not just be a game changer for the technology industry, but several of the new features are poised to impact the travel industry.

As expected, the new phone is taller, accommodating five rows of icons plus the dock. It is also 20 percent lighter, making it Apple’s thinnest and lightest phone. Of note, the design is now made entirely of glass and aluminum.

In terms of numbers, travelers can now expect to use the smartphone for up to 225 hours of standby, 40 hours of music playback, 10 hours LTE use, 10 hours video, 8 hours 3G use and 8 hours Wi-Fi.

There is one early downside. The phone has a new connector and will require an adapter for existing chargers and plugs. That adapter alone costs $30. And the adapter and connector will only work for charging. All accessories, docks and speakers will not work with the iPhone 5, or with any other iPhones that are likely to come from Apple.

Ready to use it? The phone is available for pre-order as of Friday, September 14 for delivery September 21. And the operating system (iOS 6) will be available for download on September 19, for both iPhones and iPads.

Will Passbook Become My Wallet?

This past June, Apple announced its Passbook program, which aims to replace all the gift cards and tickets that crowd your wallet. The program, part of iOS 6, combines boarding passes, movie tickets, coupons and loyalty cards in one place. United Airlines, American Airlines, Virgin and Amtrak were initial partners in the program. This morning, Delta Air Lines and Starwood Hotels were also announced.

In terms of travel, the program will store your boarding pass and will bring the pass up when you walk into the airport. It is designed to also have appropriate gate information displayed on the phone. The Apple website notes, “If your gate changes after you’ve checked in for your flight, Passbook will even alert you to make sure you’re not relaxing in the wrong terminal.”

Passes, coupons and loyalty points are in the first phase of the program, but many experts have noted that the program has the capacity for mobile payments and to become a digital wallet.

Maps Do What Now?

Previously, the iPhone featured Google Maps. Now Google Maps will have a standalone app. The main map feature will now be Apple’s own Apple Maps.

Instead of just replacing Google, the Apple Maps program is designed to do more. The program will offer turn-by-turn voice-guided GPS directions, created with help from TomTom. The program also has a 3D mode with a flyover design effect as well as the capacity to integrate with Yelp. Early reviews have noted that Apple Maps seems designed for drivers. The program does not feel as complete as Google Maps and it lacks built in-transit directions.

Camera Upgrade

By all accounts the iPhone 5 has improved on the camera of the iPhone 4. Most noted is the addition of panoramic photos, which means that many travelers will feel even less of a need to pack a separate camera. The wide panoramic images can run over 28 megapixels.

Overall, the phone’s 8 megapixel camera should also have faster photo capture. Other photo specs include backside illumination, a hybrid IR filter, a five-element lens, an f/2.4 aperture, spatial noise reduction and a dynamic low-light mode. In terms of video, there is higher resolution. The front-facing camera (aka the FaceTime camera) is HD with 720p and the rear camera has 1080p HD.

The new camera also allows you to take still photos simultaneous to recording video.

More Ways to Communicate

On the road, the phone is better designed to improve Facebook, FaceTime and Siri communications. You no longer need Wi-Fi to speak over FaceTime; it will work over cellular networks and allow video chat wherever travelers may be.

In terms of Facebook, the phone will better integrate call and contacts. It’s also designed to allow Facebook photo uploads in “fewer clicks.”

Siri has two cool upgrades. It now offers sports scores and integrates with OpenTable for restaurant reservations and suggestions.

While it will be more than a week before customers can bring the new iPhone 5 home, stay tuned to for the latest apps and gadgets coming from this launch.

By Lily J. Kosner for

Related Links: Apple ios6 release, techcrunch, USA Today, MacWorld, Webpronews