SAN FRANCISCO - For the first time, the iPhone is growing. After sticking for five years to the same screen size, Apple on Wednesday revealed a new phone that's taller, with a bigger screen.
The iPhone 5 will go on sale in the U.S. and eight other countries Sept. 21.
Even though it's taller than the iPhone 4S, it's lighter, thanks to a new screen technology that makes the whole phone thinner.
The bigger screen - 4 inches measured diagonally - creates room for another row of icons on the screen and lets widescreen movies fit better. Previous iPhone models carried 3.5-inch screens.
In another big change, the iPhone 5 will come with the capability to connect to the fastest new wireless data networks in the U.S. and overseas.
There was little in Wednesday's announcement that surprised Apple watchers. Despite the pains the company takes to hide its plans, the rough launch date, the new screen and the capability to connect to so-called LTE networks had been reported for months by blogs and analysts.
"There was nothing unexpected in terms of the new features of the iPhone," said Tavis McCourt, an analyst with Raymond James.
That's a contrast to last year, when Apple watchers were first surprised by a delay in the launch, and then by the fact that the phone that was revealed was the iPhone 4S rather than a more radical update.
One thing that did surprise McCourt this year: Apple is launching the phone in so many countries so quickly. On Day One, the phone will be available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the U.K., besides the U.S.
A week later, it will go on sale in 22 more countries, including Italy, Poland and Spain.
It's the year's most anticipated phone. The number Apple can sell, analysts believe, is limited mostly by the production capacity of its suppliers. There had been concerns that supplies could be tight. Even so, analysts were expecting Apple to sell tens of millions of phones before the year is out.
Another surprise was that the phone will be 18 percent thinner than its predecessor. The company was expected to use the space freed up by the new screen technology to expand the phone's battery, not make the phone thinner.
The bigger screen moves Apple somewhat closer to competing smartphones, but the iPhone is still small compared with its main rivals. Samsung Electronics Co., Apple's biggest competitor, has increased the screen size of its flagship phone line every year, and it's now 4.8 inches on the diagonal, about 45 percent larger than the one on the new iPhone. The new iPhone is lighter than Samsung's new Galaxy S III.