Apple unveiled the next generation of its wildly popular iPhone today, an event that will set the course for the closely watched company.

At an event in San Francisco, CEO Tim Cook showed off the first version of the iPhone 5 to a gathering of technology journalists.

Despite the name, the phone is the sixth version of the device since the smartphone was launched in 2007.

The device has a four-inch screen. The old screen was only 3.5 inches, and the company has added extra space on the home page with a fifth row for apps — older versions could only fit four.

But at 112 grams, it's 20 per cent lighter than the last version, Cook said. And the screen will be optimized for 16:9 resolution.

LTE and new connector

As expected, the phone will feature LTE technology, a faster form of wireless technology that speeds up and strengthens cellular networks to be able to transmit more data, faster.

"LTE is the most complicated technology ever brought to this Earth," Cook said.

The camera on the back of the iPhone 5 has the same resolution as the one on the iPhone 4S, but takes pictures faster and works better in low light, Apple said.

The front-facing camera is getting an upgrade to high-definition, letting users take advantage of the faster data networks for videoconferencing.

Cook said the company has revamped the battery, allowing users to get more use out of their phone without charging. Apple now claims users can get eight hours of browsing over Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

And the company has also overhauled its connector, the cord that has connected and charged virtually all Apple products since 2003.

"It's time for the connector to evolve, and that's just what we've done," Apple executive Phil Schiller said.

Charting its own course makes Apple a holdout in an industry where other manufacturers have settled on a standard connector for charging and computer backups.

There will be adapters available so that the new phone will be able to connect to sound docks and other accessories designed for the old phones.

Pricing information

Customers in the United States, Canada and nine other countries can purchase the phone starting on Sept. 21. The cheapest 16 GB version will retail for $699; $799 for the 32GB model and $899 for the 64GB model.

The iPhone 5 is a formidable threat to BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based company — once known as Canada's high-tech heavyweight — has been working to turn around its operations as consumers switched to the iPhone and other smartphones running Google's Android operating system.

The company's future success rides on the unveiling of its BlackBerry 10 operating system, which has suffered two major delays that have pushed its debut into early 2013 — past the holiday shopping season that Apple has squarely in its sights.

Apple shares rise

Apple shares closed up $9.20, or 1.39 per cent, at $669.79.

The shares have been on a tear as expectations rose for the iPhone 5, rallying 16 per cent since Apple's latest earnings report, in July.

As is customary for Apple, the event began with discussion about other, less high-profile news about Apple products

Apple's core business, the personal computer, has shrunk as the company's phones and tablets have gotten popular, but the company remains dominant, Cook said.

Apple computers currently own 26 per cent of the global market. And the company's tablet business has grown quickly. To date, Apple has sold 84 million iPads worldwide, good enough for 62 per cent of the global market share. The company has 250,000 apps for sale in its iTunes App store.

Apple also announced an update to the iPod touch, which will also feature the bigger screen and new connection port. Apple has added Siri, the company's voice-recognition search service, to the device.

And the ubiquitous white headphones that Apple ships with all its mobile devices got a facelift. They're now tube-shaped —which the company says makes them better able to mold to the user's ear —  and they're now called "earpods."

With files from The Canadian Press