Apple launches iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S

Apple unveils its two newest iPhones 2:27

Apple unveiled two new iPhones a Tuesday, the speedier iPhone 5S and the less expensive iPhone 5C. 

Whether all that's gold will glitter for the Cupertino company — including a new gold iPhone — remains to be seen, as the phone sticks with its 4-inch screen in an era of much bigger displays. The iPhone's main competitor, the Samsung Galaxy S4, has a 5-inch screen.

Apple is also pinning some of its hopes on its new mobile operating system, iOS 7, which will be free for all compatible devices on Sept. 18, two days before the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C go on sale.

The 5S resembles the iPhone 5, but comes in new color finishes: silver, gold and "space gray." (There's no more "black" iPhone, though the gray one has a black face.) They will start at $199 (and sell up to $399) with a two-year contract, and will be available on Sept. 20.

This phone has had a massive overhaul inside the case, despite its cosmetic similarity to its predecessor: A new camera, core chipset, motion processing system, even a fingerprint scanner for security and ease of use. 

It runs the powerful A7 chipset, and runs 64-bit software, for all you nerds out there. It's not only twice as fast as the existing iPhone 5, but it's 40 times faster than the original iPhone, released in 2007.

Before going into additional specs, Apple gave a stunning demo of "Infinity Blade III," which will be available when the iPhone 5S ships.

Apple's Phil Schiller introduces the iPhone 5S.
Apple's Phil Schiller introduces the iPhone 5S in Cupertino, Calif. on Tuesday.

The other new under-the-hood feature is an M7 chip, a "motion coprocessor" that accesses sensors without waking up main chipset. This will mean more efficient exercise apps and other active/location services.

iPhone 5S finishes silver, gold and "space gray"
iPhone 5S finishes silver, gold and "space gray"

The 5S battery life is equal or better than predecessor, 10 hours for most activities including video, and 40 hours for music only.

The 8-megapixel camera has been redesigned with larger optics and a larger sensor. As Schiller said, "bigger pixels make a better picture," so the megapixel race takes a back seat. (Says Apple, but it rings true.) The "True Tone" flash adapts to lighting conditions better, and provides more natural light.

The camera's burst mode gives you 10 frames per second, if you want to get GIF crazy. It selects the best of the 10 in realtime. In video mode, there's a 120-frame-per-second slow-mo mode, and you can even toggle back and forth between slow mo and regular 30-fps shooting within a video.

The 5S has an integrated fingerprint scanner called the Touch ID, which can log you into your phone without a password, and also lets you make purchases in iTunes and provide your password in supported applications with the touch of your finger.

Apple's Phil Schiller shows off the innards of the Touch ID system on the iPhone 5S.
Apple's Phil Schiller shows off the innards of the Touch ID system on the iPhone 5S.

What's coolest (geekiest?) is how Apple integrated the touch sensor into the iPhone 5S's Home button. It's basically a high-resolution camera with a sapphire lens.

And Apple assures us that the fingerprint ID data will not be stored on any servers or even on your iCloud account, so I suppose that means it's not reachable by NSA.

The cheaper iPhone 5C comes in five colors, and will sell at a starting price of $99 in the U.S. (with a two-year cellular plan). It's "unapologetically plastic," says designer Jony Ive. And the bold colors can be paired with equally bold rubber grip cases to create funkier looks. 

iPhone 5C will come in five colors.
iPhone 5C will be available in five colors.

It has an 8-megapixel camera, an HD FaceTime camera, and the latest wireless networking, including 4G LTE cellular data and Bluetooth 4.0.

At Tuesday's presentation, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that by next month, 700 million iOS devices will have shipped, and invited software SVP Craig Federighi to share the iOS 7 news. But first, he discussed the features, which the company first revealed in June.

Highlights Federighi walked through are new, charmingly stereophonic ringtones, device-to-device file sharing, iTunes Radio (new Daft Punk song!), the revamped photo manager (with "year view.") 

The key news: iOS 7 will be available for free on Sept. 18, for qualifying iPhones, iPods — and also iPads. (There was a fear that the iPad version would be delayed.)

Cook announced that Apple would make Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iPhoto and iMovie free to anyone purchasing a new iPad, iPhone or 5th-gen iPod Touch.

Apple's iPhone 5S features new colors, fingerprint scanner 4:48
Apple introduces colorful, lower-priced iPhone 5C 4:06

Wilson Rothman is the Technology & Science editor at NBC News Digital. Follow him on Twitter at @wjrothman, and join our conversation on Facebook.