Apple fans here and across the world may have awaited Wednesday's unveiling of the iPhone 5 ever since the company unveiled the smartphone's predecessor one year ago.
Yet after watching online coverage of Apple's highly anticipated news conference, some iPhone owners greeted the new device with something less than unbridled giddiness.
"I was kind of 'whelmed' - not overwhelmed or underwhelmed," said Kevin Manne, new media specialist for Genesee Community College.
Manne believes the changes revealed Wednesday - a larger screen, compatibility with high-speed LTE data networks and turn-by-turn navigation - simply allow Apple to keep up with the Android smartphones introduced over the past year by competitors.
However, even Apple enthusiasts who believed the changes were incremental say they plan to order the iPhone 5 as soon as the company makes it available.
"I think it's an improvement. I don't think it's the 'wow' that they used to do, but I am going to get it," said Todd Salansky, owner of Online Thymes, which offers outsourced marketing and public-relations services. The Buffalo resident has bought every iPhone except the first.
The iPhone introduced at Wednesday's news conference in San Francisco represented the first hardware redesign of the product since 2010, an overhaul aimed at widening Apple's lead over Samsung Electronics Co. and Google Inc. in the $219.1 billion smartphone market.
The iPhone 5, unveiled almost one year after the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, has a larger screen and is thinner and lighter than earlier models. The device also sports a faster processor, new mapping software and enhancements to the voice-recognition feature called Siri.
Because Apple only introduces one new iPhone a year, each debut is critical. Apple has sold more than 244 million units since its 2007 introduction, and the handset now accounts for about two-thirds of the company's profit.
Its popularity has led investors to catapult Apple's market value to above $620 billion, making it the world's most valuable company.
"They have built a juggernaut," said Matt Murphy, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the venture capital firm that invests in iPhone application companies. "This is going to be an absolutely blowout, home-run product."
Apple enthusiasts eagerly awaited Wednesday's official iPhone unveiling, even as leaked details and rumors of the phone's new features circulated in the previous weeks.
Fans such as Joe DiNardo, who watched the Engadget live blog of the news conference, said the phone looked as expected.
"We knew what was coming," said DiNardo, a marketing and product expert from Buffalo.
Apple officials Wednesday said the iPhone 5 is 18 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than last year's iPhone 4S, with a bigger screen, longer battery life and camera that takes better pictures in low light.
DiNardo said he believes that average users will appreciate the service that allows for easier sharing of photos among family members with Apple devices, while entrepreneurs will eagerly produce apps to take advantage of the bigger screen and faster processing speeds.
The iPhone 5 works with the long-term evolution, or LTE, data networks on AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless; LTE networks offer faster speeds for downloading, compared with existing 3G wireless networks. Other manufacturers already offer LTE handsets, and Verizon and AT&T have LTE networks in Western New York.
By adding a bigger screen, Apple also is following a trend started by other handset makers, including Samsung, HTC Corp. and Motorola Mobility.
"The improvements are just keeping up with changes in the industry," Manne said.
DiNardo and Manne said they were hoping to see Near Field Communication, or NFC, capability in the phone, which would turn the device into a true mobile wallet, but the iPhone 5 doesn't employ that technology.
The iPhone 5 still represents more of an advance than the jump from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 4S, which, other than Siri, was a letdown for many iPhone owners who were expecting more last year.
It's hard for the company to live up to expectations at this point, but the iPhone still gives Apple "nerds" the chance to brag, said DiNardo.
"We're still the standard-bearer of awesome," he said.
The new iPhone also features tighter integration with Facebook, letting users quickly post pictures, links and other content to the world's largest social network.
The partnership is similar to one announced last year with Twitter Inc.
Apple also enhanced the speech-command service called Siri, adding features that let users search for sports scores and make dinner reservations by speaking to the smartphone.
Wednesday's event highlighted Apple's growing rivalry with Google, manufacturer of the Android operating system that powers about half the world's smartphones.
Apple introduced its own mapping software to replace Google and also removed Google's online video service, YouTube, from the batch of pre-installed applications.
Apple may sell 10 million iPhones by the end of September, according to Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos.
Those buyers will include DiNardo, who said he plans to buy the most expensive iPhone 5, with 64GB of storage space, for $399 with a service contract.
"If you're going to get wet, go swimming," DiNardo said.
Garret Cleversley will be upgrading from his iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5 and giving his old phone to his 13-year-old son.
"He'll find out today when he gets home from school," said Cleversley, president and CEO of the MacSolutions Plus store in Eastern Hills Mall, who gave his old iPhone 3GS to his 12-year-old son.
Customers can pre-order the iPhone 5 beginning Friday and buy it in Apple stores Sept. 21
Cleversley is excited because his store, an authorized dealer that sells every Apple device except the iPhone, offers all of the accessories for the smartphone, and he expects business to be brisk as people get their hands on the new phones.
People who are upgrading to the new iPhone have a few options for their old iPhones, including trading them in or selling them on sites such as Gazelle, Amazon or Craigslist, though Cleversley warns that the market will be "pretty flooded, pretty fast."
This is a good time to buy an older model, too, with prices reduced for the iPhone 4S to as low as $99 - and the iPhone 4 available for free - if customers sign up for a service plan with a wireless provider.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report. email: