Some annual events are meant to be celebrated.  Birthdays.  New Year’s.  Anniversaries.  But if you’re a tech nerd in the 21st century, few days hold as much excitement and revelry as the launch of a new Apple device.  Today, Apple made the next iPhone official.  Say hello to the iPhone 5.

As usual, there’s plenty new with Apple’s latest model.  The most noticeable change on the outside is the size of the screen – it’s now taller, but not any wider.  The idea is that users will be able to get more vertical screen real estate without having to sacrifice comfort when holding it in their hand.  In addition to that, there are a host of other improvements. 

“Everything has been enhanced,” said Apple’s Phil Schiller during the announcement today – and when you look down the list of changes, it seems that he’s not wrong.  Here are some of the highlights;

  • Apple A6 chip (2x as fast as the 4S’ A5)
  • “Ultrafast” wireless – 802.11n 5Ghz
  • Touch sensors are now integrated into the display (rather than layered on top)
  • LTE capable
  • Improved battery life (compared to 4S)
  • Improved camera

But enough of sounding like a product sheet – what does it mean for gamers?

Short answer: probably a lot.

When the iPhone 4 hit, we were wowed by what a difference the retina display made to gaming.  When the iPad 3 launched, we saw what an impact a much-improved processor could make.  Now with the A6, we’re hearing the term “console-quality visuals” bandied about pretty liberally (even if it is just on stage during Apple’s presentation), and it’s hard to not be convinced.

Those who were in attendance were reportedly wowed by a demonstration featuring the upcoming Real Racing 3 (though I suppose if you’re looking for graphics to showcase your latest mobile hardware, you need look no further than EA’s Firemonkeys studio).  It might still be a little while before other developers catch up to consoles in terms of mobile gaming visuals, but with the iPhone 5 giving them the hardware needed to run with that notion, it’s really only a matter of time.

But as a gamer, do you need an iPhone 5?

Probably not right away, though if I were to speculate, I’d say it won’t be long until we start seeing games that are specifically designed to take advantage of the iPhone 5, leaving owners of older models out in the cold. 

If you do decide to jump in at launch, you’ll be able to pre-order from Apple starting September 14th.  The device will ship on September 21st, with the 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models setting you back $199, $299, and $399 respectively (on a two-year contract).

Normally when people ask my advice on whether or not they should by the latest and great Apple tech, I always reply with my “every other model” strategy.  After all, changes are usually incremental, and there’s rarely enough in the way of new features to justify a new model purchase every single year.  That said, if you’re a gamer with an iPhone 4S, you’re probably going to want to keep an eye on the App Store.  After all – should Infinity Blade: Dungeons and Real Racing 3 demand the A6 chip… well… you’re not going to want to be caught without.