At Apple's media event in San Francisco on Wednesday, the Cupertino, Calif.-based computer company unveiled its highly anticipated next-generation smartphone, the iPhone 5.

"We started with that first iPhone, and each and every year we introduce new versions. Each time setting a new bar," said Apple's VP of marketing Phil Schiller. "We're gonna do that again today. Today we're introducing iPhone 5."

The unveiling finally put to rest several rumors of the device, including its outside appearance and inside features, but we can now also finally report the official release date for the phone. As predicted, Apple plans to release the new iPhone 5 in the U.S. on Friday, Sept. 21. Pre-orders start on Sept. 14.

Apple will sell the new iPhone in two colors - black and white - and at a number of different storage capacities. The cheapest iPhone 5 will sell for $199 for 16GB, then $299 for 32 GB, and $399 for 64GB. For customers that want access to the high-speed Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network, Apple also sells 16GB of storage for $329, 32GB for $429, and 64GB for $529.

The new iPhone 5 is 18 percent thinner than the iPhone 4S at 7.6mm, and 20 percent lighter than its predecessor at 112 grams. As expected, the iPhone 5 has a bigger 4-inch screen this time, with a 16:9 aspect ratio and a 1136 x 640 screen resolution with a Retina Display of 336 ppi.

Reports for the last several months have pegged Friday, Sept. 21 as the new iPhone's possible release date. Beyond the reports and confirmations from Reuters, the New York Times and more than six other individual outlets, Verizon has also reportedly planned a vacation blackout for employees for Sept. 21-30. Geeky Gadgets independently claimsthe iPhone will be released on Sept. 21 as well, citing a source who had "been reliable in the past."

And just last Friday, MacRumors and TechCrunch reported Fedex's plans for a "surge volume event," scheduled between Sept. 21 and 24. FedEx did not explain the reason for this surge, but given the record levels of iPhone pre-orders and Day One orders each year, this shipment surge was likely intended to deal with the incredible levels of demand expected for the new iPhone 5.

"Due to the upcoming 'surge volume' event between Sep 21-24, this class has been postponed to the week of Nov 5-9 and you have automatically been moved to that class," said an internal email from FedEx, which was sent to MacRumors via a company source. "If you are unable to attend the week of Nov 5-9, please send me an email and we'll remove you from the roster. Thank you for understanding."

The decision to release the iPhone 5 on Sept. 21 is not surprising at all. In fact, releasing the new iPhone a week after its unveiling is typical of Apple's schedule (see: iPhone 4S), and it makes sense for several other reasons, too. Given all the devices and products announced today, Apple will want to get the iPhone 5 on shelves first, since that will be the product with the most focus and highest demand. Rightfully so: The iPhone has accounted for more than 45 percent of Apple's total revenue in the last year. After that, Apple will be able to control the individual releases of different iOS and Mac products at will.

The iPhone 5, the first Apple smartphone with a new four-inch screen size, is also the first iPhone to feature the high-speed Long-Term Evolution network, also known as LTE. The phone also features a new quad-core A6 processor, a newly-enhanced camera infrastructure, as well as the heavily-rumored new mini dock connector.

Apple plans to sell the new iPhone 5 at the same starting price as last year's model. In other words, the new iPhone will start selling for $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32 GB, and $399 for 64GB. Since we believe Apple will also sell the new iPhone with LTE, we believe Apple will sell those models for $329 for 16GB, $429 for 32GB, and $529 for 64GB. These figures are based off the difference between Apple's new iPad models with and without LTE