Apple has unveiled the new iPhone 12 in four variations, each with high-speed 5G connectivity for the first time.

5G is the newest generation of mobile communications technology, offering internet speeds up to several times that of current-generation 4G.

The new Apple line-up includes a smaller iPhone 12 mini, which has a 5.4-inch screen and will start at #699 as Apple looks to increase its price options for potential customers.

The tech giant said it was the "smallest, lightest and thinnest 5G phone in the world".

It is joined by the 6.1-inch screen iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 Pro which also has a 6.1-inch display and the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Speaking during the virtual event used to unveil the devices, Apple boss Tim Cook said the introduction of 5G meant "the next generation is here" and that is was the "beginning of a new era for iPhone".

Mr Cook said the introduction of 5G would be game-changing for the device, allowing users to stream video, use apps and browse the internet faster than on any previous iPhone device.

He called 5G the "most exciting step yet" in iPhone development.

A number of Apple's rival phone makers have already introduced several 5G-enabled smartphones - including the likes of Samsung, Huawei and Google - however, industry experts have suggested that Apple's entrance into the market will spark new interest and appetite for the technology.

Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight said the introduction of 5G to the iPhone range "gives people a meaningful reason to upgrade and makes buying an iPhone this time around a future-proof purchase".

"At a time when people are typically holding onto their smartphones for three years or more, that's an important selling point," he said.

Mr Wood also pointed to the lower price of the new iPhone 12 mini as a clear attempt by Apple to broaden its appeal.

"The big news for me is the iPhone 12 mini. After years of phones getting progressively bigger, Apple is reversing the trend by offering a flagship product in a smaller package. I think it'll be a hugely popular move," he said.

"The fact that the iPhone 12 mini also supports 5G is a further advantage. Apple's positioning of the device as the 'smallest, thinnest and lightest 5G phone in the world' will undoubtedly grab headlines.

"More importantly, it means the iPhone 12 mini will secure a prominent place in network operator portfolios as a highly attractive premium 5G device."

Mid-range smartphones - those with many of the features of premium devices but at a lower price - have become increasingly popular in recent years as people decide to keep their current phone for longer and cannot afford to regularly upgrade to new models.

As part of their unveiling, Apple revealed that new iPhone line-up also features improved camera specifications across all devices, including better low-light performance and upgraded Night Mode photography capabilities, while video can now also be recorded in high-quality HDR and Dolby Vision for the first time.

The company confirmed it would no longer include headphones and chargers in the box of each iPhone sold as part of efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the packaging and shipping of its products.

Apple also announced the introduction of its MagSafe magnet technology to the iPhone for the first time.

Last seen as a way to connect laptop charging cables to computers, MagSafe is being used in the iPhone 12 range for chargers, but also new phone cases and other accessories, including the new MagSafe Duo charging pad, which allows a user to charge both their iPhone and an Apple Watch at the same time.

The technology giant confirmed the new Pro and Pro Max devices would be available to pre-order from October 16, before going on sale on October 23.

While the iPhone 12 and 12 mini would begin pre-orders on November 6 be released on November 13.

Elsewhere at the event, Apple also announced a new, smaller version of its HomePod smart speaker.

HomePod mini, which is powered by the firm's Siri virtual assistant.

The new smart speaker will go on sale in mid-November.