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Apple takes iPhone to 7, Watch to 2, headphone jack to 0

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 8, 2016
iPhone 7 Plus now not just about bigger screen, but also about multiple cameras

iphone lineup

Apple executives, including CEO Tim Cook, today rolled out the company's latest smartphones, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, as well as the company's next-generation smartwatch.

At the same venue used 12 months ago to launch the iPhone 6S -- San Francisco's century-old Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, a hall where the Apple II debuted in 1977 -- Apple kicked off a two-hour event that was lighter in new products than last year.

Apple didn't help itself by blowing much of the suspense that remained long before officials got to the iPhone 7 on stage: Someone tweeted details from the firm's official account before anyone mentioned them during the event. The too-early tweets, which touted the Sept. 16 on-sale date and other information, were quickly pulled, signaling a timing screw-up. Those tweets also inaccurately promised that pre-orders would open today.

"They were an unfortunate distraction and detraction from the main event," noted Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research, in an email.

Watch, take 2

After the usual preliminaries -- Apple likes to open major events with a statistic-heavy status update on multiple fronts -- Cook ceded the stage to Jeff Williams, Apple's chief operating officer, who introduced a refresh of the Apple Watch. "We are going to keep pushing Watch forward," said Williams of what the firm called Apple Watch Series 2.

"It has been completely re-engineered," Williams boasted, adding that it was "swim-proof," or water resistant to 50 meters. Other additions and improvements ranged from built-in GPS to an upgraded system-in-a-package (SiP) that includes a dual-core processor that Apple claimed was 50% faster, and a graphics processor with twice the performance of the original.

The Series 2 comes in the familiar aluminum and stainless steel, but also in a new ceramic material that Williams said was much stronger than the stainless. The new models will go on sale September 16 starting at A$529, but Apple is retaining the original line -- Series 1, upgraded with the S2 SiP -- at prices beginning at A$399.

Apple did not mention the second-generation smartwatch battery lifespan during the event -- an omission some noted because of the implied demands of the beefier processors and brighter display -- but claimed the same 18 hours as the Series 1 on its website.

Those first-gen lower prices were more important than the next-gen specs, contended Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Creative Strategies. By swapping in the S2 on the original models and lowering prices, she argued, Apple was "going to hurt a lot of its competitors" in the smartwatch space. "There are a lot of people sitting on the [smartwatch] fence, and this time Apple isn't giving just a price reduction but also a better experience," she added.


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