Apple unveils iPhone 7: water-resistant smartphone omits traditional headphone jack

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Apple drew back the curtain on the iPhone 7, revealing several expected changes — including water-resistant features and the absence of a dedicated headset jack — marking an evolution rather than a stunning breakthrough for the flagship smartphone line.

The official announcement at Apple's San Francisco event Wednesday comes after weeks of leaks and speculation about the next iPhone. Instead of a headphone jack, the iPhone 7 will use Apple's proprietary Lightning charging port to connect a headset (included with the smartphones); alternatively users also can connect to wireless earbuds via Bluetooth, and the iPhone 7 will also include an adapter to connect to analog headphones.

The reason Apple is eliminating the traditional headphone "comes down to one word: courage, the courage to move on to do something that betters all of us," said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior VP of worldwide marketing, noting that the change reduces the components required in the iPhone 7.

However, on the water- and dust-resistant features, Apple is playing catch-up: Major rival Samsung Electronics has highlighted the waterproof features of its Galaxy S7 Android-based smartphones, which can sustain being submerged for up to 30 minutes in five feet of water.

Evolution of the iPhone:

Evolution of the iPhone
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Evolution of the iPhone
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Apple iPhone at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Monday, June 7, 2010 in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
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Apple CEO Tim Cook during an introduction of the new iPhone 5 in San Francisco, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
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Apple CEO Tim Cook discusses the new Apple Watch and iPhone 6 on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, in Cupertino, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus during an Apple media event in San Francisco, California on September 9, 2015. Apple unveiled its iPad Pro, saying the large-screen tablet has the power and capabilities to replace a laptop computer. AFP PHOTO/JOSH EDELSON (Photo credit should read Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

The iPhone 7 and larger-size iPhone 7 Plus will begin shipping Sept. 16, according to Apple. The new models also have a 12-megapixel rear camera, which includes an optical image stabilizer, improvements for low-light photography, and the ability to capture a wider range of colors, among other features. The iPhone 7 Plus features a dual-lens camera system (a wide-angle and one telephoto lens) designed to improve zoom capabilities and capture 3D-like images. Apple says the Retina displays for the new phones are 25% brighter than those in the iPhone 6s, and the iPhone 7 includes for the first time stereo speakers.

Apple is banking on the iPhone refresh — which has become an annual traditional — to boost sales of the flagship device line. Unit sales of iPhones declined 15% year-over-year during the quarter ended June 30, following a falloff in the prior quarter. Apple, the world's biggest tech conglomerate, posted iPhone sales of $24.0 billion in the most recent quarter, representing 57% of total revenue.

Still, it's not clear that the iPhone 7 enhancements will spur Apple's hoped-for upgrade rush among current iPhone users, who may be growing less inclined to toss out their existing devices on a yearly cycle.

Apple's removal of the iPhone headphone jack had been widely anticipated, as was the dual-lens camera. Reports prior to the launch also said Apple would increase storage for the iPhone, with the entry-level model including 32 gigabytes of memory (up from 16 GB previously) along with a new 256-gigabyte version.

Also at the event, the company launched the Apple Watch Series 2, which is waterproof to be able to withstand submersion to a depth of 50 meters and includes built-in GPS to provide location-based services. The new smartwatch lineup includes Apple Watch Nike+ model, a companion device for runners that tracks workouts.

In addition, Apple announced that an app for Niantic's "Pokémon Go" mobile game will be available for Apple Watch. Niantic CEO John Hanke said the game, released in July, has been downloaded 500 million times to date.

The Apple Watch Series 2 will be priced starting at $369 (as will the Nike+ model). The original Apple Watch, now called Series 1, will start at $269. According to CEO Tim Cook, Apple Watch was second in revenue in 2015 only to Rolex in the worldwide watch market. (The company did not reveal actual sales figures.)

In a video at the outset of the event, Cook rode in a car with James Corden in a "Carpool Karaoke" setup, along with the singer Pharrell Williams. That gave Cook the opportunity to call out Apple's deal with CBS to debut episodes of "Carpool Karaoke" on Apple Music in 2017.

Cook also noted that Apple Music now has more than 17 million subscribers, which he said was boosted by exclusive music deals with artists.

In other news, Nintendo plans to launch its first mobile game based on its Super Mario Bros. franchise, initially exclusively on Apple iOS. The "Super Mario Run" game will be available later in 2016 in time for the holidays, according to execs.

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