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
Evolution of the iPhone
Apple CEO Steve Jobs holds up an Apple iPhone at the MacWorld Conference in San Francisco, Jan. 9, 2007. Apple Inc., on a tear with its popular iPod players and Macintosh computers, is expected to report strong quarterly results Wednesday. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Jeff Gamet, from the Internet magazine The Mac Observer, looks at the new Apple iPhone at MacWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007. Apple Inc. is a tight ship when it comes to corporate secrets, regularly suing journalists and employees who leak data about upcoming products. Although few people outside of Apple's headquarters knew product specifications for the iPhone before its announcement, the device was widely anticipated. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
An advertisement for the upcoming iPhone is displayed in the Apple store in SoHo, Friday, June 22, 2007 in New York. The long anticipated gadget hits the market on June 29th. (AP Photo/Dima Gavrysh)
A television journalist holds the Apple iPhone, the only one given to a journalist in Los Angeles before it went on sale, as he interviews people waiting to buy the iPhone outside the Apple store at The Grove in Los Angeles, Friday, June 29, 2007. After six months of hype, thousands of people Friday will get their hands on the iPhone, the new cell phone that Apple Inc. is banking on to become its third core business next to its moneymaking iPod players and Macintosh computers. Customers were camped out at Apple and AT&T stores across the nation. The gadget, which combines the functions of a cell phone, iPod media player and wireless Web browser, will go on sale in the United States at 6 p.m. in each time zone. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
A customer holds a demonstration Apple iPhone during the release of the Apple product and the opening of a new Apple Store at Woodland Hills Mall in Tulsa, Okla., on Friday, June 29, 2007. More than 500 people waited in line. (AP Photo/David Crenshaw)
Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs announces the new Apple iPhone 3G during the keynote speech at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Monday, June 9, 2008. Jobs announced innovations to the Mac OS X Leopard operating system and an enhanced iPhone. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
An older Apple iPhone is shown next to an advertisement for the new iPhone 3G at an AT&T store in Palo Alto, Calif., Tuesday, July 8, 2008. To sustain the momentum of the original iPhone's success and keep fickle consumers and Wall Street happy, Apple Inc. needs a dramatic second act with the next generation of iPhones, which roll out Friday with faster Internet access and lower retail prices. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
A shop worker holds the new Apple iPhone 3GS in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, June 19, 2009. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Apple CEO Steve Jobs smiles as he uses the new iPhone 4 at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Monday, June 7, 2010, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Apple iPhone at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Monday, June 7, 2010 in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
FILE - In this Feb. 10, 2011 file photo, Chris Cioban, manager of the Verizon store in Beachwood, Ohio, holds up an Apple iPhone 4G. Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest cellphone company, announced Tuesday, June 12, 2012, that is dropping nearly all of its phone plans in favor of pricing schemes that encourage consumers to connect their non-phone devices, like tablets and PCs, to Verizon's network. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta, File)
Apple CEO Tim Cook during an introduction of the new iPhone 5 in San Francisco, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
People queue outside the Apple Store as the iPhone 5 mobile phones went on sale in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Friday Sept. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
In this photo taken Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, new plastic iPhones 5C are displayed during a media event held in Beijing, China. Last year, eager buyers in Beijing waited overnight in freezing weather to buy the iPhone 4S. Pressure to get it â and the profit to be made by reselling scarce phones â prompted some to pelt the store with eggs when Apple, worried about the size of the crowd, postponed opening. Just 18 months later, many Chinese gadget lovers responded with a shrug this week when Apple Inc. unveiled two new versions of the iPhone 5. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A customer examines a new iPhone 5s at the Nebraska Furniture Mart in Omaha, Neb., on Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, the day the new iPhone 5c and 5s models go on sale. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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)
Two new iPhone 6 are photographed at the Apple store in the city centre of Munich, Germany, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. A large crowd had gathered in front of the Apple store ahead of the offical launch of Apple's new iPhone. (AP Photo, dpa,Peter Kneffel)
FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2014 file photo, a customer looks at the screen size on the new iPhone 6 Plus while waiting in line to upgrade his iPhone at a Verizon Wireless store in Flowood, Miss. A newly-discovered glitch in Apple's software can cause iPhones to mysteriously shut down when they receive a certain text message. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
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)
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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.)
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.