Apple’s iPhone 7 announcement confirmed updates to the company’s camera and audio technology (as widely anticipated), with Apple Watch also given a makeover.
Tim Cook, the company’s CEO, described iPhone as “the industry gold standard”, noting that more than 1 billion devices in the line have been sold, making it “the best-selling product of its kind in the history of the world”.
Against a backdrop of speculation that iPhone 7 may be only an incremental update ahead of a broad revamp to support the ten-year iPhone anniversary next year, Apple announced a number of updates significant enough to warrant a new model number – and enough to encourage existing users to upgrade.
As before, two versions will be available: iPhone 7 and the larger iPhone 7 Plus.
Confirming perhaps the most highly-trailed development, Apple dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack – although it will ship a 3.5mm-to-Lightning (Apple’s proprietary jack) converter which “allows customer to use old headphones and accessories”.
With no hint of modesty, Phil Schiller, Apple’s marketing chief, said that the move “really comes down to one word: courage. The courage to move on, do something new that betters all of us”. This was backed up with the slightly more tangible argument that with space at a premium, “maintaining an ancient, single-purpose, analogue, big connector doesn’t make sense”.
“We have a vision for how audio should work on mobile devices,” he continued.
The device comes with new EarPod headphones which include Lightning connector, and AirPod wireless headphones (with charging case) will also be available.
With regard to the wireless headphones, Schiller said that “our team at Apple has worked so hard to create something new that delivers on the opportunity of how good a wireless experience could be”, addressing challenges such as power management, intelligent pairing and sound quality. But this comes with a not inconsiderable $159 price tag.
And iPhone 7 now includes stereo speakers, delivering twice the volume of iPhone 6s.
Schiller said that the camera in the iPhone 7 line is “a huge advancement for photography for cell phones: everything about it is entirely new”. Both iPhones include 12MP camera with optical image stabilisation, larger aperture and 6-element lens.
But there is a difference for iPhone 7 Plus: a dual-camera the company described as a “breakthrough”. It pairs the standard 12MP wide angle camera with a 12MP telephoto camera, which together offer optical zoom at up to two times and up to 10 times digital zoom.
This format also supports a new depth-of-field effect, supported by “sophisticated technology including machine learning” to separate the background and foreground.
Other camera updates include an Apple-designed Image Signal Processor; 7MP front-facing camera; and quad-LED true tone flash that is 50 per cent brighter that iPhone 6s, and which includes a sensor to detect and compensate for flickering lights.
Beneath the skin is a new A10 processor, which is said to be “the most powerful chip ever in a smartphone, while also getting more times between charges”. It is quadcore, with two high performance and two high efficiency cores.
Apple also said that both phones support up to 25 LTE bands (including LTE-A), offering “the best worldwide roaming in the industry”.
And like some competing devices, the new iPhone is water and dust resistant, to IP67 standard.
Significantly, the company has finally upped the base iPhone storage provision to 32GB from 16GB, something that has been a source of criticism for the company bearing in mind the lack of removable storage. It is accompanied by 128GB and 256GB versions.
Colour options of silver, gold and rose gold are joined by a new black finish, and a special “jet black” version of the higher capacity devices will also be available. Pricing starts from $649 for iPhone 7 and $769 for iPhone 7 Plus, with availability from 16 September.
Apple Watch Series 2
Cook introduced Apple Watch by stating that after 8 months of sales in 2015, it had become the second biggest watch company by revenue (behind Rolex). Citing uses such as notifications, Apple Pay and health monitoring, the CEO said that “Apple Watch has really changed what people want from a Watch”.
Jeff Williams, Apple COO, kicked off by noting that where Apple Watch was splash proof, Apple Watch Series 2 is “swim proof” (water resistant to 50 meters). This, he said, was “especially challenging for a smartwatch, because there are so many ingress points”.
The device also gains built-in GPS, increasing its functionality when used without the paired iPhone.
Under the hood, the device is powered by a second-generation S2 “system in package”. It gains a dual-core processor that is up to 50 per cent faster than the previous generation, and new graphics processor which delivers up to 2 times better performance.
And a new screen is described as “the brightest display Apple has ever shipped”, making it easier to view outside on sunny days.
Apple Watch Series 2 starts from $369. A refreshed Apple Watch Series 1 is available with the new processor and graphics capability, at a lower price point of $269.
For the high rollers, a new ceramic Apple Watch Edition starts at $1,249.