With most of the guesswork eliminated, as usual, by rumors ahead of its big event, Apple unveiled signature product updates Wednesday in San Francisco — but brought along a few surprises to make it interesting. Gamers will be especially excited as Nintendo stole the earliest part of the show with announcements that Mario and Pokémon Go are coming to the iPhone and Apple Watch.
Apple also announced the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, confirming long-standing rumors that the devices won’t include a headphone jack, among other things. Apple AirPods are the answer (sold separately for $159) for those who want to connect to devices such as the phone and Watch wirelessly.
Opening the show after a “Carpool Karaoke” segment with “Late Late Show” host James Corden and musician Pharrell Williams, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple Music has more than 17 million subscribers, and the App Store has reached 140 billion app downloads, with 106 percent year-over-year growth.
“As you know we’ve always had a deep love for music. It inspires us,” Cook said in revealing a new simple and intuitive design for Apple Music in iOS10.
Calling App Store downloads and growth “phenomenal” and “off the charts,” Cook wasted no time in announcing a huge addition to the Store, in the form of a new game for iPhone — “Super Mario Runs.” Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto took the stage to demonstrate on the release that will be out in time for the holidays this year.
Cook said more people are using Apple Watch to get active and healthy and he highlighted how the device trails only Rolex now as the No. 2 watch brand in the world.
“Apple Watch has set a very high bar about what a modern watch can be,” Cook said before Jeff Williams offered more details on product improvements that were showcased at WWDC in June including interface improvements, messaging and Scribble for custom replies. You can also now remember to breathe, thanks to a new app, and call emergency assistance if you, well, stop breathing.
And, because the Mario gaming news wasn’t quite huge enough, John Hanke, CEO of Niantic, came onstage to announce that Pokémon Go is coming to the Watch.
Williams came back to show off the new Watch and said it’s “swim-proof” to 50 meters, thanks to new seals and adhesives. The speaker has been redesigned to eject water at the end of a pool workout.
The new Watch also contains a more powerful chip that improves the performance of apps and news of a built-in GPS got a big “Woooo” from the crowd at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. View Ranger, a new hiking app on the Watch, got special billing as it includes off-line features that don’t require a cell connection.
The Apple Watch Series 2 will be priced at $369. The original Watch, now called Series 1, will be priced at $269 and get the same new dual-core processor.
The biggest part of the event was saved for the iPhone, as usual.
“The iPhone is the industry gold standard, the phone by which all other phones are compared. We’ve now sold over a billion of them,” Cook said, calling it the best-selling product of its kind in the history of the world.
The biggest iOS release ever features Siri connectivity to apps; redesigned Maps; and HomeKit, allowing for easier management of home devices, is going to be a “really big deal,” Cook hopes.
“It’s the best iPhone that we have ever created. This is iPhone 7,” Cook said. “It has a gorgeous design. … It makes all the things you do everyday so much better.”
A rather mesmerizing production video showed how the iPhone is sculpted and how the high-gloss black finish is achieved. Magnetized, ultra-fine, ion particle bath anyone?
Several major features were highlighted:
- Design: High-gloss finish called jet black, and another black option, called … black. It’s also available in gold, silver and rose gold.
- Home button: Redesigned to be more responsive and more reliable and customizable. Button is now force sensitive and creates a new feel with unique feedbacks.
- Water and dust resistant: IP67 standard will save you when you fall in the pool.
- Camera: “Perhaps the most beloved feature,” the system is entirely new. Optical image stabilizer will be available in the 7 and 7 Plus. A 12-megapixel sensor and Quad-LED True Tone flash and wider lens and image signal processor are also among the improvements. “This truly is a super computer for photos.” The front-facing camera has also improved to 7 megapixels from 5 — better selfies! The iPhone 7 Plus gets two camera lenses, a wide angle and a telephoto, and zoom will go from 1X to 10X. A new camera style called “portrait,” available on the Plus, adds depth of field to images, blurring the background in photographs in real time.
- Retina HD display: The display will be 25 percent brighter than the 6 and 6 Plus. Ian Spalter, head of design at Instagram, showed off the wide color gamut capabilities.
- Audio: The built-in speaker is now stereo speakers at the bottom and top of the phone, putting out twice the volume.
- EarPods: Bye bye, headphone jack. Headphones are going to be connected via the Lightning connection port now. They will be included in the box and a lightning-to-mini-phono adapter will also be included.
- Wireless AirPods: “It makes no sense to tether ourselves to our mobile devices.” Apple AirPods are the answer, apparently, to connecting wirelessly to all other Apple devices. A new W1 chip is the brains inside your ears, with five hours of battery life. The tiny devices will be ready for sale in late October and fetch $159 for a pair. A new line of Beats headphones, including Solo3 Wireless, will also take advantage of the chip.
So what’s the cost? The iPhone 7 will sell for $649 and come with storage capacities of 32, 128 and 256GB. The 7 Plus will sell for $769 and come in the same sizes. The jet black color is specific to the two larger-size phones. Apple fans can start ordering the new phones on Friday and the devices will begin shipping on Sept. 16.
Storage size on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus will also be upgraded. The new iOS 10 will become available on Tuesday.
Apple also demonstrated that its iWork, a cloud-based productivity environment, now allows real-time collaboration on projects, whether users are working from Macs, iPhones, iPads or the internet. Different contributors’ additions are color-coded, and any user can edit contributions by anyone else.
Apple’s ability to own the exclusivity of its own product reveals got off to a weird start on Wednesday morning. First, Amazon launched a special landing page for iPhone 7 accessories, cases and bluetooth headphones an hour before Cook took the stage.
And then Apple itself tweeted images of the new phone in which it said: “New cameras. Water resistant. Stereo speakers. Longer battery life. This is 7.” The tweet was captured before it was deleted by Apple.
— Eli Blumenthal (@eliblumenthal) September 7, 2016