Apple unveils new water/dust-resistant iPhone 7 with no headphone jack
SAN FRANCISCO — Apple finally unveiled its latest iPhone on Wednesday.
No more headphone jack, but better speakers
The biggest change is that Apple’s next iPhones will come without the analog headphone jack that’s been standard on iPhones and most other electronic devices for years.
Instead, the company is making iPhone owners listen with wireless Bluetooth headsets or with earphones that can plug into the phone’s digital “Lightning” port, which has been used primarily for charging until now.
Apple will include an adapter with the iPhone 7 for those with older headphones.
Apple marketing chief Philip W. Schiller says it comes down to “courage to move on to something new,” and frees up space in the phone for newer technologies. He also says the Lightning port was designed years ago with digital audio in mind.
Apple designed new wireless headphones called AirPods to replace the traditional ear buds. Schiller didn’t mention a price for the wireless earphones.
The new iPhones are also getting stereo speakers — one on each side of the phone — along with a display capable of reproducing a wider range of colors.
An updated camera for both phones, but dual lens for the Plus model
The iPhone 7 Plus model will come with two digital camera lenses. One will be for regular shots and the other will have telephoto capabilities, giving you a two-fold zoom. Smartphones typically have resorted to software tricks for zooms, resulting in fuzzy images when blown up.
Both lenses will take photos at 12 megapixels.
The two lenses will also sense depth and allow users to blur backgrounds in images, mimicking an effect that typically requires changing the lens aperture in stand-alone cameras.
The new smartphone cameras still don’t match the capabilities of SLR cameras, but they offer improvements that may appeal to the “vanity” of social media users.
Other camera improvements include a new flash with four rather than two shades of color to match ambient light. High-end photographers can get images in RAW format, which allows for more versatile editing, matching what many leading cameras now have.
Water and dust resistant, with an update home button (but it’s still there)
The iPhone 7 has an updated home button and will come with water and dust protection.
Apple says the iPhone 7 is now force sensitive, so responses can differ based on how hard you press the home button. It’s similar to what Apple has done with a trackpad in a slimmer MacBook model last year.
Some had predicted the home button would disappear from the latest model, but it didn’t.
iOS 10 updates
Those who aren’t getting a new iPhone will still see improvements with a new mobile operating system called iOS 10.
Among other things, the software will add more intelligence to Apple services like Maps, Photos, the iPhone keyboard and Siri, the voice-activated digital assistant. There’s a new Home app to control appliances.
In a big change for Apple, the company is also opening Siri and its iMessage service to work with apps created by independent developers. Siri will be able to send message to a contact on LinkedIn, the professional social network being bought by Microsoft, or to a friend on WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service. Siri can also send money with the Square Cash service or search for pictures on Pinterest.
Apple is also allowing developers to build apps for iMessage, although the options so far appear to be mostly sending payments or ordering food. It’s also adding bigger emoji and other visual effects for iMessage, including what it calls “Invisible Ink,” which blurs an image in a message until a recipient swipes a finger across the screen.
Apple announced many of the features in June.
Other news in the world of Apple Watch, apps
A new version of Apple’s smartwatch will come with GPS tracking for more accurate workouts and enough water resistance to swim with it, although the company didn’t mention anything about its expected battery life.
Although the first Apple Watch can tap the GPS on a companion phone, that means carrying the phone with you as you hike or run.
The previous Apple Watch model is resistant to splashes, but not extensive use in water.
Apple says one of the engineering challenges has been sealing the speaker port, which needs air to work. The company said it designed the speaker to eject water after workouts.
The Apple Watch update was announced 17 months after the first model came out. The “Series 2” watch will also get a faster processor and a brighter display for outdoor use.
New styles include a case made of ceramic and a run-centric design made in collaboration with Nike.
The original model is getting a price cut, to $269 from $300, and will get a faster processor. The Series 2 Apple Watch will start at $369. The updates are coming Sept. 16. Existing watches can get new software on Sept. 13.
Meanwhile, apps like “Pokemon Go” are coming to the Apple Watch.
John Hanke, CEO of “Pokemon” creator Niantic Labs, says the idea is to allow you to focus more on your surroundings and not the phone while playing. It’s coming later this year.
Apple also announced that the Mario video game is coming to iPhones.
Another update was to Apple-produced software. Apple announced real-time collaboration features are coming to its word processing, spreadsheet and presentation package.
Although Apple’s iWork package allows syncing through iCloud, it’s has been primarily for one person to work on documents at a time.
The software is available for iPhones, iPads and Mac computers, with a web version for Windows users.