Since the days when Steve Jobs was a brash, young, clean-shaven wunderkind, Apple Inc. has been known for carefully managed press events, heightening the drama for its latest gadgets on its computerized products. On Wednesday, the company scooped itself, accidentally unveiling some key details of the new iPhone 7 more than an hour early. Still, CEO Tim Cook and company managed to pack some interesting and new features and choices into what became a somewhat anti-climactic event.
Here are five new things about the iPhone:
1: No jack in the box
The most dramatic change? Abandoning an audio standard ubiquitous across wireless devices of all kinds. The 3.5 mm analog audio jack is gone, being replaced by wired EarPod headphones that plug into the proprietary Lightning connector. "Some people asked why we would remove the headphone jack," said Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller: "One word: courage." Perhaps courageously expecting this would be seen as a user-hostile move Apple is also shipping a Lightning/analog dongle adaptor in the box – a first for for a company that has frequently made old connectors obsolete with nary a concern about the abandoned users – that will allow users to keep their old analog audio devices around for a while yet.
2: Wireless but not untethered
Apple also announced new wireless AirPod headphones that connect to the phone via BlueTooth. This is a growing category according to IHS Markit Senior Analyst Paul Erickson, "We have wireless headphones at 22 per cent of North America's headphone market by year end, and 20 per cent of Western Europe at year end (2016). Global annual shipment volume for 2016, total earbuds and headphones we put at 316 million units." Apple's AirPods seem incredibly powerful with their own onboard system on a chip, tap-sensing interface, impressive microphones and a laughably weak five-hour of listening battery. The headphones charge in a small pill-shaped carrying case you'll need to bring with you. The AirPods will be sold separately starting in late October, and will cost $159 (U.S.). Apple subsidiary Beats (the No. 3 headphone company by unit volume according to IHS) will also release larger format over-the-ear headphones with as much as 24 hours of listening time.
3: Cameras remain a key investment for Apple
With every social media platform from SnapChat to Facebook and Twitter increasingly focussed on live video, not to mention enhanced image forms like 360-degree capture, Apple spent an inordinate amount of time discussing its upgraded image sensors. The 7 Plus adds a second 12 megapixel camera to the chassis, one is a wide angle, the other is a telephoto 56mm-equivilent lens that allows a zooming feature better than any single-lens smartphone camera could achieve. The front-facing selfie camera is also pushed to a 7 megapixel sensor. Apple's cameras are not the beefiest offerings in all of smartphone-land, but they remain as good or better a total package than most.
4: Tweaks and updates
The new iPhones will sell for about the same price as the 2015 devices, except those with the new refined "jet black finish" which will not be available at the lowest price point. Orders open on Sept. 9, shipping starts on Sept. 16 to 28 "geographies" including Canada. The iPhone 7 also rebuilds the home button, changing it from a mechanical button to a force-sensitive sensor that now has so-called taptic feedback to give you a little tingle when you use it. Making space for these changes might also have had something to do with ditching the headphone jack. Apple's updates to iMessage – new stickers, apps for things like payments and games – were a throwaway moment in the event, but the fight to integrate services into chat is the driving force behind companies like Kitchener, Ont.'s billion-dollar startup Kik and is an area with stiff competition from Facebook and China's WeChat.
5: Waterproof, but not leak-proof
Apple lost control of its message on Wednesday before Mr. Cook even had the chance to get on stage.Through a mix of apparent incompetence by partners like Amazon.com -- which posted product pages showing images of the new phone before the live-streamed press conference started at 1 p.m. ET -- and from its own social media marketing team, which began promoting tweets of videos and the new phone that gave away core features. The tweets were deleted but not before savvy watchers screengrabbed and disseminated the images of the new waterproof iPhones. The images and videos previewed the lack of a headphone jack, and teased the dramatic camera improvements on the larger iPhone 7 Plus.
Mr. Cook did uncork one announcement that came as a total surprise in the opening minutes of the event. Nintendo "Creative Fellow" and legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto was on stage to announce that Super Mario Run would be the first mobile game featuring the Japanese company's most popular character and it would launch on the iPhone in December, 2016. Nintendo's stock soared after the announcement. Apple also confirmed that Pokemon Go, this summer's mobile gaming sensation, would soon be playable on the Apple Watch. A new more fitness-oriented version of that device called the Series 2 will also be waterproof, and apparently a little more leak-proof too.