Sep 7, 2016 7:45 PM
The Latest: The $10,000 Apple Watch has lost its luster
The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Latest on Apple's San Francisco product event (all times local):
Apple is phasing out smartwatch models made with 18-karat gold.
The "Series 2" watches announced Wednesday will use ceramic instead of gold for the luxury "Edition" version of the Apple Watch. The ceramic versions will start at $1,250, just a tad cheaper than the gold model, which started at $10,000.
Anyone who really wants the 18-karat gold model will need to buy the original, which can't be used while swimming and lacks other new features of the series 2 watches.
Apple will still offer gold colored models ... in aluminum. The new watches go on sale next week.
This year's iPhone is seen as a more modest upgrade, as several analysts noted that it was increasingly difficult to make impressive changes in hardware.
Among Apple's biggest changes are nixing the headphone jack and adding a "dual lens" camera to the higher-priced 7 Plus model.
Some thought that could be enough to entice new users. "I believe Apple did enough to keep the base happy with upgrades and arguably did enough to attract some Android users," said analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy.
Many longtime Apple users had been complaining on social media about the lack of a headphone jack in the new phones. But Forrester Research analyst Julie Ask said she doesn't think that will turn off prospective iPhone buyers, in part because Apple has a long history of phasing out older technologies such as floppy disks and optical drives in computers.
"Three months later, it will be, 'Why did we ever have that?'" she said.
Dawson agreed, saying Apple would "largely neutralize" consumers upset about losing the headphone jack by including a "dongle" adapter with the purchase.
But while Apple's claims for its new "Air Pods" wireless earbuds seem technically impressive, Bob O'Donnell of Technalysis Research said that people are likely to lose them. "You start losing those things, at $160 a pair, you're going to go crazy."
While Apple announced updates for two of its high-profile products, the iPhone and the Apple Watch, it stayed silent on its tablet and laptop.
Apple has departed from its usual annual upgrade cycle for the iPad, now that it has introduced a few Pro models aimed at professionals looking to get work done on the go. Tablet users, though, will still be eligible for an operating software upgrade next Tuesday.
While there's been speculation that Apple is ready to launch new MacBook laptops, the company had nothing to say about that. MacBooks are popular as powerful machines that remain relatively thin and light, although they face competition from Windows laptops now that several companies have ultra-thin models. Apple's new Mac operating system, Sierra, is coming soon, but Apple didn't reveal a date Wednesday.
The company didn't announce any new hardware for Apple TV, its set-top box that manages streaming video and other entertainment options.
Apple made sure to include women and underrepresented minorities on stage — something that many tech companies, including Apple, have been criticized for missing at past events.
Sony, famously, held a PlayStation event in 2013 that did not have any women on stage. While the company was widely derided for this, others were quick to point out that other companies did the same, and that without many women and minorities in the companies' executive ranks, it can be difficult to represent them during big events.
For those keeping count, there were three women and four non-white people on stage at Apple's extravaganza on Wednesday. These included Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto from Japan, who works for Nintendo and Trevor Edwards, the president of the Nike Brand, who also does not work for Apple. Many of the photos illustrating the iPhone 7's new souped up camera featured minorities as well.
When it comes to workforce diversity, Apple is similar to other Silicon Valley companies. Thirty-two percent of its employees are women and 22 percent of U.S. employees are underrepresented minorities (this means black, Hispanic, Native American, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islanders — groups that are traditionally underrepresented in tech).
The iPhone 7s are getting more storage.
With people storing more photos and video on their phones, Apple is joining rival phone makers in making the starter model 32 gigabytes, rather than 16 gigabytes before. The main iPhone is still priced at $650. The larger Plus model is increasing to $770, instead of $750.
Apple is doubling storage in higher-priced models, too — to 128 and 256 gigabytes.
The new phones will ship Sept. 16, with orders to start this Friday.
The new phones are getting faster processors, water resistance, better cameras and more colorful screens, while losing a traditional headphone jack in favor of wireless headphones and those that use the Lightning charging port. Apple also says the iPhone 7 will have better battery life — about one or two hours more from recent models.
Older iPhones will get price reductions, and last year's models are also getting double the storage.
Meanwhile, Apple says its new wireless headphones will ship in late October for $160.
Apple events have historically had ripple effects on other technology stocks, and today was no exception. Fitbit saw its shares decline in the afternoon as Apple released details of its new Apple Watch. Shares in the wearable device maker had climbed to $15.38 in morning trading, but fell to $14.85 after the Apple announcement.
Nintendo, on the other hand, got a boost from the event. Its shares climbed almost 5 percent after Apple announced that the game "Super Mario Runs" was coming to the iPhone. Nintendo had previously resisted releasing Mario games to mobile phones.
Apple Pay, the company's mobile payment service, will come to Japan in October. Apple will include a new wireless technology called Felica in iPhones and Apple Watches there.
In the U.S. and elsewhere, mobile payments use a wireless technology called NFC. A transit feature in Apple Maps will also launch in Japan.
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.
The long-rumored decision to ditch the 3.5 millimeter headphone jack could cause an outcry from consumers. Critics have already complained that their old headphones won't fit in the charging port without an adapter. There's also the dilemma of where to plug in a set of headphones if the charging port is already being used to plug in a power cord.
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."
Schiller says removing the port 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.
Apple isn't the first to ditch the headphone jack. Motorola quietly did so a month ago with some models of the Moto Z.
The new iPhones are getting stereo speakers — one on each side of the phone — along with a display capable of reproducing a wider range of colors.
Apple says it's upgrading the camera and flash components for the new iPhone 7, and it's making an even bigger change in the iPhone 7 Plus.
The larger 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.
Other smartphone makers including LG and Motorola are also starting to offer models with dual lenses to improve picture quality. While many consumers likely feel their current phone cameras are "good enough," analyst Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research says the extra capabilities may appeal to millions of people who like to post photos on social media, in the hope of impressing friends and earning "likes" for their posts.
Dawson says 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 LEDs rather than two for greater brightness. As with previous models, the flash will adjust its 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.
Apple is announcing the iPhone 7 at an event in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Apple's iPhone is getting an updated home button and will come with water and dust protection.
Apple says the iPhone 7's home button is now force sensitive. It will provide "haptic" feedback — that "pushing back" feeling — when you press it, but the button itself doesn't move. It's similar to what Apple has done with a trackpad in a slimmer MacBook model last year.
Other camera improvements include a new flash with four LEDs rather than two for greater brightness. As with previous models, the flash will adjust its color to match ambient light.
It's one of several new features Apple is introducing at an event in San Francisco.
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.
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. GPS isn't common in smartwatches, though the upcoming Samsung Gear S3 will also get GPS.
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. Fitbit has one swim-proof model and Garmin has a few, but the capability isn't common.
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.
"Pokemon Go" is 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.
Hanke says the game has been downloaded more than 500 million times, and people playing have collectively walked 4.6 billion kilometers (2.9 billion miles).
Hanke said, "It's certainly been a busy summer for us."
He announced the watch app at an Apple event in San Francisco on Wednesday. CEO Tim Cook joked that the watch app might let him finally break out of Level 2.
Earlier, Apple announced that the Mario video game is coming to iPhones.
Apple says real-time collaboration features are coming to its word processing, spreadsheet and presentation package.
It's something Google and Microsoft already offer in some form. 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.
The video game character Mario is coming to iPhones. CEO Tim Cook said the popular Japanese game had been missing until now.
Shigeru Miyamoto, described as the "Father of Mario" from Nintendo, said through a translator that "Super Mario Runs" is designed to be played one-handed — while holding a handle on the subway, eating a hamburger or . eating an apple.
Miyamoto didn't announce the price, but said the game will sell for a fixed price, so you won't have to keep ponying up as you advance through the game.
Nintendo has long resisted bringing Mario to mobile phones, instead relying on the character to bolster demand for its own hand-held DS gaming systems.
The event in San Francisco on Wednesday started with video showing TV host James Corden driving to the event and bantering with Cook about how he ought to wear a suit made of apples. As Cook walked on stage, he puts on the funny glasses from the ride, then shook his head and threw them offstage.
Eyes are on Apple on Wednesday as the company prepares to unveil expected new iPhones and other products at an event in San Francisco starting at 1 p.m. EDT.
Analysts say the new iPhones could help Apple recover modestly from a recent dip in sales. But with few expected dramatic changes from previous models, Apple watchers aren't expecting the kind of big spikes in consumer demand that the company saw two years ago, when it introduced larger screens.
Apple sold nearly 92 million iPhones during the first six months of this year, about 15 percent fewer than the same period last year. This year marks the first time that Apple has seen such declines. Industry analysts say it's because last fall's iPhone 6S and 6S Plus didn't contain many new features or improvements.
Investors are hoping for a bigger boost in sales next year. Wall Street analysts say reports from Apple's Asian manufacturers and suppliers indicate the company has decided to wait a year before introducing a major overhaul of the phone in 2017. That will be the iPhone's 10th anniversary.
This story has been corrected to clarify the description of the iPhone 7's new camera flash, which has four LEDs instead of two; the story previously stated that the flash has four shades of color instead of two. It also clarifies the description of the phone's force sensitive home button; its response does not vary depending on how hard it is pressed, as the story previously stated.