Apple unveils iPhone 7 to lackluster response

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Apple unveils iPhone 7 to lackluster response

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Apple CEO Tim Cook, left, shows an iPhone 7 to performer Maddie Ziegler during an event to announce new products on Wednesday in San Francisco. [AP/NEWSIS]

Apple took the wraps off what it described as the “best, most advanced iPhone ever” at its annual launch event in San Francisco on Wednesday night, boldly ditching the headphone jack and upgrading the device’s home button and battery life, but investors were less than impressed.

The company’s shares barely budged ahead of the announcement at the end of the trading day, closing Wednesday up less than 1 percent and amounting to a mere 3 percent increase in stock price so far this year. By comparison, the Nasdaq composite index gained 5.5 percent over the same period.

The new 4.7-inch iPhone 7 and 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus are embedded with what many have described as underwhelming features already adopted by rivals, such as water and dust resistance, a wide-angle camera and optical image stabilization.

“In the past they’ve had a brand new user experience, and we haven’t seen that today,” said Gartner analyst Brian Blau. “I don’t think it’s going to change people’s opinions of smartphones. It’s not going to jack up interest but it’s not going to reduce it either.”

Orders for the first batch, which consists of 29 markets including the United States, Japan, Hong Kong and China, begin today for a shipping start date of Sept. 17. Orders for the second batch comprising 30 countries are scheduled to kick off on Sept. 23.

The third batch will be able to start taking orders on Oct. 7, though Apple has only named India so far as part of this group.

Given the precedent of iPhone releases running up to three months late in Korea, Apple fans here are likely to see the new devices shipped either on Oct. 21 or Oct. 28. The company’s Korean unit has yet to confirm the release date or prices for the next-generation iPhones, and Korea, the home turf of the world’s top smartphone maker Samsung Electronics, has never been listed in the first batch of markets.

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In the United States, the iPhone 7 will cost $649 and its larger counterpart iPhone 7 Plus will cost $769. Both will come in silver, gold, rose gold and two new black finishes.

“This is the best iPhone we’ve ever created,” Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook told an audience of reporters and Apple employees at the launch event in San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

Having killed the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack from its upcoming iPhones, Apple now offers several options.

One is using a Lighting to 3.5-millimeter headphone jack adaptor, which comes bundled in the box, to connect wired headphones to the charging port, which now also acts as audio output.

Another option is buying the $159 wireless AirPods due to ship out in late October in the United States. The potential game changer is powered by Apple’s self-developed W1 chip that uses ultralow-power Bluetooth and keeps the wireless earbuds in sync. Users can access Siri by double-tapping the AirPods and select music, adjust volume and check battery life with voice command.

Still, expectations for the iPhone 7 have been muted, with anticipation instead mounting for the model to be introduced in 2017, when Apple celebrates the device’s 10th anniversary.

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Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus and its wireless earbuds, AirPods. [APPLE]

Apple’s smartphone market share is likely to slip to 13.9 percent this year, compared with 15.8 percent in 2015 and an estimated 14.2 percent in 2020, research firm IDC estimated before Wednesday’s event. It also forecast slower growth in overall smartphone sales as consumers upgrade less frequently.

The latest iPhone is similar in design and size to its predecessor, the iPhone 6S. The larger iPhone 7 Plus handset has a back-facing dual camera which allows for crisper images, particularly in low light. It also comes with a new pressure-sensitive home button that provides a vibrating sensation in response to button presses instead of an actual physical click.

“There’s a big enough pool of iPhone 6 users waiting for an upgrade and there was enough new technology in there to make us comfortable about growth heading into next year,” said Gene Munster, a Piper Jaffray analyst who gave Apple stock a positive rating.

The smartphone maker’s failure to completely overhaul the design, as it has previously done every two years, shouldn’t hurt sales, said Lauren Guenveur, an analyst at Kantar Worldpanel.

“Most people upgrade because they’re looking for better battery life, better storage capacity and a faster processor, and that’s everything that they highlighted today,” she said.

The new Apple Watch may disappoint customers who had been hoping for a cellular chip that would have given it mobile network connectivity and untethered it from the iPhone.

Apple had been in talks with mobile phone carriers earlier this year to introduce such a version, but the plans hit hurdles on concerns about reduced battery life, people familiar with the discussions said last month.

Samsung Electronics unveiled its own smartwatch with cellular connectivity last week.

The model - dubbed the Apple Watch Series 2 - is meant to appeal to fitness fanatics. Waterproofing down to 50 meters (164 feet) has allowed Apple to build swim tracking into the device, while GPS means joggers can map out their runs without carrying an iPhone.

Apple also teamed up with Nike to release a version the two companies call the Apple Watch Nike+. The partnership will allow Apple to sell products with the world’s largest sports brand and take advantage of its vast sales network.



BY SEO JI-EUN, BLOOMBERG [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]

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