Apple Inc released the next generation of the iPhone at its annual launch event Wednesday in San Francisco- the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.
While aesthetically similar to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, the new phone has several big differences, including a pressure-sensitive home button, a better high-resolution camera, a faster processor and improved battery life, as well as having no headphone jack. Yet, the biggest surprise was the debut of a three-decade-old Nintendo game franchise, Super Mario Bros, on the smartphone.
While shares of Apple barely budged, Nintendo’s U.S.-listed shares jumped 29 pct on investors’ hopes that Super Mario would be another mobile gaming hit for the Japanese company akin to the wildly popular Pokemon Go.
Much of the presentation headed by Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook was devoted to technical details of photography, wireless earphones, games from Nintendo, and a new version of Apple watch – with fitness features.
Lightning connectors were designed from the outset to handle high-quality audio, Apple vice president Phil Schiller told the audience, addressing concerns about the headphone jack removal.
“It comes down to one reason: courage, the courage to move on,” Schiller said of the decision to get rid of the traditional headset port.
“Our smartphones are packed with technologies and we all want more, and it is all fighting for space in that same enclosure. Maintaining an old, single-purpose connector just doesn’t make sense.”
Apple has reported declines in iPhone sales for the last two quarters, which raised the stakes for the iPhone 7. Some consumers and analysts are considering waiting until 2017.
But Mike Binger, senior portfolio manager at Gradient Investments LLC in Minneapolis, said the new phone encouraged him that Apple was in good shape for a new sales cycle.
“I think the iPhone 7, just from a replacement basis, will be a successful launch,” he said.
The world’s best-known technology company said the iPhone 7 would have one, zooming 12-megapixel camera. Starting at $649, it is the same price as the 6S predecessor. The larger 7 ‘Plus’ edition, starting at $769, would feature two cameras, including a telephoto lens.
The new phone will start shipping in major markets, including the United States and China, on Sept. 16.
Bob O’Donnell of research firm TECHnalysis said Apple’s new glossy black finish could be more popular than any tech feature, reflecting the slowdown in major tech innovations for smartphones.
“While the camera improvements for the iPhone 7 Plus are nice, they are incremental for most and the lack of headphone jacks could offset that for others,” he said.
Apple typically gives its main product, which accounts for more than half of its revenue, a big makeover every other year and the last major redesign was the iPhone 6 in 2014. Many are expecting a three-year cycle this time, culminating in a major redesign for 2017 to be called iPhone 8.
Apple said its Apple Watch Series 2, with a swim-proof casing, will be available in more than 25 countries starting on Sept. 16.
“I predict Watch sales will improve dramatically,” said Tech analyst Patrick Moorhead. “Most of the current Watch owners are early adopters and the next wave could be 10 times the size of that market.”
Apple also launched a new version of the device called the Apple Watch Nike+, in partnership with the athletic goods manufacturer Nike Inc, featuring GPS so athletes can track their runs.
Shares of Fitbit Inc, which makes activity-tracking bands, closed down 2 percent on the emergence of such a high-profile competitor.