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More details on the iPhone 7 and the new Apple Watch

Written By | Sep 8, 2016

WASHINGTON, September 8, 2016 – As we noted in yesterday’s short column, Apple staged its annual September new-and-or-improved product announcements and rollouts in San Francisco Tuesday, debuting a pair of impressively updated iPhone 7 models and a welcome new edition of the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch 2.

Read also: Wall Street wobbles as Apple rolls out new iPhone 7

True to advance PR, the new iPhone looks and feels a lot like the current iPhone 6s models, given that most, though not all changes are happening beneath the hood. Financial pundits and Apple-haters alike have piled in to denounce the company’s “lack of innovation,” however, and Apple’s stock (symbol: AAPL) is taking a beating in Thursday market action. As for the new device itself…

The new iPhones boast the substantially updated camera upgrade iPhone fans had been hoping for, bringing the iPhone camera’s performance and specs surprisingly close to SLR-type capabilities, though it’s still playing catch-up in many ways to Samsung’s latest models.

The big controversy, at least for the usual bearish-on-Apple reviewers, is that Apple has done away with the headphone/earphone/earbud port on this model, likely to gain more real estate inside the phone, gaining among other things, better battery performance, stereo speakers, a newly-redesigned camera, a more useful Siri experience and so forth.

Read also: Apple’s iPhone 7 gets mixed reviews, stock sinks, markets drag

Included in the new phone’s packaging will be Apple earbuds that plug into its one and only Lightning port as well as one of those dreaded “dongles” that let you adapt the lightning port to your old headphones and/or other plug in listening devices.

The real answer to the missing headphone port will be Apple’s new “Air Pods,” a set of earbuds that require no connector at all. Users can transmit, receive and just listen through these wireless listening devices via a proprietary technology that’s allegedly a significant improvement on Bluetooth. No one’s auditioned these new Air Pods, however, at least to our knowledge, since they won’t be available for sale until next month.

Apple’s elimination of its external listening device port has predictably generated happiness and hate-fests via all the usual social networking channels. The fact is, wireless listening via smartphone is probably the way the industry is going anyway, so as the first company to fully adopt it, Apple was bound to draw some flack.

The iPhone 6s-owning Maven’s main beef here is that the company should have included its new Air Pods in the iPhone 7 package. Instead, you get the regular Apple earbuds now with a Lightning connector, plus that dreaded dongle, which will, of course, help if you’re currently using another listening device. If you want those fancy Air Pods—which will also summon Siri to your side if you merely tap the device(s)—you’ll need to shell out a cool $159 dollars when they become available.

That’s a pretty stiff price, particularly if you don’t have the kind of flexible ear passages that Apple’s notoriously hard earbuds can fit into without falling out. Here’s one example where Apple’s brilliant design sense has put fashion over form. These suckers fall out of the Maven’s ears as well, so he uses cheap third party buds when needed. It’s likely that some third parties will come out with more adaptably designed earphones and earbuds that fit real people in the not-too-distant future.

The new iPhones promise better battery life, crisper images, faster performance, a better-integrated Siri that will now work with multiple apps, and a swell telephoto lens for that new camera. Another big plus—standard minimum storage has been upped from the iPhone 6s’ 16 GB to 32 GB in the mew models, which will, BTW, add two new case colors, a “regular” black and a sexy jet black. Maximum storage is 256 GB.

The cost of the phone: expensive as usual, between $649 and $749 depending on how much memory you need. Oh, and if you want one of those way-cool jet black models, they’ll only be available in the 128 and 256 GB models, guaranteeing you’ll be able to single your coolness and special-ness every time you pull this sucker out of your pocket.

A long-awaited (by lovers of fancy wrist watches) Apple Watch 2 was also announced at yesterday’s event. It’s main claims to fame (and desirability) will be better battery life, a faster processor, and integrated GPS, not to mention a new “swim proof” case—a major improvement it shares with the new iPhone 7, BTW. A special Nike version of the watch will be available as will a new, lighter ceramic model of the watch geared toward those who don’t like the heavier stainless steel version.

The new Apple Watches will retail for $369 and up, just like the old ones. The original model, however, will also remain available at a reduced price of $269. Those new Air Pods will work with the Apple Watch, too, the company promises. Better yet, the new Air Pods can apparently recognize and differentiate the Apple Watch from the iPhone 7, depending on how you use them.

As an ancient Apple user dating from about 1983, the Maven still remembers when Apple machines used to be “for the rest of us,” as opposed to those clunky but ubiquitous PCs. The company’s brilliantly designed and nearly flawless products are still, to this writer’s way of thinking, still superior to the “good enough” products offered by the various Brand X companies. But Apple’s expensive products these days are only for the “rest of us” if that means those of us who can still dig up the moolah to buy them.

That said, the company’s initially costly products last nearly forever if you can stand to be the only kid on your block still using an iPhone 4 or a 2009 Powerbook (we still have one and use it every day). True, you won’t be the envy of your friends, but you’ll probably end up actually saving money over the long haul by avoiding that never-ending temptation to own the latest upgraded product. The one you own may still be “good enough.”

iPhone 7 models and the new Series 2 Apple Watch are available for pre-ordering today. New phones will actually be available in a week or so, though the black models look like they’ll be delayed somewhat. The new Apple Watch will be available on September 16 according to Apple’s web site.


Terry Ponick

Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Senior Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17