The iPhone 7 offers some unexpected new features

Apple’s new iPhone doesn’t have a headphone jack, as rumors have indicated for weeks. But the company did have a few other surprises up its sleeve this morning.

Whether those surprises are enough for Apple to take advantage a major opportunity in the smartphone market is anybody’s guess, however.

The iPhone vendor held a much-anticipated media event Wednesday, vying for attention in the mobile world with CTIA Super Mobility 2016, which opened in Las Vegas this morning. As predicted, it unveiled the iPhone 7, which doesn’t offer any eye-popping new features or dramatic redesign.

Apple did add some compelling functionality to its iconic flagship, however. The new phone is water- and dust-resistant, just as Samsung’s wildly popular Galaxy 7 is, and is packaged in a new enclosure. Apple has added stereo speakers, and the home button is force-sensitive, enabling owners to perform various tasks with a single touch depending on how hard they press.

The new phone also has been upgraded in multiple ways. Apple added optical image stabilization, a six-element lens and a faster 12-megapixel sensor, and the iPhone 7 Plus has two cameras – a wide-angle lens and a telephoto lens – enabling photographers to add effects and customize images.

“It is a huge advancement in photography for cell phones,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, during the event. “Everything about it is absolutely new.”

Apple also introduced AirPods, new wireless headphones that allowed Apple to remove the physical headphone jack. The headphones use a new chip manufactured by Apple – dubbed the W1 – as well as infrared technology and motion accelerometers to provide “intelligent connections to all devices,” Schiller said. Apple devices sense when the headphones are in users’ ears, then rout audio between the gadget being used and the headphones.

Of course, the new iPhone models have new muscle under the hood as well. They’re powered by the A10, which is designed to improve performance even as it increases efficiency. The chip is 40 percent faster than last year’s A9, and twice as fast as the A8.

The iPhone 7 will sell for $649 – the same price as the iPhone 6S that it replaces – but Apple doubled the amounts of storage available in its new models. The iPhone 7 Plus starts at $769.

The release of a new flagship handset provides a major opportunity for Apple to regain some lost ground. While it doesn’t seem to offer any earth-shattering new features, it is clearly a high-end device – particularly compared to the iPhone SE – and the price is competitive.

Furthermore, Samsung, which remains the world’s largest smartphone vendor, is scrambling to manage the worldwide recall of its new Galaxy Note 7 following reports of batteries exploding or catching fire.

“Overall, the advances in this year’s phones on top of those in last year’s devices should make for a fairly significant upgrade for the typical two-year upgrader,” Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research wrote. “This event was a big test of Apple’s ability to continue to tell a compelling story around its annual product upgrades, and early sales of the iPhone 7 will be a good indicator of whether it succeeded in weaving a narrative that people find compelling.”

For more:
- read Jan Dawson’s research note

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