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Say goodbye to the iPhone’s headphone jack

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, talked about the features on the new iPhone 7 earphone options during an event to announce new products, today, in San Francisco.

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, spoke during an event to announce new products on Wednesday, in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO » Apple’s latest iPhone may be more notable for what’s missing than what’s been added, as the consumer tech giant tries to revive demand for its top-selling product and nudge consumers closer to its vision of a wireless world.

That’s a world where, in Apple’s view, consumers will use the same wireless ear buds to shift seamlessly from listening to music on their iPhone to talking with their Apple Watch and other gadgets made by the California tech giant.

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus unveiled today come with a faster processor, longer battery life and better cameras — including a new dual lens system in the pricier 7 Plus model that provides higher quality zooming. But the new phones won’t have the analog headphone jack that’s been a staple for decades in just about every consumer electronics device that can play audio.

Apple is betting its legions of loyal fans will embrace the shift to digital headsets that use wireless connections. Or — if they insist on sticking with their old ways — that they won’t mind using a new style of earbuds that plug into the iPhone’s “Lightning” charging port.

CUTTING THE CORD

The redesigned earbuds — with cord — will be included with the new iPhones. Also in the box: an adapter that will let older headphones plug into the digital charging port. But Apple would clearly prefer to push consumers to make the leap into what it envisions as a “wireless future.”

“The reason to move on is courage,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, who spoke during the company’s fall product event. “The courage to move on and do something new that will benefit all of us.”

As part of the transition, Apple also is introducing wireless “AirPods” that will sell for $160. They’re powered by an Apple-designed processor and special software that Schiller said will let users easily sync the wireless buds to their iPhone, Apple Watch and other Apple devices. Apple is also promising a new line of high-end wireless speakers from its Beats division.

Getting rid of the 3.5 millimeter headphone jack helped Apple make room for a second iPhone speaker designed for playing stereo sound. The iPhone 7 is also water resistant, a popular feature that rivals such as Samsung Electronics have already introduced in some phones.

Schiller portrayed the move to drop the headphone jack as a step toward improving user experience. “It makes no sense to tether ourselves with cables to our mobile devices,” he said during the company’s annual fall event.

Apple has previously reduced the number of ports in its popular line of MacBook computers, while encouraging people to use wireless services for transferring files and streaming data. By promoting wireless ear buds, analysts say, Apple may also hope to get more people using streaming services on the Apple Watch as well.

APPLE’S CHALLENGE

The company is trying to reverse its first decline in iPhone sales since the company’s late founder, Steve Jobs, unveiled the trendsetting device in 2007. It’s also seen a drop in demand for the Apple Watch since its introduction last year.

While the company sold nearly 92 million iPhones in the first six months of this year, that’s about 15 percent fewer than the same period last year. Industry analysts say the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, which Apple introduced last fall, didn’t offer many compelling new features over the previous year’s models.

With the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple may face a similar challenge.

Apple delivered virtually all the features that had been promised in news leaks over recent weeks, but analyst Bob O’Donnell of Technalysis Research said the changes from last year’s iPhones were “modest” overall. The dual-lens camera in the iPhone 7 Plus may be impressive, he said, but it’s only available in the larger and more expensive phone, limiting its appeal.

“Smartphone advancements are slowing down as the market is maturing, so minor things like look and feel get more attention,” O’Donnell said, pointing out how Apple spent several minutes of its presentation extolling the virtues of an optional “jet black” finish for the new phones.

Other smartphone makers are also having trouble dazzling consumers with new advances. But Forrester Research analyst Julie Ask figures consumers will appreciate the faster chip and other improvements once they try the new iPhones. And she’s not worried about any backlash over elimination of the hardware jack.

“Apple has a very long history of removing features we all thought were necessary, and then convincing us that we didn’t need them,” said Ask, noting that Apple paved the way in phasing out the use of floppy discs and optical drives in computers. “Three months later, it will be, ‘Why did we ever have that?’”

OTHER UPGRADES

The new iPhones will debut Sept. 16 in the U.S., China and more than two dozen other countries. Orders will start this Friday.

Older iPhones will also see improvements this fall as the company releases its latest mobile operating system version, called iOS 10. It will be available as a free download beginning Sept. 13. 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.

The company also used today’s showcase to introduce a new generation of its smartwatches, which will include GPS tracking and enough water resistance to swim with. Apple is increasingly promoting the watches as tools for health and fitness enthusiasts.

The Apple Watch will get a popular new app later this year too. Niantic Labs, the maker of the cultural sensation Pokemon Go, announced Tuesday that the game will be released for the watch, building upon the apps it already has designed for the iPhone and Android devices.

Apple shares gained less than 1 percent in trading today, before closing at $108.36. The stock is slightly below its value a year ago, when the last iPhone came out.

AP Technology Writer Anick Jesdanun contributed to this story.

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  • Nice, but I’m going to wait for next years 10th anniversary Iphone8 which is rumored to blow away the 7. Was hoping the 7 had true waterproofing and wireless charging.

  • Good quality products from Apple, unfortunately, their lack of standardization and attempts to FORCE the masses to their view of the world doesn’t work out too well. They did this back when they tried to force Adobe Flash Player to die off and now with the headphone jack. The last thing I need is another Bluetooth device that I need to constantly keep charging just to listen to audio. Thanks but no thanks Apple, you’ve gone too far with your wacky ideology once more again and even your own customers are now moving to Android.

    • I gave up on Blue tooth Head/ear phones after three different Brands dropping signsl, recharging problems, too many units in a condo. Uncomfortable Aarg. I now use the old Wired only systems. Well thatis except for Wi-fi only at home, At work only ether net WIRED works over 30 other Wi-Fi’s around, strength way to UN-steady. Been using plugged in ear phones since mid 1950s with the larger plugs then the “newer” 3 1/2 plug. No Smartphone for me I use iPod Touch and iPads @ and Mini I have over a Dozen Buds Headsets and Radios Stereo’s Wont carry areound all kids of adapters. The old BETA VS VHS will go on for years this time it will be different Head phone Jacks for different Brands.

    • I realized a while ago that this is a non-issue for me. I use wireless workout friendly ear-buds that work great. I haven’t used wired phones for about 3 or more years except noise canceling when flying. Using the powered lightning port will allow manufacturers like Bose to make smaller n’c units.

      Apple has quite a history of changing people’s perception of how devices are used over the years. We no longer use floppy disks, we use USB instead of serial ports, No CDs/DVDs, and of course the virtual death of the dinosaur Flash. (HTML5/CSS3 is changing the way web content is displayed) The company has done a pretty fair job of defining the future.

      • Concur, Cellodad. Does anyone miss floppy drives, wired mice and keyboards, DVD drives on your computer, SCSI ports, serial ports, PS/2 ports, Flash? Apple provided the wireless Earpods, which I probably wouldn’t use much, but I can still use my wired earbuds with the adaptor, or my Bluetooth earbuds. No worries. No problem dumping the headphone jack to get a water-resistant iPhone.

  • Earbuds to watch/telephone seems the road to follow and even camera function. Invicta watches are humongous so Apple Watch can match the size and still be chic? Will probably ease the texting accidents stats?

    • I’m liking my Apple watch more and more. I can control streaming to the TV, make phone calls without taking my phone out of the pocket, turn on my home alarm and check the security cameras, use dictation to send text messages and find out where my family is by looking at my wrist. It’s really useful traveling because I can get gates and flight information literally on the run. With the new watch, I plan on logging my ocean swims with the GPS feature and waterproof design. I’m still really attached to my Rolex which I adore but find myself using the Apple watch a lot more. Too bad it looks incredibly dorky to wear two watches.

  • Will I now be able to use Bluetooth wireless on a plane while traveling since I no longer have a headset jack? Maybe that’s the reason for including an adapter with the new phones.

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