Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has set such a high bar for its product introductions/media events that sometimes the company struggles to live up to the hype. Pre-event leaks are also an issue.
Going into the company's event Wednesday, consumers and the media expected a new iPhone with a better camera, changed home button, and probably no headphone jack. It was unlikely that Apple had any major surprises with its new phone and something like a new color wasn't going to set off a frenzy of interest.
But while Apple may not have knocked the socks off its audience Wednesday, it did have some major announcements at the event. CEO Tim Cook had fun with the expectations by opening up with a video featuring him driving in a car with CBS late-night host James Corden doing his signature Carpool Karaoke bit.
It was a silly intro, but it did serve to lighten the mood and perhaps allowed Cook to show his personality a little more than he has in the past.
Cook spoke to Apple's usual capacity crowd at the Apple Keynote event. Image source: Apple.
An old friend comes to iOS
Cook opened up by sharing some numbers. First, he noted that Apple Music has grown to over 17 million subscribers. He then moved into an update on the app store, noting that it has had 140 billion downloads with half a billion games being offered.
That served as a backdrop for the CEO to announce that Nintendo (OTC:NTDOY) would be coming to Apple devices in a new game called Super Mario Run.
"We want as many people as possible all around the world to continue playing with Mario," said Nintendo's Shigeru Minamoto through a translator. "They'll do it first with iOS."
Minamoto noted that the game can be played one-handed on an iPhone and he introduced a new battle mode -- a sort of timed race where players can challenge a friend's high score. The game also lets people create custom levels using the coins they collect in the game to buy features.
The game will be offered at one set price, with no add-ons. No price was announced, but Nintendo did say the game would be ready for the 2016 holiday season.
Catch 'em all with Apple Watch
"Apple Watch has really changed what people expect from the watch," said Cook, who noted that his company has already become the second-biggest selling watch brand in the world, and adding that the product topped a recent J.D. Power Survey.
Cook handed the stage over to Senior Vice President Jeff Williams, who went through changes that were made to Apple Watch's operating system back in June. After rehashing the new features announced at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) he introduced a new app for the watch -- Pokemon Go.
John Hanke, CEO of Niantic Labs, which created the gaming phenomenon, joined Williams on stage.
"Since we launched in early July Pokemon Go has been downloaded more than 500 million times around the world," he said. "We've been really interested in finding ways to play while focusing less on your screen and more on the world around you."
Playing on Apple Watch meets that goal, integrating the fitness aspects of the game with the sensors and notifications on Apple Watch. Players get notifications when they pass a Pokestop or when a wild Pokemon appears.
The game also shows calories burned and distance walked, tying into the fitness features of the watch. No specific release date was announced other than promising that it will happen before the end of the year.
A new watch is coming
After the Pokemon Go
announcement, a video played showing off what Williams called Apple Watch Series 2.
"It starts with a new feature that will change how you use Apple Watch," he said. "The first Apple Watch was splash-proof. The new Apple Watch is swim proof."
To do that, the company created a new speaker system which actually ejects water from the device.
"We also wanted to make sure Apple Watch was robust enough not just for an occasional swim but for people who want to swim every day," Williams said. To do that, the company created a simulator to make sure the watch would hold up to being used by a swimmer for years.
In addition, the new watch has added a dual core processor that's up to 50% faster and a new GPU that delivers two times the graphics.
"Series 2 also features a new second-generation display more than two times brighter than before," Williams said. "It's the brightest display Apple has shipped on any product."
The new watch also has built in GPS that allows runners to use it without an iPhone. .
Williams returned after the demo of a hiking app to show off the new look for the watch.
"... Cases in aluminum and stainless steel as well as a new material we've been working on for quite some time. Ceramic," he said. There will also be new Hermes models for the new watch. In addition, the new Apple Watch will be offered in a Nike (NYSE: NKE) version aimed at runners.
The Nike version of the watch offers shortcuts to start a run and in general it was designed to cater to runners needs. It offers distance and pace on a "big, clear screen," said Nike Brand President Trevor Edwards, while it also has advanced tracking and motivation features.
Apple Watch Series 2 will cost $369 as will the Nike version. The original watch with an enhanced processor will still be offered starting at $269. Pre-orders for both begin Sept. 9.
The Nike version of the Apple Watch is designed for use by runners. Image source: Apple.
Here comes iPhone 7
"There's a reason why you see so many iPhones everywhere you look. We've now sold over a billion of them," Cook said, before launching into a recap of iOS 10 features which had been previously announced. He spent special time on HomeKit, calling it the "first time home automation had been integrated into a major device."
He noted that hundreds of products now integrate HomeKit making it easy to automate your home. "We think this is going to be a really big deal," he said.
That, of course, was all preamble before Cook showed off what he called "the best iPhone that we have ever created. This is iPhone 7."
Cook then gave the stage over to the voice of Chief Design Officer Jony Ive, who narrated a video about the new phone.
"Our obsession remains to continuously simplify and improve," he said, noting that creating the phone required developing "a new process to achieve a high gloss black finish."
Marketing Chief Phil Schiller was up next to introduce the major new features. He also spoke about the seamless design and the new black color it would be offered in (along with the existing colors).
Schiller also noted that the home button is being changed on iPhone 7. "It does so many things for us and we've completely designed it to make it more responsive and even customizable," he said.
iPhone 7 will also be water- and dust-resistant. That means that while you should not swim with it, dropping it in the sink may not mean the end of your phone.
Apple has also improved the iPhone camera. "It is a huge advancement," said Schiller. "...Everything about it is totally new... There's a new six-element lens so you can get a sharp image edge to edge with that 1.8 aperture."
The camera will still be 12 megapixel, but it has an enhanced image signal processor that has "twice the throughput of previous editions." Apple has also added an enhanced front camera moving from 5 megapixels to 7.
The iPhone 7 Plus will also have a second camera with a telephoto lens.
"With two cameras and two different lenses, we can create the zoom feature built into the iPhone," Schiller said. The second camera keeps the quality the same while allowing consumers to zoom between 1X and 2X. The iPhone 7 Plus can zoom up to 10 times with anything between 2X and 10X being a software zoom, but the quality of the image is "four times better" than previous zooms, according to the marketing boss.
iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will also have an enhanced retina HD display that's 25% brighter than the screen on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. They will also have stereo speakers for the first time and the new iPhone will be dropping the traditional speaker jack. Instead headphones will connect to the phone via the Lightning port.
"We're taking the headphones in iPhone 7 and 7 Plus to Lightning and we're including them in the box," Schiller said. The company will also include an adapter for older headphones along with every iPhone 7 sold.
The new iPhone will also have enhanced wireless capabilities.
"Up until now, no one has taken on the challenge of fixing the things that are difficult to do in those wireless experiences," Schiller said. "It makes no sense to tether ourselves to our mobile devices."
A video then played for Apple AirPods, wireless headphones which will be sold separately from the iPhone 7. The new earphones use sensors to know when they are in your ear and they can also tell when you are speaking to lower their volume. AirPods connect to an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple Watch with a single button click.
The headphones have a five-hour charge, but can be recharged from their case, which carriers a 24-hour charge. Apple's Beats brand will also have a new line of wireless technology using the same new W1 chip as the AirPods.
Schiller closed by talking about the enhanced performance for the new iPhone line.
"We have a new generation chip in the iPhone 7 and it's called A10 Fusion," he said. "It is a rocket ship."
The new processor is 40% faster than the one on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and twice as fast as the 6 and 6s. In addition, the four-core A10 can switch between high performance and longer battery life modes to preserve battery power.
Apple claims that the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus have the longest battery life of any iPhone, offering two more hours on average than a 6s on a 7 and one more on a 7 Plus.
As a last surprise Apple will be charging the same $649 as the iPhone 6s it is replacing, but it will have double the storage capacity starting at 32GBs. The company will take preorders for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus starting Sept. 9 and it will begin shipping on Sept. 16 in the United States and in 27 other countries.