Apple faithful line up across Bay Area for iPhone 7

The moment is finally here, Apple fans flooded into stores ready to be among the first to get their hands on the new Apple iphone 7.

Our KTVU crews spotted long lines snaking around the block at the Apple store in Walnut Creek as well as the AT&T store in San Francisco. 

SALES AND STOCK

Technology companies made the largest gains as Apple rose for the fourth consecutive day. It's up 12 percent this week on growing optimism about early sales of its newest iPhones.

Apple rose to its highest price in 10 months on reports of strong preorders for the new iPhones it introduced last week. The stock added $3.80, or 3.4 percent, to $115.57. Other technology companies also rose. Microsoft gained 93 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $57.19 and Intel picked up 94 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $36.56.

iPhone 7 FEATURES

The latest phone may be more notable for what's missing, instead of what's been added. 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 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?'"

 

 

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