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Apple iPhone 7 starts at $649 for 32GB

USA TODAY USA TODAY 7/09/2016 Marco della Cava
Apple CEO Tim Cook takes the stage at the Apple Event Wednesday.© Marco della Cava, USA TODAY Apple CEO Tim Cook takes the stage at the Apple Event Wednesday.

SAN FRANCISCO - Apple scooped itself Wednesday, posting - and quickly deleting - a few tweets that featured photos and details about its new iPhone7 well before its ongoing event got to the announcement.

"New cameras. Water-resistant. Stereo speakers. Longer battery life. This is 7," read the tweet. 

A video also showed a black iPhone 7 getting doused with water. Making the iPhone water-resistant pulls it even with rival Samsung, which has been touting the water-friendliness of its smartphones for some months.

Online retailing giant Amazon also jumped the gun, launching a specialized iPhone 7 accessories page before the event started.

Apple CEO Tim Cook made no mention of the slip when he finally announced the new smartphone on stage by saying, "Of course, the world’s most advanced mobile operating system (iOS 10) deserves most advanced smartphone…and here it is."

A short video played featuring the voice of Apple Design Chief Jony Ive, who spoke about a new "high gloss black finish achieved by rotational 3D polishing." Other features include a new home button that responds to force touch.

Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller took the stage to run down more details. The iPhone 7 is indeed water and dust resistant. The new smartphone features a new camera system "that is a huge advancement for photography for cellphones."

iPhone 7 has a new optical stabilizer, a larger aperture lens and a new high-speed sensor that's 60% ore efficient, Schiller said. The flash produces 50% more light. The new image signal processor in the phone uses machine learning to find bodies in a frame, sets exposure, color balance, tone mapping and noise reduction.

"This happens every time you take a picture, it's 100 billion operations every time, in just 25 milliseconds," he said. "t's a super computer for photos."

The larger iPhone 7 Plus features a long-rumored dual lens setup: a wide-angle a new telephoto lens, a zoom feature that is unique to smartphones and more common to larger DSLs with interchangeable lenses. By tapping the screen of the phone before taking a photo, a "2x" icon appears on the screen indicating the beginning of the zoom process.

The digital zoom can go all the way up to 10x of the original image size. The result is sharper images than when pinching-to-zoom on the current iPhone 6, as well as the ability to take pictures with a shallow depth of focus that is common in portrait photography. A new Portrait setting on iPhone 7 Plus automatically dials in the required setting to make such images pop. 

iPhone 7 does have dual speakers, which can play at twice the volume generated by the iPhone 6. And the much discussed and often lamented move away from headphones connecting to a headphone jack was also confirmed by Schiller. Headphones are moving to a connection through the phone's Lightning port, typically used for powering up the device.

New iPhone 7s will come with Lightning-connected headphones as well as a connection jack that will enable owners of old headphones with the new phone. 

But clearly Schiller was pushing a new wireless mode for the new smartphone. A new product, called Apple AirPods, which look like current ear buds just without the dangling cord. Schiller said you can use one or both. The new pods deliver five hours of battery life, using the device's new W1 chip. Schiller did not reveal a price for AirPods.

Schiller wrapped his long talk with specifics about iPhone 7's new chip, the A10, which is 120 times faster than the original iPhone released in 2007. The price for the 7, $649, remains the same as iPhone 6, but the base storage size jumps, starting at 32GB (up from 16 GB) all the way to 256GB. The phone is available starting Sept. 16.

"The pundits were wrong," says Patrick Moorhead, analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy. "Apple 7 and 7 Plus was a major upgrade, not a minor one with every major subsystem improved."

Moorhead predicts that "Apple did enough to keep the base happy with upgrades and arguably did enough to attract some Android users. The iPhone 7 is a completely new phone."

iPhone 7 isn't the only Apple product to welcome a dip in the water. The new Apple Watch can now be used while swimming, and the smartwatch's speaker is then activated to eject water from the housing.

Watch also will feature built-in GPS. There is a new Nike version of the watch, built with a focus on runners.

In other news, attendees at the packed Bill Graham Auditorium gave Super Mario creator Shigero Miyamoto a big round of applause as he introduced, in translated Japanese, a iPhone-friendly version of the venerable Nintendo game for iPhone. Super Mario Run is due in the app store in time for the holiday season, Miyamoto said.

Apple's event wrapped in typical musical fashion, with a performance by Sia. 

Follow USA TODAY tech reporters Marco della Cava @marcodellacava



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