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Apple moves toward a wireless future, one tweak at a time


During a two-hour product showcase held Wednesday in one of rock music's most storied venues, Apple executives signaled that the company is heading toward a wireless future, where devices would connect without cables.

A big step in that direction is the removal of a headphone jack from the latest version of the iPhone, called the iPhone 7.

What was lacking in Apple's presentation, as has been the case for the Silicon Valley giant in recent years, was a new, can't-miss hit like the original iPod. There was not even a dramatic change to an old classic, like the bigger iPhones it introduced in 2014.

For more than a decade, Apple has experienced explosive revenue and earnings growth thanks to new hit products, including the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. That streak stopped with the release of the Apple Watch last year, though executives maintain that sales have exceeded expectations.

But if you like tweaks to products you may already have, Apple had plenty to offer at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. The iPhone 7 includes a better camera — there is a second high-end camera on the bigger iPhone 7 Plus — and an improved home button that lets users perform different tasks by varying how hard they press it.

"Basically, Apple has shifted from one killer feature per upgrade, such as a larger screen, to a variety of compelling improvements that will appeal to a range of buyers," said Frank Gillett, an analyst at Forrester Research.

There are probably plenty more dollars to be wrung from Apple's existing products. The update to the iPhone has been a cause for excitement — and controversy — among Apple fans.

Removing the port for headphones means they now connect only wirelessly or through a charging port. The redesign also encourages users to upgrade to Apple's new wireless earbuds, AirPods, which cost $160.

Other cosmetic changes were made to the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, which look much like their predecessors and will sell for $650 and $770.

Apple also unveiled an updated version of the Apple Watch that includes GPS tracking, which would make it more appealing to runners. It has a faster operating system that lets apps work more quickly and could make performing some tasks easier on the watch than on an iPhone.