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7 September 2016

Will the iPhone 7 save Apple?

By New Statesman

We have until 6pm to wait and see – after months of rumours – the final form of Apple’s iPhone 7. You can watch the keynote speech live here, but until then speculation is soaring across social media. Will the headphone jack really go? Is it going to be water-resistant? Just how much better will the camera be? In terms of Apple’s decline, will any of this really matter?

It’s not been a good year for the tech giant. Its iPhone sales fell for the first time ever, it had a second consecutive quarter of negative growth, and oh, yes, there is the matter of a rather large tax bill. The European commission has ordered Apple to pay the Irish state up to €13bn in taxes. Will the iPhone 7 be innovative enough to transform the company’s fortunes?

If not, we’ll certainly be distracted for a while. The rumoured removal of the headphone jack has been angering consumers for months, and based on this alone it would be easy to speculate the phone will be unpopular. But remember the iPhone 5’s smaller lightning charging port? Despite the backlash from customers, the phone became the best-selling handset in the fourth quarter of 2012, with 27.4 million sales. The smaller cable has now become common place.

The lack of a headphone jack might also be secret blessing, as it strengthens rumours that the phone is going to be waterproof. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has theorised that the handset will be water-resistant and be able to be submerged in up to five feet of water for about half an hour. Although this follows in the footsteps of Samsung, iPhone users are still likely to welcome the change.

Anger over the headphone jack, then, might not actually deter purchases, but a distinct lack of excitement could. It is alleged that the handset will look and feel remarkably similar to the iPhone 6 and 6S, which could potentially dissuade even the most ardent Apple addict. Where’s the prestige in having the latest iPhone if no one can tell the difference?

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Is the rumoured dual-camera going to be exciting enough? Not if, as experts suspect, it only features on the iPhone 7 Plus, not the regular model. If the iPhone 7 continues to use the standard single-lens camera, will people feel the need to upgrade?

There are many, many things Apple could offer that could tempt customers, including increased battery and storage. But is unclear whether the company will prioritise public wishes (see: headphone jack) or maintain an element of prestige with increasingly hi tech specs. At the end of March, the launch of the iPhone SE – a smaller, cheaper model – proved incredibly popular with the public. Instead of the larger screen of the iPhone 6, consumers favoured a less prestigious offering that still worked in much the same way. The price, however, had a part to play in Apple’s declining revenue, and the company may have decided that bending to their customers’ wills isn’t the most profitable path.

By the end of the day, we should know what shape the iPhone 7 will take, but we will have to wait longer to discern the true impact it will have on Apple.