Business / Tech

Apple unveils water-resistant iPhone 7 with Japan-compatible payment system

Reuters, Kyodo, Staff Report

Apple Inc. unveiled a new water- and dust-resistant iPhone 7 with high-resolution cameras at its fall product event Wednesday, and said that a “Super Mario” game was coming to the new phone and that “Pokemon Go” would feature on its upgraded Apple Watch.

The excitement at the Bill Graham auditorium in San Francisco was not matched on Wall Street as Apple’s stock was down 0.4 percent.

However, Nintendo Co. Ltd.’s U.S.-listed shares jumped more than 20 percent to trade around $35 after it announced a new smartphone game in the venerable “Super Mario Bros.” series, “Super Mario Run,” which will debut in December on the iPhone and iPad.

The world’s best-known technology company said the iPhone 7, starting at $649 (about ¥65,500), would have one, zooming 12-megapixel camera. The Plus edition, starting at $769, would feature two cameras.

It also removed the analog headphone jack, as was widely expected. The new headphones supplied by Apple with the phone will plug into the same port as the recharging cord, but will also work with Apple’s new wireless headphones, called Air Pods, available in October for $159.

At the event, Apple also announced Apple Pay, its mobile e-money payment service that allows the latest iPhones and Apple Watches to be used like East Japan Railway Co.’s Suica cards, is coming to Japan starting in October.

Apple’s announcement is  something many Japanese Apple users have been waiting for since the popular iPhone series debuted in 2008.

In Japan, the use of cellphones equipped with a special chip to make payments for everyday services such as train commutes by simply passing the handsets over card readers has been around for over a decade, a function known in Japanese as osaifu keitai (cellphone wallet). Many smartphones powered by Google’s Android OS have had the function for years, so the lack of a mobile payment service for the iPhones had been an obstacle stopping some from switching.

The tech firm said Apple Pay will also feature iD and QUICPay, which are competing e-money payment systems run by NTT Docomo Inc. and JCB Co., respectively.

The new phone will start shipping to major markets, including the United States, Japan, and China, on Sept. 16.

“While the camera improvements for the iPhone 7 Plus are nice, they are incremental for most and the lack of headphone jacks could offset that for others,” said Bob O’Donnell of research firm TECHnalysis.

He said Apple’s new glossy black finish could be more popular than any tech feature, reflecting the slowdown in major tech innovations for smartphones.

Mike Binger, senior portfolio manager at Gradient Investments LLC in Minneapolis, said the disappearance of the headphone jack “will probably annoy a certain amount of people” but they would likely get over it.

“Every other release tends to be a better release. Most people’s two-year contracts are nearing the end, so I think the iPhone 7, just from a replacement basis, will be a successful launch,” he said. “We’re in good shape for a nice sales cycle here, so I’m encouraged.”

Apple typically gives its main product, which accounts for more than half of its revenue, a big makeover every other year and the last major redesign was the iPhone 6 in 2014.

Apple said its Apple Watch Series 2, with a swim-proof casing, will be available in more than 25 countries starting on Sept. 16.

“I predict Watch sales will improve dramatically,” said Tech analyst Patrick Moorhead. “Most of the current Watch owners are early adopters and the next wave could be 10 times the size of that market.”