Apple Moves Toward a Wireless Future, One Tweak at a Time

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.


The Nintendo game Super Mario will come to the App Store. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Apple’s stock price is just about where it was a year ago, and this year the company has posted two consecutive quarters of declining revenue. For the first time, iPhone revenue also dipped, as the global market for smartphones began to shrink and consumers began replacing their smartphones less frequently. Executives expect sales to fall again this quarter.

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

Removing the port for headphones from the iPhone 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.


The new version of the Apple Watch emphasizes fitness and health. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

While the updates to the iPhone were incremental, Apple executives hinted that the iPhone changes were part of a companywide effort to wirelessly connect everything inside a home. Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, explained how his company’s technology could be the central way to control all sorts of home wireless devices.

“This is Apple’s way of saying that someday the smartphone experience will be wireless,” said Tim Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies. But will it be enough to reignite iPhone sales? “Not by itself,” he said. “But this along with the other tech upgrades like cameras and processors should drive high interest for those needing to upgrade, as well as draw interest by new customers too.”

Talk about a wireless future had people already looking toward big changes that could be in store for next year, the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, and beyond. Mr. Bajarin, for example, expects Apple to introduce wireless charging to the iPhone in the near future. Should wireless connections become a bigger part of Apple’s future, it is not a leap to imagine closer integration between the company’s various devices and its software meant for cars, called CarPlay.


Philip W. Schiller of Apple introduced the new iPhones’ revised home button with force sensitivity, which will vibrate to give feedback. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

This isn’t the first time Apple has risked angering customers by moving away from a traditional design. Its desktop computers accommodated a 3½-inch disk, rather than the standard 5¼-inch floppy disk; and more recently it eliminated the CD drive and several ports from its laptops. Some customers considered those changes shocking, even downright hostile acts. They got over it.

“Apple has a history of doing what it wants and making people believe that it’s the best idea ever,” said Julie A. Ask, an analyst at Forrester Research. “The company has an affluent customer base that has in the past paid to upgrade because it cares about the quality of the experience.”

Other cosmetic changes were made to the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, which look much like their predecessors and will have starting prices of $650 and $770. The phones will come in new colors, including a shiny, jet black and matte black, in addition to the existing options of silver, gold and rose gold.

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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. The Apple Watch Series 2 starts at $370. And the original Apple Watch, rebranded Apple Watch Series 1, starts at $270.

The company emphasized that the Apple Watch was a useful tool for monitoring health, one of the few functions that users have embraced, and announced a partnership with Nike. It also made the new version water-resistant and added tracking for swimmers.

“The watch is still missing a killer app,” Ms. Ask said, noting that some of the functions that the Apple Watch performs especially well, such as payments, have not taken off.

The Apple Watch still accounts for such a tiny portion of the company’s revenue that Apple doesn’t break out the number when it reports quarterly earnings. But Mr. Cook revealed on Wednesday that Apple was now the No. 2 global watch brand, measured by revenue, behind Rolex, and that Apple’s was the top-selling smartwatch.

The overall market for wearable devices is growing. In the United States, 63.7 million adults, or about a quarter of the population, use a wearable device. That number is expected to increase by more than 17 percent next year to 74.8 million adults, according to the research firm eMarketer.

Apple has grown increasingly dependent on software and services for growth. On earnings calls with analysts, the company has emphasized the role that software and services play in keeping customers hooked on Apple’s products. Ben Schachter, an analyst with Macquarie Securities, estimates that services such as Apple Music account for nearly one-third of Apple’s quarterly profits.

Mr. Cook underscored that idea at the event with updates on Apple Music and the App Store. Mr. Cook said that Apple Music had 17 million subscribers and that the company would work to nail down more exclusive deals with artists. He also said that the hit game Super Mario would come to the App Store and that Pokémon Go would be available on the Apple Watch.

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In Debate Over ‘Sanctuary Cities,’ a Divide on the Role of the Local Police

The issue has bedeviled the Obama administration for years. In his first term, President Obama expanded nationwide a program allowing the Department of Homeland Security to receive the fingerprints of every person booked by the state and local police. After many immigrant communities rebelled, the administration canceled some of its efforts in 2014, and replaced them with a single, less intrusive one, hoping to court big cities to cooperate rather than to coerce them.

The list of cities, counties and states adopting such approaches is extensive. The State of California passed a law in 2013 limiting cooperation between the police and federal immigration authorities. Cities including Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, New York and nearly 300 other places have adopted similar policies, according to the Center for Immigration Studies, a research group that supports Mr. Trump’s approach.

Mr. Trump did not specify which federal funds he would cut off, saying only that “cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars.”

While some cities, including New York and San Francisco, embrace the sanctuary label, none of the locales are entirely havens for immigrants in the country illegally. The term refers to jurisdictions that have placed limits on when local police departments will comply with federal requests to hold undocumented immigrants for detention. None of the cities restrain the police from pursuing or prosecuting immigrants who commit crimes.

While Mr. Trump said that “countless Americans” had lost their lives to immigrant criminals as a result of sanctuary policies, known cases are few. But a shocking killing happened just as Mr. Trump announced his presidential bid last year. Kathryn Steinle, a tourist, was shot while strolling with her father on a pier in San Francisco. The suspect, Juan Francisco López-Sánchez, was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico with a long criminal record who had been deported five times previously and had just completed a sentence in federal prison.

Mr. López-Sánchez confessed to the shooting but said it was an accident. Citing a trail of errors that led to his release by federal prison and immigration authorities and the San Francisco sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi, Ms. Steinle’s frustrated family brought a wrongful-death lawsuit against them and the City of San Francisco in May.

Mr. Trump referred to Ms. Steinle in his speech, saying of Mr. López-Sánchez, “They knew he was no good.”

But officials in San Francisco have argued that Ms. Steinle’s case was a disastrous exception and did not reflect the results of the city’s sanctuary policy, which has been in place since 1989. City officials broadly reaffirmed the policy.

But many county sheriffs support Mr. Trump’s argument that the police have a duty to help deport any immigrant who entered the country illegally.

“If you want federal dollars, you have to obey federal law,” said Sam Page, the sheriff of Rockingham County, N.C. “I believe we need to remove all criminal offenders that are in this country illegally.”

In 2014, the New York City Council passed a law that sharply limited the cooperation of the police and corrections departments with the federal enforcement authorities. The departments would honor a hold request only from a federal judge, and only if the subject had been convicted of a violent or serious crime.

Were it not for that city law, one 33-year-old man might have been sent back to Honduras this summer — for hanging a green pine tree air-freshener on his rearview mirror. In July, the man, who spoke on the condition that only his middle name, Omar, would be used since he does not have legal status, was pulled over while driving in Queens.

According to his lawyer, Su Yon Yi, of Queens Law Associates, the police stopped him for a traffic violation — obstructing the view while driving. The police then cited him for not having a driver’s license.

Omar pleaded guilty to driving without a license, paid a fine and was immediately released. Ms. Yi said that without the sanctuary policy in effect he might have been turned over to the immigration authorities.

“He really did benefit because he was in New York,” Ms. Yi said. “Instead of spending a couple of days in criminal jail and waiting for immigration and perhaps spending countless days in immigration custody — all based on an air-freshener — he was released and could go home to his family.”

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