That Hissing Sound Is the Last Bit of Air Leaking From Apple's Balloon

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Apple used to guard details about a new iPhone more closely than Fort Knox, but that doesn't seem to be the case any more. The shift has been glaring with the iPhone 7, slated for introduction on Wednesday.

It's widely believed that the new iPhone has no headphone jack. Sound is piped to the user through a set of EarPods that connect to the phone through its Lightning port, or a dongle that accepts devices with a 3.5mm plug.

The phone's upgraded camera shoots 4K video at 60 frames per second, and one version of the new phone has a dual camera system that could advance smartphone photography into another realm.

The new iPhone has more memory -- 128 gigabytes for starters and up to 256 GB -- and it's waterproof.

Its volume buttons are on its outer body, and it has no home button at all. Its replacement is based on the Force Touch trackpad technology found in Apple's laptops.

The iPhone 7 will be available in a new color: black.

That's quite a bit of knowledge about a new iPhone before it's formally introduced. It leaves little to imagination or expectation -- but that's the world Apple lives in now.

Intense interest, coupled with a large supply chain, make leaks about Apple's new products inevitable, said Bob O'Donnell, chief analyst at Technalysis Research.

"Apple is using a number of third-party companies for components and manufacturing, making these leaks almost inevitable," he told the E-Commerce Times. "There are so many people involved in the process who know interest in this stuff is so high, it becomes an incredibly tempting target to go after."

Apple's kinder, gentler demeanor also may be contributing to the increase in leaks about the company's products, suggested Kevin Krewell, a principal analyst at Tirias Research.

"The increase in the number of product leaks is part a supply chain that is getting leakier, and part a Tim Cook who is not as obsessive and vindictive as Steve Jobs was about leaks," he told the E-Commerce Times. "Jobs was obsessive about keeping new products secret before a reveal, and peopled feared his wrath if a [non-disclosure agreement] were breached."

It's possible, of course, that Apple has controlled its iPhone 7 leaks, while carefully protecting the information that has not been leaked to the public. That possibility seems especially likely with respect to the iPhone 7's two most controversial changes: the removal of the headphone jack, and the disappearance of the physical home button.

"The leaking you're seeing about the headphone jack and the home button is about preconditioning the marketplace to understand, accept and embrace these changes," said Larry Chiagouris, a marketing professor at Pace University.

"That way, there's not a lot of attention paid to what may be thought of by some as negative changes, and more attention to the positive things like the camera and more memory," he told the E-Commerce Times.

With a controversial move such as removal of the headphone jack, Apple can gain by fueling discussion months before it makes the move.

The rumor mill "can take some of the heat off Apple because it already knows the objections to removing the jack and has had months to prepare," noted Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

Leaks can be a two-edged sword for Apple, Moorhead told the E-Commerce Times. "The leaks provide a platform for continual conversation, which puts Apple in the forefront all year. If the rumors are true, though, then the actual event can be anticlimactic."

Still, "Apple always manages to bring out something new," he pointed out.

Finding something new has been a challenge -- not only for Apple, but also for smartphone makers generally.

"Apple and all vendors within mobile devices are refining current designs rather than radically departing from them," said Jeff Orr, senior practice director for mobile devices at ABI Research.

"All vendors would like to surprise their audience and captivate them with what they're bringing to market," he told the E-Commerce Times, "but if we're not radically changing people's productivity and efficiency, and [providing] new ways to accomplish tasks, what is there to surprise?"

Along with diminishing surprise comes diminishing enthusiasm.

"Lines at stores, anticipation and excitement are largely gone," said Ira Kalb, an assistant professor at the USC Marshall School of Business. "Tim Cook is a great executive, but not a very good promoter or innovator," he told the E-Commerce Times. "Apple has become like Toyota -- incremental improvements rather than revolutionary changes that lead the market."

John Mello is a freelance technology writer and contributor to Chief Security Officer magazine. You can connect with him on Google+.

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