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Apple won over many skeptics with the iPhone 7, if not yet the AirPods

After previews largely panned Apple's new lineup, industry watchers seemed slightly relieved when the proverbial band-aid was ripped off and the iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 were revealed.

"The pundits were wrong," said Patrick Moorhead, founder at Moor Insights & Strategy. " [The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus] was a major upgrade, not a minor one with every major subsystem improved."

Shares of the tech company traded up half a percent on Wednesday — a tepid move, but in the green. Over the past 10 iPhone announcements — going back to Steve Jobs' introduction of the first iPhone on Jan. 9, 2007 — on the day of the big reveal, Apple ends the day negative 80 percent of the time, data from Kensho's Bhavesh Dayalji and CNBC's quantitative analysis team show.

The company announced a new line-up that was in line with expectations, including a 32GB iPhone 7 with EarPods for $649, and a new AppleWatch Series. The new iPhone also has longer battery life, and a massively upgraded dual-lens camera. The EarPods connect to the new iPhone via a wire through the phone's Lightning jack, but Apple also introduced new wireless earphones called AirPods, that can be bought separately for $159 from October.

Expectations were gloomy for the products going into the event, which some worried wouldn't keep pace with Apple's innovative reputation.

But the iPhone 7 did enough to attract some Android users, Moorhead said. He said the faster Apple Watch, too, might silence some critics.

"While iPhone 7 has no 'major game changers,' it looks like a solid upgrade which could turn the tide after the softness seen from the 6s cycle," said Daniel Ives, senior vice president of finance and corporate development at Synchronoss Technologies.

A move like ditching the headphone jack may be a small step change for Apple, but branding expert Dean Crutchfield, founder of Dean Crutchfield Associates, said it might actually say a lot about the company's image.

"It's not just about innovation," Crutchfield told CNBC's "Power Lunch." "It's about sexy design and they've always been good at that. So as long as they keep doing that they're going to keep that loyal following."

One move that was less widely telegraphed was Apple's choice to include the new AirPod wireless headphones and the Lightning-to-3.5-millimeter-headphone-jack adapter.

And Airpods got a colorful reception on Twitter, with 29 percent negative Twitter sentiment around "headphone jack," according to marketing technology company Amobee.


To be sure, Apple spared no adjective when hocking the range of devices, calling them "new" over and over again.

But Forrester's Julie Ask said it can be hard for consumers to appreciate engineering feats like GPS int he Apple Watch and waterproofing.

"I think it's unfair to the engineering and the R&D teams at Apple to characterize it as a set of minor upgrades," Ask said.

Managing expectations has helped Apple in more ways than one on Wall Street this year. The company managed to beat dismal earnings expectations in the third quarter, raising its share price despite reporting falling year-over-year revenue and iPhone sales.

Gene Munster, a senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, also said that the iPhone 7 updates, while not meaningfully different than the iPhone 6S, will be "compelling enough to encourage enough consumers to upgrade to return the company to growth."

— Reporting by CNBC's Michelle Fox, Christine Wang and Harriet Taylor

CORRECTION

This report has been updated to reflect that the 32GB iPhone 7 comes with EarPods for $649. AirPods must be bought separately.