SCIENCE AND TECH
Seven Reasons to Actually Consider the iPhone 7
Everyone's freaking out over Apples without jacks, here are seven reasons you might really want to buy the new iPhone
When Apple CEO Tim Cook debuted the widely anticipated new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus to an auditorium of Apple faithful in California this week, the announcement was greeted with disappointment in a lot of quarters. For one thing, the two new phones aren’t much of departure from the previous models in terms of design – in fact we’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart at a distance. And meanwhile the death of the analogue headphone jack was reported as an “arrogant” move.
But that doesn’t mean Apple’s geniuses haven’t been super-busy adding features that make the new smartphones a step up for owners of older versions. Here’s a look at seven of the most promising features of the iPhone 7 (starting at C$899/US$649) and iPhone 7 Plus (starting at C$1,049/US$769) – seven reasons you should ignore the naysayers and consider upgrading.
1. Apples without jacks
This change has attracted the most attention so let’s get it out of the way first: As many predicted, Apple has officially killed the headphone jack: That small orifice which has been a feature on nearly every single media player and phone dating back decades will no longer appear on the iPhone. And that’s not a bad thing.
It’s a risky move on Apple’s part, but one the company hopes to overcome with three new products. The first is a redesign of its EarPods – those glossy white earbuds that have become as iconic as the glowing Apple logo on its laptops – one which ditches the standard stereo mini-plug for a Lightning connector. These come standard with every iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.
The second is a Lightning-to-headphone plug adapter, which will let anyone still rocking the older, analogue headphones to still use them. This, too, will come standard in the box.
The third product are the ones everyone’s talking about (and worrying they’ll lose): AirPods, Apple’s first wireless earbuds. The C$219/US$159 gadget is cleverly designed, with its own charging case that effectively gives users 24 hours of battery life (the AirPods themselves are good for four hours between charges). No doubt Apple wants people to feel liberated from the tangle of cords normal earbuds represent, but the lack of any kind of lanyard connecting the left and right sides of the AirPods does seem like a recipe for lost earpieces – especially since the AirPods share the same slippery plastic shape and finish as their wired predecessors.
So is there an upside to losing the headphone jack? Yes: Better sound quality. But curiously, Apple isn’t promoting it. The benefit of using the Lightning port for music is that the digital-to-analogue conversion (which always used to be performed by the iPhone itself) can now be performed by the headphone’s circuitry. Previously, even if you loaded hi-res music files like FLAC or Apple Lossless on your phone, their quality would be reduced to “low res” before you could hear them. Now – assuming that Apple’s new Lightning EarPods support them – you’ll be able to hear the full quality of these superior sound files.
2. Keep 'em separated
Speaking of sound quality, the iPhone just got a major upgrade in the speaker department. iPhones have always had one of the best built-in speakers on the market, offering sound quality that was nothing short of incredible given their size. Now, there are two of them – one on the bottom and one on the top of the phone – which not only means you get more sound, it lets you watch movies and listen to music in stereo for the first time on an iPhone. Again, Apple isn’t first to the stereo party, but given how many people use their phones to listen out loud, it’s a nice upgrade.
3. A watershed moment
When I was a teen, getting thrown into a pool sucked, but mostly because it meant painstakingly drying out my wallet and its contents. Today, this same stunt could cost hundreds of dollars, especially if your parents have been generous enough to help you buy a fully loaded iPhone. So you will likely join with me in a big round of “FINALLY!!” when I tell you that the new iPhones have a moisture and dust resistance rating of IP67, which in pool-party terms means they can withstand short, shallow immersions in water without later having to recover in a bed of rice, or a trip to the Apple store. Apple isn’t the first smartphone company to offer this feature (Sony and Samsung have had water resistant handsets for a few years now) but given that Apple has sold 1 billion iPhones, it’s nonetheless a major improvement – though iPhone case manufacturers may not be as pleased as Apple customers.
4. Black is the new black
Though rumours in advance of today’s event often reported that the iPhone 7 would come in new colours, that was only partially accurate. It actually comes in two new finishes: Jet Black, a highly polished surface that transforms the iPhone into a glossy black jewel, and Black (yep, just “black”) which appears to be the new Space Grey – a matte finish that is also easy on the eyes. Apple seems to think that Jet Black is something special and is reserving this finish for the 128 and 256 GB versions of these phones, meaning that if you want to join the Jet Black club, the price for admission starts at $1,029/US$749. That may be beyond the budget of many, but there’s no denying that the Jet Black iPhone is one of the best-looking devices on the planet, at any price.
5. A touching display of technology
When Apple launched its most recent laptop, the new MacBook, it introduced something it calls the “Taptic Engine.” That’s Apple-ese for a type of tactile force-feedback that feels like a trackpad “click” without needing the trackpad to actually physically move. It helps reduce the space required for a moving part, and users and developers will be able to intensity of feedback. On the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, the Taptic engine has made its way to the home button. It’s a risky move; many iPhone users interact more with their home buttons than with any other object (including some non-objects like family members) so changing the mechanism from one that moves to one that simulates movement could be off-putting. Apple is betting you won’t mind, and may even grow to love how the new home button feels.
6. Staying focused
The iPhone 7 gets an improved camera in the front, going from a five-megapixel to a seven-megapixel sensor. The rear shooter remains a 12-megapixel unit, but has been enhanced with improved low-light performance thanks to a fast 1.8 aperture, an intelligent flash that can compensate for tricky indoor lighting conditions, and true optical image stabilization – a big plus for getting steadier video footage and still with crisper focus. But true mobile shutterbugs are going to be sorely tempted to buy the 7 Plus.
The bigger iPhone comes with two rear-facing cameras which can operate independently, or together to create some beautiful photos. The second lens is actually a telephoto unit equivalent to 56mm, which gets you twice as close to your subject without using software to achieve the improvement. Add in digital manipulation and you can get up to 10x zoom – not bad for a device that’s thinner than any point-and-shoot camera on the market. Apple has also included new software trickery that gives portraits shot on the iPhone 7 Plus that highly sought “bokeh” effect whereby a photo’s background becomes pleasantly blurry while your subject remains in crisp focus. Photography and video geeks will also be pleased that both phones can capture wide-gamut colour, which will make photos and video seem even more lifelike. The displays on both phones can also reproduce these deeper colours, making them perfect for showing off your new pics.
7. Working longer hours
It goes without saying that no matter how much battery life your phone has, you want more. It’s a fair demand given how much we depend on these devices. While the iPhone 7 may not let you avoid charging entirely, it does offer two more hours of uptime than the iPhone 6s, thanks in part to a new processor that can intelligently drop its power requirements when you’re doing basic tasks like email or tweeting, and ramp up when it detects that you’re watching movies or gaming. The 7 Plus also gets a bump, but only by one additional hour over the 6s Plus.
There you have it – seven reasons the iPhone 7 should warrant serious consideration for those looking for a new smartphone. If you’re already sold, the new devices will be available for pre-order starting Sept. 9, and shipping starts on the 16th.