iPhone 7: Minor Updates My —

September 8th, 2016

If you want to know just what Apple did at Wednesday’s media event, you might look check out one of the tech or mainstream news sites for the details. You would expect a straightforward presentation of the new features for the iPhone 7 and the Apple Watch Series 2, how they stand compared to earlier models, and to the competition.

That’s what you would expect. But you might be wrong.

You see, most of the stories I’ve read — or heard on cable TV news — are heavily oriented towards the “crisis” of the vanishing headphone jack. It is as if that’s the beginning and end of the story. Oh yes, the new iPhone and the new Apple Watch very much resemble their predecessors, which is fuel for the complaint that the changes are relatively unimportant.

Again, except for the iPhone 7’s lack of a headphone jack.

Now in explaining the reasons for the change in recent weeks, I mentioned that analog headphone jack technology is based on the original phone jack that dates back to the late 19th century. Yes, it was used by operators in telephone switching rooms, and Apple VP Philip Schiller used just such a photo, in black and white no less, to get the point across. But I won’t assume Schiller reads these columns, though I know Apple is aware of my work.

That said, the space saved from eliminating this old and fragile technology makes way for a second speaker and allows Apple to make the new iPhones water- and dust-resistant. You don’t even need to consider a special model, unlike Samsung which claims its Galaxy S7 Active is the one to get. Only the Samsung isn’t surviving the Consumer Reports dunk tests, and has recalled the new Galaxy Note 7, millions of them, due to battery defects. So Samsung isn’t doing so well with product reliability. I expect that the new iPhones and the swim-proof Apple Watch Series 2, will both withstand appropriate testing.

Indeed, to some, a water-resistant iPhone may be the most important feature of all. The lack of a headphone jack may be a non-issue to most, inasmuch as Apple is including an adapter plug in the box. That, by the way, was a matter of some dispute among tech pundits I’ve interviewed, but I’m glad Apple did, as I expected, the right thing. And, yes, I realize some might want to be able to use their ear buds while the iPhone is charging, and I expect Apple, or someone, will release a combo adapter of some sort.

Yet another very important feature is the promise of improved battery life, up to two hours extra on the iPhone 7, and up to one hour extra on the iPhone 7 Plus, which already had superior battery longevity. This is one of the most frequent requests from customers, and, compared with water resistance, might be sufficient to persuade many people to upgrade.

The new camera system is also a significant development, with better lenses, superior image processing software and the addition of optical image stabilization on the smaller iPhone 7. The iPhone 7 Plus is outfitted with two cameras, one with the standard wide-angle setup, the other telephoto. Two well-known professional photographers were quoted, during the presentation, as extolling the professional caliber features of the new camera system. Best of all, any casual user should be able to take great pictures with minimal adjustment or no adjustment. I can’t wait to try it out.

For those who want great display quality, Apple offers something called Retina HD, with a wider color gamut designed to make colors pop on the screen. It’s not quite the True Tone feature available on the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, but it’s something that ought to be immediately visible, similar to the improvements in color display on the 2015 iMac.

Now those who say wait for the 2017 iPhone, suggest it’ll have an OLED display. Fine and dandy, assuming it meets its promise. But is that enough to convince people to wait another year? Besides, that feature won’t be confirmed, if it happens, until the next iPhone is actually introduced.

When you consider the changes in the iPhone 7, including the promise of greatly improved performance from the A10 processor and GPU, and the new Home button with a Taptic Engine, the number of changes and improvements exceed those of some previous iPhones. Sure, the case looks very similar, despite the vanishing antennas and smoother camera slot, but that shouldn’t be so important for anyone who is really paying attention.

Typical of iPhones, the price structure remains very much the same, but storage space doubles to 32GB, 128GB and 256GB. I suspect the entry-level model will have more than sufficient storage capacity for most of you.

The Apple Watch Series 2 benefits from a brighter display, dual-core processor and a GPS system, to allow it to do more things without being tethered to your iPhone. Last year’s model, dubbed Series 1, receives the dual-core processor with a cheaper price.

Apple will take orders on the Apple Watch Series 2 and the iPhone 7 beginning on September 7th, with shipments beginning on September 16th. The release version of iOS 10 will be available for download on September 13th. macOS Sierra ships the following week, but developers are already getting their hands on golden master seeds of all the upcoming OS upgrades.

Other announcements may seem less significant in the scheme of things. iWork gains real-time collaboration that’s shared among all platforms and the web version. There were also minor changes to iPad Pro pricing, with models sporting higher storage capacities receiving price reductions of from $50 to $100. 16GB storage options were also replaced with 32GB, a very sensible move.

After the presentation concluded, Tim Cook introduced a pop singer, Sia, for a live performance of two of her latest songs. Unfortunately, her face was well hidden by the mic, so I never got a sense of what she really looks like. That is bad form, and yes I realize you can see portraits of her online.

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4 Responses to “iPhone 7: Minor Updates My —”

  1. jfutral says:

    While many of the changes are definite improvements, I don’t think any of them will make anyone upgrade or crossgrade before they may have already been planning doing so. There aren’t many users, I don’t think, who are doing much that will benefit from or even notice performance boosts. Developers most likely will benefit the most and that won’t come all at once to consumers. Nothing this year will matter that much. Same with the cameras. The worst performance hit still comes from connectivity speeds and reliability.

    I think the effect (and that may be enough and is likely still large) will be on people who were already considering a new phone. And maybe those who are normally fairly ambivalent regarding Apple or Samsung might go with iPhone because of Samsung’s recent issues.

    I don’t think this is enough of a new iPhone to move the needle back up, but it will probably not suffer, either. Probably simply stabilize. And that’s good, too.


  2. gene says:

    The number of improvements is not less than in previous years. It has reached a point where it’s very difficult to add gee-whiz stuff, though I grant photographers will love the camera(s) enhancements. And don’t forget the beefier battery.


  3. dfs says:

    I think I’ll hold off until I read reviews of the new camera written by actual camera people, not just writers belonging to the run-of-the-mill computer press. I’d be more excited about the extended battery life if I didn’t already use a battery case. The iPhone 6 already features a retina display, so I don’t understand why Gene touts it here.

    As for the Apple Watch 2, the one thing I was most hoping to hear was something about extended battery life. Not a word on that particular subject. This is why addition of GPS capability and a brighter screen both made me wince: both may degrade battery performance (unless the GPS can be switched off). I’m pretty sure I’m going to pass on this one.

  4. degrees_of_truth says:

    Too bad Apple didn’t replace the headphone jack on the MacBook with an additional USB-C port and an adapter.

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