I’m writing this two days before Apple is expected to take the wraps off the next iPhone, and you’ll read it a day before. But the discussion is already spinning towards its successor. in fact, there are a number of online complaints that the iPhone 7 won’t be such a big deal, that you might as well wait for the 10th anniversary version, presumably an iPhone 8. That’s going to make a huge difference.
Well, the key new feature may be an alleged switch to an OLED display, which is similar to what’s already being used on smartphones from Samsung and other handset makers. The supposed advantage of OLED is a wider viewing angle and better visibility in bright surroundings, such as sunlight. But Apple has not chosen to take advantage of such display technology, perhaps under the belief that there are still technical limitations in terms of color accuracy, longevity and perhaps other issues.
Regardless, you can expect that a future version of any consumer electronics gadget will probably be better than the previous version. If you want to continue to avoid buying one in the hope that the right combination of new features will appear, you might as well never buy anything. It’s a given there will be annual improvements to iPhones. Some of those improvements will be better, some not so.
So there’s a perception that there needs to be a major case redesign, or something brand new display technology or screen size the smacks significance.
So the iPhone 6 was regarded as a huge change compared to the iPhone 5s, where the Touch ID fingerprint sensor debuted. Other than the display size, and the phablet version, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6s, how many major changes were there? There were other changes that, beyond improved performance, were probably no more significant than those on previous models. But the larger displays, a few years after the competition went large, were significant enough for the critics to pronounce the new models spectacular improvements.
The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus had a number of improvements too, but they were mostly internal, so they weren’t regarded as terribly important. But don’t forget that Siri debuted on the iPhone 4s in 2011, the first product introduced by Tim Cook after he assumed the permanent CEO position. It wasn’t regarded as a terribly important upgrade either, because it didn’t look very different from its predecessor, despite the introduction of a personal digital assistant that’s become a cultural icon of sorts.
So where does this lead us?
Well, we know that the next iPhone will debut at the upcoming media event; maybe the Apple Watch 2 as well. Presumably, it’s will be the iPhone 7, and there have already been a number of reports about the possible feature set. And here’s the rub! The case design supposedly will be mostly the same as the iPhone 6s, with perhaps some minor refinements, such as a slightly thinner case and, most controversial of all, no headphone jack.
Now the decision to ditch the headphone jack has been around for a while, so it appears to have some measure of credibility. The reasons for ditching a technology that’s decades old include getting more space for other stuff, such as a second speaker, and improved water resistance. In addition, a headphone jack is a common point of failure. You break off a headphone plug accidentally, and the logic board is toast. It happened once to me, at a time when the affected device, a PowerBook, could be repaired on the component level and thus didn’t cost me so much to fix.
Of course, you can expect a negative outcry anytime Apple ditches another connection port. And that’s a fairly common scenario. So this is the sort of rumor that, considering how long it’s been around, is probably true. Apple may even offer a headphone jack to Lightning adapter in the box to mollify those who have huge investments in older ear buds, earphones, and so on and so forth.
But this isn’t the reason why some commentators are complaining that the iPhone 7 won’t be much of an upgrade. After all, Apple isn’t going to bring back the headphone jack for a future iPhone. As with floppy and optical drives, when it goes, it’s gone. Kaput.
More important, all this negative chatter comes before Apple has actually demonstrated anything. Maybe it’ll look similar to the previous model, with an extra color or two, but the number of new features may otherwise match or exceed the typical iPhone upgrade.
So is there a reason to wait for another year? Well, maybe next year you’ll get the OLED display, but what else? Is that unproven rumor sufficient to skip this year’s model?
Indeed, the constant complaints about insignificant upgrades raise suspicions that maybe Apple’s competition is part of the feeding frenzy. Maybe those news tips are done in a way not to identify the source — and maybe some publications just don’t care.
By Wednesday, the media can decide whether the number of changes in the new iPhone are sufficient in importance to match previous models. But to most potential buyers, who have gear that’s two years or older, it will be a significant improvement regardless. Besides, just how many meaningful and useful changes can Apple — or any other handset maker — craft each year?
Smartphones are pretty good right now. There may be a revolution someday that completely alters the landscape. But it’s not about larger displays, different types of displays, or other incremental changes. So maybe it’s time to relax, enjoy the show, and make your purchase decision based on your needs, regardless of what the complainers yap about.