Another year, another new iPhone. What’s different this time around? As it turns out, quite a lot. Although Apple’s iPhone 7 looks a lot like the iPhone 6, the device has been internally redesigned, as evidenced by the notable absence of a headphone jack.
A new, 64-bit quad-core processor packs a punch, and blows previous iPhones out of the water in that respect. The new camera produces higher quality images with the new ISP technology, and optical zoom on the 7 Plus.
Obviously, there are some differences between the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus – the latter has a larger display, more RAM, and dual rear cameras for a start. But both are easily superior to previous incarnations of the iPhone. Let’s get into the details.
No Headphone Jack
This is what everyone’s talking about. The iPhone 7 has no headphone jack. So, how do you listen to music with the iPhone 7? There are two ways:
The traditional Apple EarPods are still packaged with the iPhone 7, and they’re exactly the same as the old ones, except that the 3.5 mm connector has been replaced with a male Lightning connection. If you can get used to this single difference, you’ll have no trouble using them.
There’s one obvious disadvantage: you can’t listen to music, or place calls over the earbuds and charge your iPhone at the same time. Fortunately, the iPhone 7 has better battery life than the iPhone 6, but more on that later.
The second way is to use wireless earbuds, and Apple launched a pair with the iPhone 7: AirPods. The AirPods closely resemble EarPods, except for the absence of wires, and have a five hour battery life. That may seem a little short, but with Apple’s compact charging case, the company claims the battery will be good for 24 hours of listening time.
The AirPods are also motion & gesture sensitive, and can be used to interact with Siri, which is a pretty cool option. Sadly, they aren’t bundled with the iPhone 7, and have to be purchased separately.
Apple’s decision to create a smartphone without an 3.5 mm headphone jack has baffled some, but Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller did have an excuse: “Maintaining an ancient, single-purpose, analogue, big connector doesn’t make sense because that space is at a premium.”
As a matter of fact, the headphone jack is over 50 years old, and keeping it around means wasting space that could be used for better purposes. For instance…
The Taptic Engine
The Taptic engine is a newer piece of hardware included in the iPhone 7, and actually takes up a significant amount of space inside the phone. Up until the iPhone 6, Apple used a simple vibrator motor to create vibrations.
The Taptic Engine uses a linear actuator to relay a much broader and stronger range of haptic feedback to the user. It can mimic the feeling of a home button press (the iPhone 7 has a virtual, or solid state home button), a heartbeat, or the sensation of snapping a rubber band.
The Taptic Engine in the iPhone 7 is much more responsive than a the previous version, and won’t lag; this may seem like a small detail, but users report that it makes a big difference. The ‘high resolution’ of the engine will open up a whole new range of options for game and app developers, and iOS 10 allows users to create custom vibrations for ringtones and other system features.
No need to keep bags of rice around the house anymore – the iPhone 7 will easily survive your bathtub, toilet, or accidental slips into the pool. Technically, the phone is not ‘waterproof’ – it’s only rated for up to 1 meter, or about 3 feet of water.
You shouldn’t go swimming with it (duh). But tests show that the phone will survive submersion under a meter of water for at least 30 minutes, and that’s pretty significant considering how commonly iPhones suffer from water damage, which still is not covered under Apple’s 1 year warranty.
To put it simply, the A10 is huge. Not only is 40% faster than the A9 processor in the iPhone 6S, but it’s a brand new fusion of two chipsets with four 64 bit cores.
Currently, the A10 is the best smartphone processor on the market, and it’s the best by a lot. The A10 even scores slightly higher than the Intel processor in Apple’s Mac Pro. So yes: the iPhone now has a processor as powerful as a high-end, desktop computer.
The advantages are pretty clear: the iPhone 7 is super fast with very high graphical capabilities. It can handle even more complex applications than its predecessors, do video editing, and run highly graphics-intensive games. Thanks to power management features, the A10 should also increase your battery life (in theory).
A new feature called ISP (image signal processor) is built into the A10 chip, and dramatically improves photo-taking. But more on that later.
A Better Battery
Comparing apples with apples (pun totally intended): the iPhone 6S had a 1,715 mAh battery, which is pretty generous. The iPhone 7 has a new 1,960 mAh battery. Meanwhile, the 6S Plus had a 2,750 mAh battery, compared to the 7 Plus’s 2,900 mAh battery.
This means that a charge will last two hours longer for the iPhone 7 compared to the 6S, and an hour longer for the Plus version. Tests show that the battery charges fairly quickly, going from 0 to 100% in under 90 minutes.
As mentioned earlier, the new ISP technology is a big upgrade to the iPhone camera. ISP uses deep learning algorithms to automatically adjust focus, exposure, white balance and other settings.
While automatic adjustment has been included in iPhones for a long time, this is the first time that deep learning has been employed in the process, and the dedicated processor space allows the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus to perform 100 billion operations almost instantaneously, meaning you can take a great shot without pausing.
Optical image stabilization (OIS) has been included in all Plus versions of the iPhone, but now it’s available in the regular version as well. This feature should prevent shaking or vibration from ruining pictures, and keep videos more steady.
If you go with the 7 Plus, you’ll get an additional 12 megapixel camera with a telephoto lens, allowing you to actually zoom into subjects without reducing image quality. Coupled with the ISP, the two cameras also allow for genuine depth of field, the coveted effect of having a sharp foreground and a blurred background. In previous iPhones, this effect could only be simulated with a filter.
iOS 10 has a ton of new features, most of them subtle, or hidden away in the operating system. One of the most significant changes from iOS 9 that Apple isn’t advertising very much is that you can finally – finally! – delete system apps, a feature that used to require jailbreaking.
A few significant changes have been made to iMessage. First, users can now handwrite messages, with a pretty convincing simulated ink-pen. Secondly, you can now carry on conversations from the lock screen by enabling this option in device settings.
The iPhone 7 is a significant upgrade from the last generation, and while the missing headphone jack is a slight inconvenience, it’s not hard to live with, especially considering the added battery life.
Having the best smartphone processor on the planet is a tempting prospect, and according to many sources, the new camera is also the best among smartphones.
Starting at $649 for the 7, and $769 for the 7 Plus, the new iPhone may be well worth your money.