iPhone 7

From £599 inc VAT ap­ple.com/uk

Macworld - - Contents - Susie Ochs

The iPhone we’ve been hear­ing ru­mours about for months is real, so let the an­guish over its con­firmed lack of a head­phone jack be­gin. (Since this might have been the worst-kept se­cret in Ap­ple his­tory, hope­fully you’ve worked through a few stages of grief al­ready.) It’s true. Ap­ple used the space freed up by re­mov­ing the head­phone port to add a Tap­tic En­gine un­der the hood, as well as a sec­ond speaker to the bot­tom of the de­vice. The com­pany says this will give you stereo sound, and the speak­ers did sound louder, but the busy demo area was just too crowded and noisy to prop­erly eval­u­ate how much of a dif­fer­ence the sec­ond speaker makes. In fact, dur­ing my lim­ited hands-on time af­ter Ap­ple’s Septem­ber 7 event, I found the iPhone 7 okay – it’s faster and it’s got a bet­ter cam­era, but a lot of the changes (the new Home but­ton, the dual speak­ers) are too sub­tle to make much of a first im­pres­sion.

Changes to the Home but­ton

About that Tap­tic En­gine, for ex­am­ple, it’s there to en­able a com­pletely flush, mo­tion­less Home but­ton. One of the ru­mours about 2017’s iPhone is that Ap­ple may ditch the Home but­ton, em­bed­ding it in the screen in­stead. For the iPhone 7, Ap­ple kept the “chin” at the bot­tom of the de­vice, with the Home but­ton and its shiny Touch ID ring in their fa­mil­iar place. But the but­ton no longer phys­i­cally moves up and down. In­stead, you press it and get a lit­tle vi­bra­tion of hap­tic feed­back so it feels like it’s go­ing down.

This is sim­i­lar to the Force Touch track­pad in the 12in MacBook, which doesn’t phys­i­cally click but still mim­ics what a click should feel like. As on the Mac side, iOS de­vel­op­ers will get ac­cess to the Tap­tic En­gine for build­ing more sub­tle vi­bra­tion ef­fects into their apps, re­act­ing to your touch. In my hands-on time at the event, the new Home but­ton felt pretty odd to click, with a split-sec­ond lag be­fore I felt any­thing. Two of Ap­ple’s demon­stra­tors men­tioned that it takes a lit­tle ad­just­ment be­fore it feels nor­mal. Luck­ily, there’s a set­ting where you can cus­tomise the hap­tic feed­back some­what.

Phys­i­cally, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are the same size as their pre­de­ces­sors, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. But don’t ex­pect any iPhone 6 or iPhone 6s cases to fit an iPhone 7, be­cause the cam­era lens on the back is a lot big­ger than it used to be, and so is the TrueTone flash. Sim­i­larly, iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus cases al­most def­i­nitely wouldn’t fit an iPhone 7 Plus, since that de­vice has a dual-cam­era setup I’ll ex­plain a bit later. New cases all around.

If you can stom­ach slap­ping a case on your new phone in the first place, that is. The iPhone 7 comes in sil­ver, gold, and rose gold fin­ishes, but the ‘space grey’ colour has been re­placed by not one but two ver­sions of black. The matte ver­sion is just called black, and it’s lovely, with an al­most brushed alu­minium ef­fect that does pick up fin­ger­prints, but more on its shiny black Ap­ple logo than on the rest of the de­vice. The highly glossy ‘jet black’ ver­sion has a shinier fin­ish, like a grand pi­ano, and it’s a mag­net for fin­ger­prints – and maybe tiny scratches too. Ap­ple even has a dis­claimer on the iPhone 7 pre-or­der page: “Its sur­face is equally as hard as

other an­odized Ap­ple prod­ucts; how­ever, its high shine may show fine mi­cro-abra­sions with use.” The com­pany sug­gests you use a case if you’re con­cerned, but then no one can ap­pre­ci­ate your glossy phone. It’s sub­jec­tive, but I like the matte ver­sion bet­ter any­way.

New cam­eras and wa­ter re­sis­tance

The iPhone 7’s cam­era still bulges out from the back of the phone, but the bulge rises di­rectly out of the iPhone’s rear panel. In the iPhone 6s, the cam­era bulge has an alu­minium ring around it that makes it look kind of stuck on af­ter the

fact, while the iPhone 7 cam­era bump looks a lit­tle more like it be­longs. I pre­fer the iPhone SE’s de­sign in which the cam­era is com­pletely flush, but it’s not a deal breaker.

The 7 Plus has a dual-lens setup: two 12Mp cam­eras side by side on the back. One is the same wide an­gle as in the iPhone 7, and the sec­ond is a tele­photo lens. Tap­ping the 1x but­ton above the shut­ter in the Cam­era app switches to the 2x view of the tele­photo lens in­stantly – it’s so fast it’s like you’re us­ing the same cam­era, not switch­ing be­tween two. Hold­ing the but­ton down lets you push past the 2x op­ti­cal zoom, up to 10x of dig­i­tal zoom (in pho­tos; 5.8x when shoot­ing video), al­though dig­i­tal zoom en­larges the pix­els and thus de­grades the im­age qual­ity. The Por­trait mode with its bokeh ef­fect demon­strated on stage won’t be ready un­til a soft­ware up­date later in the year, for iPhone 7 Plus own­ers only. None of the de­mon­stra­tion units in the hands-on area had it yet.

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus have 25 per­cent brighter screens with a wider colour gamut, al­though the sizes and pixel di­men­sions re­main the same. Ev­ery iPhone screen looks great to me, and these were no ex­cep­tion. But the dif­fer­ence wasn’t so no­tice­able that it would sway me to up­grade just for the ex­tra bright­ness. Maybe when we get to test the phones out­doors, we’ll see a big­ger dif­fer­ence.

Ready for one more thing? This is the first of­fi­cially wa­ter re­sis­tant iPhone! Last year’s iPhone 6s had some un­der-the-hood wa­ter re­sis­tance, but Ap­ple didn’t ad­ver­tise it. In­stead of shov­ing ugly rub­ber plugs into the var­i­ous ports to keep liq­uid out, the com­pany added gas­kets in­side the case

and wa­ter­proofed in­di­vid­ual con­nec­tions be­tween in­ter­nal ca­bles and the logic board. Think of that as a beta test of sorts, be­cause now Ap­ple is proudly call­ing the iPhone 7 splash, dust, and wa­ter re­sis­tant, with a rat­ing of IP67. That means it should with­stand pow­er­ful streams of wa­ter right on it, as well as dunks in up to a me­tre of wa­ter for 30 min­utes. Un­for­tu­nately, Ap­ple didn’t pro­vide a dunk tank in the demo area, so that’s an­other thing we’ll have to test for the full re­view.

Ver­dict

So, Ap­ple gave us wa­ter re­sis­tance and a more pow­er­ful cam­era, even as it takes away our faith­ful friend the 3.5mm head­phone jack. The iPhone lineup still lacks built-in wire­less charg­ing, Ap­ple Pen­cil sup­port, and an OLED screen, but the iPhone 7 is no slouch. (Ap­ple bragged that the 64-bit A10 Fu­sion chip makes this the most pow­er­ful iPhone in his­tory, but that’s a pro­gres­sion that we ex­pect – ob­vi­ously Ap­ple wouldn’t want the new phone to be slower than the older mod­els.)

Pho­tog­ra­phers and the ac­ci­dent-prone have the most rea­sons to re­joice, but per­son­ally, I’m not ex­cited enough about the new cam­eras or the wa­ter­proof­ing to pre­order a new iPhone for launch. As much as I like the AirPods (which won’t be ready for the iPhone 7’s launch), the in­con­ve­nience of plug­ging head­phones into the Light­ning port un­til then is keep­ing me in wait-and-see ter­ri­tory, un­til I find out if the brighter screen and the bet­ter cam­era are re­ally enough to make me screw up my ‘courage’ and bid the head­phone jack a per­ma­nent good­bye.

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