7 is finally here

by Haadi Bakar
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The unprecedented buzz surrounding the launch of the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus last week proves just how strong the Apple brand is.

I, for one, admire Apple for making the most loved consumer product on the planet, even though other technology companies are out-innovating Apple since Steve Jobs’ passing.

This isn’t to say that the iPhone is terrible. Unlike Android, Apple controls both the hardware and the software experiences, allowing the company to offer a product that aligns perfectly with its vision, and many people absolutely love them for it.

But let’s be real here. Apple’s marketing machine has always done a great job in making their products desirable, and that the Cupertino-based company is able get away from charging a premium for technology that has been around on Android devices for some time.

As an Android user, I personally think the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are just the best that Apple has ever come up with, save for one caveat which I will go into detail below.

The best iPhone to date

The iPhone 7 Plus in Jet Black. Image courtesy of Apple.

Most of the upgrades are practical rather than cosmetic, hence the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus look almost identical to last year’s iPhones, unless if you’re opting for the new Black and Jet Black colours, which actually looks lovely.

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are now water resistant, has stereo speakers and a new touch- sensitive home button equipped with haptic feedback similar to the new trackpads found on Apple’s latest Macbooks.

While the latter isn’t anything to be praised about, both the water resistant and stereo speakers are certainly welcome additions, though these have been around on Android phones for some time now (I took my Sony Xperia Z3 into the pool back in early 2015).

Both iPhones get a major performance boost with Apple’s latest A10 Fusion chip, which promises longer battery life and console-level gaming experience. Apple claims that the new chip is 40 per cent faster than the A9 chip in the 2015 iPhone 6s, and is more energy efficient.

Minor improvements are also noticeable on the displays, as Apple now incorporates a wider colour gamut on its screens. They’re not OLED displays like the ones from Samsung, but they look great nonetheless.

Finally, the base iPhone no longer starts at 16GB of storage space. Now there’s 32GB, 128GB, and a whopping 256GB. Funny how it took Apple this long.

Dual Lens Camera

The all-new dual lens camera system on the iPhone 7 Plus is what really makes the new iPhone a compelling upgrade. It has by far impressed me the most, and it could persuade me to make the switch from Android.

It’s basically two lenses, a 28mm f/1.8 wide angle lens and a new 56mm f/2.8 telephoto lens. This lets the user zoom optically into the subject at 2x, and from there you can zoom even further digitally up to 10x without too much image degradation (as opposed to digital zoom all the way via a wide-angle lens — yuck).

The Dual-Lens Camera module on the iPhone 7 Plus. Image courtesy of Apple.

This makes for a sharper and clearer image quality, and allows for the camera to produce nice portrait shots with out-of-focus backgrounds. The next iOS 10 upgrade will enable further enhancements to the out-of-focus effect, or ‘bokeh’, to your portrait shots.

Dual lens cameras on a smartphone aren’t anything new. Huawei came up with with the P9 earlier this year (in partnership with Leica), and less than 24 hours before the new iPhone’s launch, LG showed off its new V20 with a two-lens system of its own.

But Apple has a much better footing in bringing this new camera system to the mainstream, and its implementation has been very impressive so far, based on some sample shots circulating online.

The all-new dual lens camera system on the iPhone 7 Plus is what really makes the new iPhone a compelling upgrade. It has by far impressed me the most, and it could persuade me to make the switch from Android.

This new camera system is set to change mobile photography forever. The iPhone is already the world’s most popular camera, rendering all point-and-shoot cameras dead. Now it seems that it is slowly taking a jab on mirrorless cameras and DSLRs.

I foresee a future where smartphone cameras will incorporate larger sensors and interchangeable lenses. For now, dual lens camera systems on a smartphone is just the beginning.

The dual lens camera feature is exclusive to the higher-end iPhone 7 Plus. The smaller iPhone 7 only has that one wide angle lens, so unless you’re a photography junkie, the iPhone 7’s camera should suffice.

Apple claims the high-speed 12-megapixel sensor on the wide lens camera is 60 per cent faster, and 30 per cent more energy efficient. The f/1.8 aperture lens lets in 50 per cent more light than its predecessor.

However, only the wide-angle lens camera has optical image stabilisation (OIS), which means that recording video while zooming at 2x and beyond will be shaky on a 7 Plus. Consider using a tripod.

Axing the headphone jack

Apple finally did it, to the surprise of no one (thanks to rumours dating back since last year). The headphone jack is heading for tech heaven.

This isn’t the first time Apple pulls a stunt like this. The company is known for killing the CD and floppy disk drives in the past, and while they were controversial at first, people eventually moved on.

Apple made a huge deal on why the headphone jack needs to go, and for the most part, it does make sense. The headphone jack is a 19th century analogue tech, and Apple wants to replace it with a newer and better solution.

For the jack-less iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, that would be plugging your headphones through the lightning port or go wireless.

Hence, the included earpods now connect straight to the lightning port. Apple also introduces its first wireless earphones, the US$159 airpods, and that one comes with a carrying case that doubles as a charger.

Apple also introduced its first wireless headphones, the Airpods, to go with the new iPhone 7 series. Image courtesy of Apple.

Apple says their new approach is digital, which fits well with the times. The company suggests that digital connection could also open up new possibilities for a better music listening experience.

Personally, I still use the headphone jack. Despite being around for about 100 years, it is still simple, reliable and durable, and unlike the lightning port, its also universal.

At the moment, wireless is still no substitute for the rich audio experience you get from a wired connection, and wired headphones don’t rely on batteries.

But not everyone is an audiophile. Most people can’t tell the difference (in terms of audio quality) and will warm up to the idea of living without the headphone jack. After all, Bluetooth headphones are getting more popular these days.

Apple also includes a lightning-to-headphone jack adapter in the box, which is unusual for a company known for charging exorbitantly for adapters.

Apple does however sell a US$40 adapter that will enable you to charge your phone and connect your earpods at the same time. Classic Apple.

Should you upgrade?

The new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are now water-resistant. Image courtesy of Apple.

Without a doubt, these are the best iPhones money can buy today. They’ve all the upgrades and features fans have been asking for — improved battery life, water- proofing, stereo speakers, better camera, and more storage — despite also having stuff that no one asks for, such as the removal of the headphone jack, US$159 airpods, pressure-sensitive home button.

Will this also finally persuade loyal Android users to make the switch? Possibly. The dual lens camera on the iPhone 7 Plus alone is enough to entice the photography/video junkies in the Android sphere, and Apple’s app ecosystem remains the most robust.

But the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are also going up against other excellent phones this year such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, the LG V20 and possibly the upcoming new Google phone.

Had the iPhone 7 been introduced two years ago, it would have been the best smartphone in the market, though the missing headphone jack would still irk many.


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