The iPhone 7 – Apple Giveth and Apple Taketh Away

iphone-7-06As with every iPhone announcement since … well, since the very first one … there is always a combination of excitement for the new features introduced and teeth-gnashing from features left out. The recent announcement of the iPhone 7 is no exception, but this time Apple removed a common feature that has caused many people to complain more than usual. Is the missing feature enough to outweigh the new features of the iPhone 7? Keep reading and I’ll give you all the important details.

More Power Yet More Battery Life

As usual, each new iPhone introduces an improved processor. The iPhone 7 continues this trend of course, but with a bit of a twist. The new main processor in the iPhone 7, the A10 “Fusion”, is Apple’s first quad-core mobile processor. Apple claims it is 40% more powerful in CPU performance and 50% more powerful in graphics performance. These numbers are nothing to sneeze at, as Apple also claims that the A10 Fusion brings console-level gaming to a mobile platform (incidentally, Nintendo introduced the very first Mario game for the iPhone during the iPhone 7 event – probably not a coincidence). However, more powerful processors generally mean that battery life suffers. Apple has taken a novel approach to solving this problem by separating the 4 cores pf the A10 Fusion into 2 high performance cores and 2 energy efficient cores (hence the name “Fusion”). By allowing the iPhone 7 to use the energy efficient cores for “normal” tasks that do not require the processing power of applications like games, the iPhone 7 can get more life out of its battery. Apple claims the iPhone 7 will average 2 hours more battery life than the iPhone 6S, and the iPhone 7 Plus will average one more hour than the iPhone 6S Plus.

Room to Breathe

Apple has increased the standard storage capacities in the iPhone 7, doubling the sizes across the board. Instead of 16, 64, and 128 GB capacities, the iPhone 7 will come in 32, 128, and 256 GB storage models. That should help a lot of people who struggled squeezing into the 16 GB of storage in previous base model iPhones. However, optimizations in iOS 10 will help with storage space issues by using cloud storage to augment the built-in storage of all iPhones, so ironically the larger storage capacities of the new iPhones aren’t necessarily as great of a feature as it initially sounds. However, it is nice to not need to worry about storage capacities and 32 GB should be a significant improvement for most people with 16 GB iPhones.

Stereophonic Sound – Because You Have Two Ears

The iPhone 7 will be the first iPhone to include stereo speakers. As more and more people use their smartphones for playing music, the quality of sound has become a more important purchase decision. Apple has designed the iPhone 7 to use the earpiece speaker as an additional speaker to create the stereo effect. In addition, Apple claims that the speakers in the iPhone 7 will be two times louder than the iPhone 6S along with an increased dynamic range. Now I can play music through my iPhone without offending the audiophile inside me or connecting it to external speakers.

Apple is Leaving Us High and Dry. But That’s a Good Thing!

The iPhone 7 will also be the first iPhone to be water (and dust) resistant, with a rating of IP67. This rating means in official terms that the iPhone 7 is “protected from immersion in water with a depth of up to 1 meter (or 3.2ft) for up to 30 mins,” or in simple terms, it’s resistant to rain, splashing, and accidental submersion. So practically speaking, the iPhone 7 will be safe from the most common types of liquid accidents that can damage smartphones. Certainly this is a significant improvement to the iPhone as liquid damage is the bane of mobile devices, causing an untold number of damaged and destroyed phones every year. If you’ve ever had your phone damaged by liquids or know someone that has, this feature alone might be enough to prompt you to purchase an iPhone 7. One day we may even be able to stop talking about bags of rice to dry out a wet phone.

Let’s Come Back Home

The home button on the iPhone 7 will no longer be an actual button, but will use haptic feedback to simulate a button press, much like the “Force Touch” trackpads in Apple’s MacBook laptops. I’ve not yet tested the iPhone 7 to know for sure how this home button feels, but if it is anything like the Force Touch trackpads, you won’t really be able to tell the difference. The haptic tap on a MacBook feels just like you pushed an actual button. In addition to the haptic feedback, the home button will now be force sensitive, similar to the 3D Touch on the iPhone 6S. Overall, the good ol’ home button will be more responsive, more reliable, and customizable according to Apple.

Don’t Be Camera Shy

One could probably write an entire article describing the improved cameras of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. However I won’t go into great detail here because there are many articles already written that do go into great depth on this topic. I’ll just say that the iPhone 7 camera is in a class by itself, as evidenced by the fact that the separate processor that Apple uses to power the camera performs over 100 billion operations in just 25 ms for each picture taken. That is “super-computer” speed in a camera system, which again is a separate processor from the main iPhone A10 Fusion processor I wrote about earlier. Just to be sure, here is an article that claims the iPhone 7 just changed the entire camera industry forever. About the only other thing to say about the new cameras is that the iPhone 7 Plus has an even better camera than the smaller iPhone 7. Actually sporting two separate cameras, the iPhone 7 plus offers 2x optical zoom and impressive “depth of field” capabilities that rivals high-end standalone digital cameras. If you are a camera junkie, the iPhone 7 Plus will be for you, but even discerning photographers will appreciate the quality of pictures the smaller iPhone 7 provides.

But … My Headphone Jack is Gone!

Ok, so I’m sure this is the part most of you were waiting to read. Yes, it is true! Apple has eliminated the traditional 3.5 mm headphone jack that we are all familiar with. Yet before you jump off the deep end, I believe there is quite a bit of confusion regarding this development.

To be certain, you will still be able to use your existing earphones or headphones with your iPhone 7. Apple is including (at no extra cost, just to be clear) an adapter that will allow you to plug in traditional headphones into the Lighting port. I believe most users will simply plug their headphones into this included adapter and not think twice about the lack of a headphone port ever again. Truly, for most people that is problem solved, case closed. Move along, nothing (literally) to see here.

Additionally, Apple is also including a new version of the EarPods they have been shipping with recent iPhones that connect directly into the Lightning port. Apple also showed a third-party set of headphones that have direct Lightning port connectivity as well and it is no doubt that headphone manufacturers will create many varieties of Lightning port headphones in the very near future. The future of wired headphones will likely be with Lightning port connectors given Apple’s dominance in the market.

Whatever you think of Apple's AirPods, know they are not the only way to connect headphones to an iPhone 7

Whatever you think of Apple’s AirPods, know they are NOT the only way to connect headphones to an iPhone 7

So why all the uproar about a missing port that is easily remedied with an included adapter? I believe this is because Apple also made a big deal about their new AirPods wireless headset. AirPods look very similar to the EarPods Apple manufactures, but without cords. Apple believes wireless headsets are the future, so they spent a lot of time talking about the AirPods during the iPhone 7 launch event. Selling for $159, I think a lot of people mistakenly believe that they must purchase AirPods if they want to use headphones with their iPhone 7. To reiterate, this is clearly NOT the case. Yes, Apple believes wireless headphones are more convenient and will be the future of headphone technology going forward, but again the iPhone 7 will include an adapter for traditional headphones and future wired headphones will likely have direct Lighting connectors. So put down the pitchforks and torches: you don’t need to spend a dime to use your iPhone 7 with headphones.

But Seriously … I NEED a Headphone Jack!

To be fair, there will be some users who will have some difficulty with not having the traditional 3.5 mm headphone jack. One example are those users who have setups where they used the headphone jack while simultaneously charging their iPhone. This is primarily done in setups where the iPhone was connected to a home or car sound system. Users like these will need to make some adjustments. Fortunately, there are reasonable workarounds available now with more likely to become available soon.

Apple already had their Lightning Dock charging base that has a 3.5 mm jack built in. This will allow an iPhone to charge and play music at the same time for situations like connecting an iPhone to a home sound system. I’m sure other companies will soon follow with similar adapters at lower price points that would also be more convenient for use in a car. That being said, there are many solutions for playing audio through an iPhone in a car while it is charging. Cars that have CarPlay built in (or aftermarket CarPlay receivers) allow plugging in the iPhone for charging and audio at the same time. Some non-CarPlay receivers also do this. This truly is the future of audio in cars, as one connection does it all. Moving on, cars with Bluetooth will allow audio to be played wirelessly while the iPhone is being charged. Cars that don’t have Bluetooth can get inexpensive Bluetooth-to-3.5 mm adapters to connect to standard AUX ports. So yes, those who made use of the 3.5 mm jack while charging will need to adjust, but I would be willing to bet most of those people are techy enough to adapt with only a little effort.

The Headphone Jack Will Become a Relic in the Near Future

For some people, the lack of a 3.5 mm jack may be a big enough deal to not buy an iPhone 7 at this time. That is understandable. However, I believe this is the wave of the future for most smartphones. The recently released Android-based Moto Z smartphone also eliminated the headphone port, using USB-C as the sole connector (it also includes an adapter for traditional 3.5 mm headphones). The ability to make phones thinner and more water resistant is a key factor in eliminating the 3.5 mm port and so people will need to get used to this change sooner or later. The iPhone 7 is just the beginning so start planning now on migrating from the 3.5 mm headphone jack (on smartphones at least).

Should You Buy an iPhone 7?

So with all that being said, the question remains: should you buy an iPhone 7? If you’re in the market for a new iPhone, the iPhone 7 is certainly a worthy upgrade. The increased power, longer battery life, and larger storage capacities are nice incremental upgrades. Water resistance, stereo speakers, and an unparalleled camera round out some of the more impressive new features. The lack of a traditional 3.5 mm headphone jack is hardly a reason to avoid the iPhone 7 except in very specific (and I believe rare) circumstances. If you have an iPhone 6S, these new features might be enough to convince you to upgrade. I’d say if you have an iPhone 6 or earlier, you should strongly consider upgrading if nothing else for the water resistance feature alone. If you are a camera junkie, I predict you will get an iPhone 7 (probably an iPhone 7 Plus) before the end of the year. The camera is that good. Of course if you don’t currently own an iPhone, I believe you will be pleasantly surprised at how much easier your life will be with an iPhone, especially now that the iPhone 7 includes some nice features that were only previously available on competing smartphones.

Don’t Forget about iOS 10!

The iPhone 7 will include the new iOS 10 operating system which will bring many new features to iPhones, but as usual, you do not need a new iPhone to take advantage of the latest operating system. If you have an older iPhone (as old as an iPhone 5) make sure to download iOS 10 to get these new features. iPads as old as the 4th generation or iPad mini 2 will also support iOS 10 and so will the iPod touch 6th generation. iOS 10 will be released September 13 – along with the new watchOS 3 which you should be sure to download if you have an Apple Watch.

Make sure to read my article reviewing the new Apple Watch Series 2 as well and if you have any questions, please comment below or feel free to post your question in my Technology Question and Answer section.