Apple iPhone 7 unveiled: All you need to know

Apple needed to pull out a winner on Wednesday with the unveiling of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, following two consecutive quarters of falling iPhone sales, and a resurgent Samsung sweeping all before it with the Galaxy S7 range and the impressive (albeit occasionally exploding) Note 7.

The first impression from the company’s San Francisco launch event is that the company has done more than enough to keep the Apple faithful happy, especially with the larger iPhone 7 Plus.

In truth, Tim Cook had most of us tech journalists in the palm of his hand right from the moment he brought out Nintendo’s iconic game producer Shigeru Miyamoto to announce the launch of Super Mario Run, the legendary plumber’s first appearance on a smartphone, available on iPhones and iPads toward the end of the year.


But the new 4.9-inch iPhone 7 and 5.5-inch 7 Plus, while not offering a major design overhaul, boast an impressive range of upgrades across several functions, including their displays, audio quality, battery life, and, above all, cameras. And that’s before you get to the “bold” move to do away with the traditional headphone socket.

Design wise, the form factor of the new iPhone 7 range looks pretty similar to that of the 6 and 6S, with the absence of the white band below the camera lens on the rear the only apparent difference noticeable from screenshots.

The big change however comes with the new darker “jet black” shade, which comes in an all-new glossy finish. For those who aren’t fussed by such an effect (I mean, you’re going to put in a case anyway), it’s also available in a more standard matte black, along with silver, gold, and, of course, rose gold / pink.

But if the changes in design aren’t anything to write home about, Apple is to be commended for virtually every other change – both small tweaks and bold steps – that it has brought to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

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Apple has brought in water and dust resistance, following Samsung’s lead with the Galaxy S7 and Note (not to mention Sony’s several years ago). The iPhone 7’s speakers are now stereo, and hopefully bring the iPhone in line with the brilliant audio of the iPad Pro and Macbook.

There’s also the Retina HD display that claims to be 25 per cent brighter than the 6S range, and the upgraded, touch sensitive home button.

Battery life has apparently also been improved, with Apple boasting of up to 40 hours of wireless audio streaming and 14 hours of Wi-Fi browsing for the 7, rising to 60 and 15 respectively for the 7 Plus.

Such upgrades are welcome, but arguably not particularly game changing in the overall scheme of things. The same cannot be said however for the upgrades to the camera and headphone systems.

The iPhone 7’s 12MP rear camera has a wider aperture, six-element lens, and a larger sensor; optical image stabilisation, previously confined the Plus range, now standard across all models. This all promises to boost camera performance across the board, especially in low light conditions, although it remains to be seen whether the impressive images on display in San Francisco can be replicated on the streets and malls of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

More significant is the introduction on the iPhone 7 Plus of a second, telephoto lens (as already seen on the LG G5) with a 2x optical zoom, a relative rarity on a smartphone, as well as a 10x digital zoom.

Most impressive of all however is Depth, an upcoming feature on the 7 Plus, that works with both lenses in tandem to offer impressive depth of field control (allowing for pictures for sharply focussed subjects and blurred backgrounds) usually only seen on DSLR cameras.

It’s a feature that’s been tried by a handful of smartphones before, but one that appears, at first glance, significantly more intuitive and powerful on the iPhone 7 Plus. It’s just a shame that it’s not available on its smaller cousin as well

And so, finally, to the boldest / most controversial change of all, Apple’s decision to ditch the 3.5mm headphone jack. The iPhone 7 isn’t the first device to take this approach – the Oppo R5 did away with it last year – but it’s an unprecedented move for a high-end smartphone.

Apple claims the 3.5mm headphone connector is an old technology, and removing the jack makes the phone thinner (just 7.1 mm) and frees up space for other components. And for those who are still using traditional wired headphones, there’s an adaptor in the box for no extra charge.

Despite the inclusion of the adaptor, the lack of traditional headphone connector is going to put a lot of people off. But the shift towards wireless headphones has been well underway for some time across a number of price points, from Samsung’s free floating Icon X earbuds to the Bose’s superb QC35 headset.

Lest we forget, Apple has mercilessly cut back its connections and drives in the past, with most of them barely missed a few months later (when did you last use a DVD in your laptop?). The lack of headphones might be a pain in the short-term, but you get the feeling in the long term it will become an increasingly standard move.

Apple will begin taking pre-orders for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus from September 9, with the handsets going on sale from September 16 in 28 countries, including the UAE.

The iPhone 7 will be available from Dh2,599 for the 32GB version (rising to a massive 256GB), while the 7 Plus is expected to retail from around Dh2,999.

Both will come pre-loaded with iOS 10, Apple’s newest operating system, which offers enhanced voice control following an upgrade to Siri, more advanced lockscreen options, and more controls for the connected home via Apple HomeKit.

As always, Apple’s bold claims for its new handsets need a little real world testing to be properly assessed. Will the iPhone 7 “Jet Black” finish turn out to be little more than a fingerprint magnet? Will the camera perform as well as those of the Samsung Galaxy S7 or LG G5? And will the headphones adaptor make things unnecessarily fiddly?

At the end of the day, I’m very eager to put the iPhone 7 through its paces. If its upgraded camera performs as promised, and if even half of Apple’s other boasts are proved correct, the company will once again have produced the premium smartphone by which all others are judged.

jeverington@thenational.ae

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