iPhone 7 Plus: A Review
The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, for all intents and purposes, are the tenth iPhone that Apple has released. The complete list is as follows:
- Original iPhone
- iPhone 3G
- iPhone 3GS
- iPhone 4
- iPhone 4s
- iPhone 5
- iPhone 5s
- iPhone 6/6 Plus
- iPhone 6s/6s Plus
- iPhone 7/7 Plus
There have been a couple of others phones, the iPhone 5c, and iPhone SE. These are not in this list because the iPhone 5c had the same internals as the iPhone 5, with a plastic-colored back. The iPhone SE used the same form factor as the iPhone 4/4s/5/5s, but used the iPhone 6s internals. The iPhone 5c was a one-off product, and as of this writing, the iPhone SE is also a one-off product.
One of the items that some may notice is that this is the first time that Apple has used the same general external design for the iPhone for a third year in a row. As Apple has indicated, using the same design for the third year has allowed them to perfect the design. The changes to the design include the moving of the antennas to the top and bottom of the phone's case. One of the benefits of using the same design for three years running means that Apple knows the tolerances of the case extremely well. Knowing the case so well provides two different benefits. The first is that Apple is able to squeeze every millimeter out of the design and provide the best device possible. The second benefit for using the same design for a third year running is that for its 10th anniversary, the next iPhone can have a radical and entirely new design; which is rumored to be the case for next year's iPhone. One of the things that Apple ended up removing from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus is the headphone jack.
Headphone Jack and Lightning to 3.5mm
One of the items removed from the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus is the 3.5mm audio jack. The reason it was removed is two fold. The first is that one of the that Apple is able to make the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus water resistant, to some extent, by removing the headphone jack. The second The second reason is that Apple believes that the future for audio is wireless, and this is the first step to the future.
[caption id="attachment_51336" align="align none" ] Lightning to 3.5mm headphone adapter[/caption]
The Lightning to 3.5mm adapter fulfills its purpose and provides a way to connect existing 3.5mm headphones to the iPhone 7 Plus. The adapter requires iOS 10, and will not work on iOS 9 nor any other devices with previous versions of iOS. On iOS 9, you will get the following dialog:
However, On iOS 8, you will get no notification at all. No indication that there is even something plugged into the Lightning adapter. After using the lightning to 3.5mm adapter on my old EarPods, I attempted to plug in the lightning to 3.5mm adapter into my iPod touch running iOS 8, and briefly wondered why I did not hear anything coming out of the headphones. Hence, using the lightning headphones, or the lightning to 3.5mm adapter quickly becomes habit.
You can use the Lightning to 3.5mm adapter on any iOS device running iOS 10 that has a headphone adapter. If you attempt to plug in both types of headphones, they will switch between them with the one that was plugged in last being the one that takes over.
One of the side benefits of removing the headphone jack is that there should now be less interference since everything in the phone is digital. While the technology that I own may be advanced, my car, is not. My car is old enough to the point where there is not even an auxiliary jack to plug in a 3.5mm adapter. Instead, I have to rely on an FM transmitter to be able to play anything over my speakers. One of the things that I have noticed is that there has been a significant reduction in interference, as in I have not heard any. This was not the case at all with the iPhone 6s Plus.
The only downside to having the headphone jack removed is when you need to charge and still want to be able to listen at the same time. This has actually occurred a couple of times in the short while that I have had the phone. I am not opposed to dongles, and would really have liked to have seen Apple come out with a dongle that is capable of charging and listening at the same time. It likely would not be a cheap dongle, but for those of us who could use it, it would be very helpful. Belkin has filled the gap and the Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar dongle is available for pre-order.
Overall the removal of the headphone jack may annoy some, but it is not been a big issue for me, excluding the desire to charge and listen at the same time. The removal of the headphone jack is not the only change that has been made, that relates to audio.
Even though the iPhone has always included a set of headphones in the box, there are times that the use of headphones is not always convenient. Often during these times we end up resorting to use the built-in speakers with the iPhone. This could be so we can listen to music with others, or for any other myriad of reasons. The sappers in the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus have bene doubled. There is now a second speaker near the ear piece. The dual speakers do make the sound much better, since it is now stereo. Apple states that the new speakers make it twice as loud. Even if it is not twice as loud, it is still much louder than just having one speaker.
While the bottom speaker outputs both high and low levels of audio, the bottom speaker tends to output more of the tones at the lower range of the auditory spectrum, while the top speaker puts out more of the high-end. It is possible that this is entirely due to the capabilities of each speaker cavity. There is more space at the bottom of the phone that could account for this differentiation. One way to test the difference is to cover up the bottom speaker and listen to something just out of the top speaker, and perform the same test with the top speaker covered and only exposing the bottom speaker.
Even though both speakers are at different angles, the sound that emanates from them is pretty good. It is no where near as loud as the iPad Pro, but it is most definitely a vast improvement over previous iPhones. The changes in audio are not the only changes with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. There have been some changes around the cameras as well.
[caption id="attachment_51340" align="alignleft" ] iPhone 7 Plus Dual Camera[/caption]
The Camera is one of the biggest selling points to any iPhone. Since the introduction of the first 5.5-inch phone in 2014 with the iPhone 6 Plus, the Plus camera has always had a single feature that differentiated it from the non-plus sized model. That feature has been Optical Image Stabilization. Optical Image Stabilization has allowed 6 Plus and 6s Plus owners to have slightly less blurry photos by providing a way to stabilize photos. The 4.7-inch iPhone 7 now has optical image stabilization as well as the iPhone 7 Plus. Here are a couple of examples of some photos. These are either the iPhone 7 Plus or the iPhone 6s Plus and will be labeled as to which camera they was used to shoot the photo.
The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus have a whole new camera. Instead of the previous five-lens camera, it now includes a brand new six-lens camera that has a ƒ/1.8 aperture. This is a wide-angle lens. The ƒ/1.8 is an improvement from the ƒ/2.2 aperture that was present in the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. The iPhone 7 Plus still has a slightly better camera setup, one that includes an entire second camera.
The second camera on the iPhone 7 Plus has a 56mm telephoto lens that provides a feature not seen on an iPhone, optical zoom. The optical zoom allows a user to zoom to 2x. The 2x zoom, being an optical zoom, allows for close up photographs of anything. The second camera has a special mode that is designed just for it. Before we dive into the effect that requires the second camera, here are some examples of photos that have been taken with the digital zoom. These are alongside the non-zoomed pictures.
[caption id="attachment_51319" align="alignleft" ] iPod Touch 6th Generation[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_51316" align="alignleft" ] iPhone 5[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_51317" align="alignleft" ] iPhone 6s Plus[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_51318" align="alignleft" ] iPhone 7 Plus[/caption]
During my testing, the iOS 10.1 beta was released. This update included the Depth, or Bokeh, effect feature that was announced during the September event, but was not available for the iOS 10 release. This effect will use the 56mm telephoto lens to take a picture and provide blurring of the background. This is similar to what many SLR cameras are capable of doing. This effect does produce some very intriguing and fun photos. The effect is intended to be used for portraits and is designed to look for faces, however the feature is also capable of being used on other objects as well.
To be able to get the Depth Effect, there are a few parameters that are needed. The first is that the subject in the picture needs to be within eight feet of the camera. During my testing, I attempted to get a picture of a squirrel, but I could not get close enough to be able to take a picture of said squirrel, due to it being more than eight feet away.
As of this writing, the depth effect is still in beta. Below are four pictures. Two with depth effect, and two without. Not to toot my own horn, but the ones without the depth effect are probably some of the best pictures I have ever taken with a camera, and I am definitely no photographer. Below are some examples of photos with and without the depth effect. If you click on any of the images, it should open up to the full size.
[caption id="attachment_51305" align="alignleft" ] Example 01 without depth effect[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_51306" align="alignleft" ] Example 01 with depth effect[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_51307" align="alignleft" ] Example 02 without depth effect[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_51308" align="alignleft" ] Example 02 with the depth effect[/caption]
As you can see from the pictures with the depth effect, there are still some issues. For example, the leaves along the left side are blurred, when in reality they should not be. For these photos, the depth effect is not really needed, so if I do end up using these images somewhere, I will not likely use the feature all that often.
It is likely that Apple will fix some of these issues before the effect is no longer beta. One way that Apple could, in theory, allow enhancements to information later is to provide an option to save the raw image files along with the depth information, and then provide an option to create a new version of the files with any updated algorithm applied. I do not know if this is actually possible, but if it is, it could go a long way to providing even better pictures later on.
One of the actions that Apple did not really anticipate was that people would want to take selfies. Because of this, the FaceTime camera was available until the iPhone 3GS. But this camera was only a VGA quality camera. There was a minor bump with the iPhone 5, to 1.2 megapixels, The camera on the iPhone 5s and even the iPhone 6 only saw very slight improvements. However, Apple got serious with the iPhone 6s and included a huge improvement to a 5 megapixel camera. The camera in the iPhone 7 and 7 plus is even better. The new FaceTime HD camera is a 7 megapixel camera that takes even bette pictures than before. The FaceTime HD camera has the same a ƒ/2.2 aperture as it had before.
One of the new features that was introduced in late 2015 was the 27-inch iMac that supported the DCI-P3 color gamut. The DCI-P3 color gamut allows for even richer colors than were previously available. At Apple's World Wide Developer Conference keynote, Apple announced that iOS 10 would support this wide color gamut. This would be in preparation for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. These both support the Wide Color Gamut. The downside to this is that the only devices that have the wide color gamut, for now, are the 21.5-inch iMac, the 27-inch iMac, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the iPhone 7, and the iPhone 7 Plus. Over time this will change, but fight now, it is a limited set of devices that are able to display the wider color range.
[caption id="attachment_51332" align="alignleft" ] Color example for iPhone 6s Plus[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_51333" align="alignleft" ] Color example iPhone 7 Plus[/caption]
If you do not have a device that is able to see the wider color gamut, many pictures that have been taken on an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus will appear to be more saturated than other pictures.
One of the changes made to enable the water resistance nature of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus has been the new home button. The new home button is not a traditional button. It does not actually physically depress like previous iPhone home buttons did. Instead, there is a haptic feedback engine behind the home button that simulates the feel of a button press. More on the haptic engine in a bit.
With the home button not being a physical button there is a slight change. With the new home button, the Touch ID sensor to detect that a finger is present. What this means is that your finger must be covering a bit more of the home button for it to function. This is in contrast to previous iOS devices where you could press down on a sliver of the button and it would work. It is a minor change, but one that any iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus owner should be aware of.
This engine is similar to the one that is present in the MacBook, MacBook Pro, and the Magic Trackpad 2. None of these devices actually has a physical button, and they all simulate the experience of a button press.
With the new haptic feedback mechanism, you are able to select how intense the feedback is. When you set up an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus, you will be given three options. Apple labels these as one, two, and three. However, they are better described as light, medium, and heavy intensities. You can select which intensity setting is best for you. Personally, I chose the most intense. No matter which setting you choose, this is what you will feel when you press the home button.
One of the side benefits of the haptic engine is that developers are now able o incorporate a number of different vibrations into their applications. There are a total of 7 in all. Three notification indicators, Success, Warning, and Error; three "impact" intensities, light, medium, and heavy. The last vibration is a "default" vibration. The "default" vibration is a very slight, single vibration.
The addition of the haptic engine will not only allow better notifications, but will also allow developers to be able to provide even richer experiences for their users, by incorporating feedback within their applications. This could be quite useful for game developers. I am hoping that many game developers add haptic feedback to their games.
Apple has incorporated the vibration in a myriad of ways. For instance, when you tap on a toggle switch, it will vibrate. Similarly, when you pull to refresh, the phone will vibrate as well. Another example is within the keyboard. When you are using the keyboard, if you hold down on numerous keys, a popup for alternatives to the characters will appear, and these will have a very faint haptic feedback effect. All of these are system-wide and provided without a developer needing to do any work.
There are some examples within Apple's own applications, outside of the system-wide . For instance, within the music application, if you bring up the list of songs or artists, you will see the quick jump along the right side. If you move your finger up and down this list you will get some haptic feedback.
While this may be the limit of what Apple has implemented, there are a lot more ways that developers can integrate the new haptic engine into their applications.
When you are spending multi hundreds of dollars on a device, you want to be able to protect it. The basic way that most protect their device is with a case. Apple sells two of its own cases, the Silicon case, and the leather case. I have always opted for the silicon case and I did this time as well. Even the silicon case has changed a bit. Apple has included a suede or felt interior of the silicon case for the last few years. The case for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus seems to have a bit more lining on the interior. Given how susceptible the Jet Black Jet Black iPhone is to scratching, this is probably a decision specifically for that model more than any other. Even so, it will be a nice addition for all iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models, even if they protect just a little bit more than before.
[caption id="attachment_51335" align="alignleft" ] iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone 7 Plus cases[/caption]
The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus provide a great upgrade for those who wish to upgrade their iPhone. If you have an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6s, the iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus may not seem like a huge upgrade, however with the new A10 Fusion processor, the speed increase will be extremely noticeable. The removal of the headphone jack has been a boon for being able to make the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus water resistant and dust resistant. The new dual cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus will be a boon for those who do not always want to carry, or those who do not know, a stand alone digital camera. If you own an iPhone 5s, or any prior phone, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are tremendous upgrades that will make your iPhone owning experience significantly better.