Thursday, September 8, 2016

Apple presents the new iPhone 7

Apple has unveiled the new iPhone 7, and it basically confirms what the rumors from the previous weeks had already anticipated: mainly, the dual camera setup on the iPhone 7 Plus, the lack of the headphone jack, and a solid-state home button.

This year's iPhone has the difficult task of carrying the iPhone with the same basic design of the previous two generations, but it seems Apple was able to do it quite nicely, once again improving just enough to make fans want one (although without any big revolutionary changes).

For starters, Apple seems to have convinced Nintendo to finally jump into the app bandwagon (something it should have done a long time ago). We'll get a Super Mario Run game, which although is a toned-down, single tap, gaming experience, will hopefully be just the start of a new Nintendo era. (I wouldn't be surprised if 4 or 5 years from now, Nintendo would become just a software company.)

As for the iPhone 7...

The iPhone 7 design is similar to the iPhone 6/6S, but it now get's rid of the ugly antenna lines in the back, now better disguised in the edges. We also get two new black versions: a matte black and a shiny Jet Black that looks really amazing (but beware as Apple warns it may scratch rather easily, and recommends using a protective case.)

The home button loses it clicks, and is replaced with a solid state pressure sensitive Touch ID button that uses the taptic engine to simulate the "click". It will certainly require some getting used to, but is a stepping stone for future iPhone to lose it all together and have a single pane of glass on the front (maybe even with the Touch ID sensor hidden behind the screen).

Using the iPhone 7 in the rain will not be a problem. The iPhone 6S was already waterproof (though not officially presented as such) and the iPhone 7 simply oficializes it with an IP67 rating.

The cameras have always been one of Apple's key points on the iPhone, and the iPhone 7 uses a new 12MP sensor with improved low light capabilities and optical image stabilization (and f/1.8 lens). It also has a powerful image processing sensor that promises to make the most out of each and every photo taken (with up to 100 billion operations done in just 25ms). On the front we get an improved 7MP camera as well.

But... as cameras goes, the iPhone 7 Plus tops it all with a new dual camera setup, where one sensor get a telephone lens and the other get a wide-angle lens.

What this means is that users can now have an optical 2X zoom, that can go up to 10x of digital zoom. (It remains to be seen if Apple is using some sort of super-resolution using pixel data from both cameras to get a high quality zoom.)

In a future update, this setup will also be able to simulate shallow depth of field images - which Apple announces as a "breakthrough", apparently forgetting other brands have already dual-camera smartphones on the market doing the same (ok, Apple promises it will be able to do this in realtime, even while previewing the image, which I think no one is yet doing.)

The iPhone 7/7 Plus screen is also brighter and has a wide color gamut. Which will have to do till we get an AMOLED screen (next year?)

As for sound, after 8 years, the iPhone finally gets stereo sound, using the earpiece as speaker - and with twice the volume of the iPhone 6S. If you were annoyed by people listening to music out loud in their iPhones 6/6S just wait till you head the iPhone 7 blaring away.

And, speaking of music... the headphone jack is gone. The iPhone 7 comes with lightning EarPods (they fail to mention how they expect people to charge their iPhones while using the EarPods). But, while taking the time to (try and) explain why they ditched the audio jack, at the same time they include a lightning to audio jack adapter. So... not all is lost, though it means you'll have yet another adapter to lug around (and we'll have to see if it allows the use of accessories like the Square card reader and others).

For Apple, the future of audio listening is wireless, and hence... the AirPods.

The AirPods are wireless earbuds that use a brand new Apple W1 chip, and have sensors, microphones, and accelerometers. They're also unavailable at launch, and will cost $159 when they become available.

The carrying case also acts as a portable charger, but that means yet another thing you'll have to carry around.

Some nice features: its pairing process it simply "open up the case and go", with none of those pairing codes we're used to with regular bluetooth devices. Also, should you ever lose one (or both), it seems Apple has implemented a crowdsourced "find my AirPods" function, meaning you'll be notified should any iPhone come in range of your lost AirPods.

A new iPhone wouldn't be new if it didn't have a faster CPU, and the iPhone isn't the exception. It uses Apple's A10 quad-core CPU, 40% faster than the A9 used in the iPhone 6S and 100% faster than the A8. It's 120x faster than the original iPhone; and the GPU also gets a speed bump, being more powerful than ever and providing "console-quality games". Thankfully it can also be put to use in non-gaming apps, such as image processing and others...

It's also good to know that all this power doesn't mean you'll have to carry a power bank with you. The iPhone 7 has the longest ever battery life, 2h longer than the iPhone 6S. You should be able to browse for up to 14/15 hours using WiFi.

And last but not least, Apple finally let's go of the lowly 16GB versions and doubles storage across the line. We now have 32, 128 and 256GB at the previous price points, which is a really nice touch after all the time we had to endure the 16GB iPhones.

The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus will still be available in the 32 and 128GB versions, and the iPhone SE in the 16 and 64GB versions.

The iPhone 7 arrives on September 16th with prices starting at $649 and $769 (iPhone 7 Plus), and the new iOS 10 becomes available on September 13th. The AirPods arrive in October for $159.

[photos via The Verge]

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