iPhone 7 and AirPods

7 minute read

So Apple’s special event has come and gone and I’d like to talk about two things in this post, the iPhone 7 and Apple’s first attempt at entering the wireless world with their new product, AirPods.

iPhone and iPhone 7 Plus

We’ll start with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. I am impressed, I have to say. I wasn’t expecting so many new features. Phil Schiller addressed 10 new features during the keynote.

The design looks very familiar to that of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus but there are two (or three) major differences. Firstly, the only antenna bands that remain are the ones at the very top and very bottom, this makes the back of the phone look very clean. The other two differences, are, well, two brand new phone colours, Jet Black and Black (both the official marketing names for them). The Jet Black has a mirrored finish and looks stunning while the Black has a matte finish and also looks fantastic. The Black replaces Space Grey in the lineup. Apple themselves have said that the Jet Black will be prone to “micro-abrasions” and they recommend you purchase a case to protect the phone. On both of the black models, the antenna lines are very difficult to see making these phones, in my opinion, the best choice in terms of design. The Silver, Gold and Rose Gold still have white antenna lines.

Next, the Home button. The rumours were correct, it’s no longer a “button” as such. It’s now pressure sensitive just like the Trackpad on the Mac. It’s now even more reliable (due to the fact there are no moving parts so repairs will be a thing of the past) and customisable (by customisable I mean you’ll be able to set the resistance of how hard you need to press, like you can with 3D Touch in Settings). It also helped towards making the phone water-resistant which I talk about in the next section. If it was the same Home button, a water-resistant phone wouldn’t be possible.

The enclosures of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are now water and dust resistant and have a rating of IP67 (IP stands for International Protection and the first digit represents the solid particle protection while the second digit represents liquid ingress protection). So, that means the phone is dust tight and you’ll be able to submerge (if you really wanted to) your phone in 1m of water for 30 minutes and it’ll be fine. What Apple suggest you don’t do is go scuba diving or water skiing with it as it’s the high pressure of water that can do the damage.

The cameras were next and for this section (as the cameras are different on each model) I will talk through the iPhone 7 camera first followed by the camera on the Plus model. The camera in the iPhone 7 still has 12-megapixels but now has Optical Image Stabilisation which wasn’t available on the iPhone 6s. There’s also a wider aperture which comes in at f/1.8 (the iPhone 6s has f/2.2) and allows 50% more light in which results in better low-light photos. The lens itself now has six elements as opposed to five in the iPhone 6s. The True Tone flash has been upgraded, there are now four LED’s which are 50% brighter than the two you got in the iPhone 6s. One thing we weren’t expecting was an upgrade to the front-facing camera but that’s what we got. It’s been upgraded from 5-megapixels to 7-megapixels and now records at 1080p as opposed to 720p on the iPhone 6s.

Next the camera (or cameras should I say) on the Plus model. It has two 12-megapixel cameras. One of them is exactly the same as the camera in the iPhone 7 (a wide-angle 28mm lens) but it also has a telephoto 56mm lens. This means you get optical zoom up to 2x and digital zoom (using software) up to 10x. Finally, the camera will be able to capture bokeh but it won’t be available when the phone ships, it’ll be added via a software update later this year. I have something to say about this. The fact it’s not yet available is a little disappointing, they’ve had one year to work on this and Phil himself didn’t even give us a set month, he just said it’ll be “a free software update coming later this year”. Anyway, having that feature will be great as the example photos that were shown looked stunning.

Note: The telephoto lens in the Plus model doesn’t have OIS, just the wide-angle lens.

The Retina HD displays have also been improved, they are the same resolutions as the 6s and 6s Plus but now have Wide color gamut (which is cinema standard) and a 25% brighter backlight which hopefully means it’ll be easier to see outside. I’ve never had an issue inside and in fact, never have it above halfway in the Settings.

The iPhone now has true stereo speakers, one at the bottom of the phone and another in the receiver at the top of the phone. They are also 2x louder. You’ll find a second speaker grille at the bottom of both phones but that simply acts as a amplifier.

Next they talked about wireless. They are shipping Lightning EarPods (as, surprisingly, the iPhone 7 doesn’t come with a 3.5mm headphone jack) and also unveiled their brand new AirPods (which I talk about below). Apple will be shipping a Lightning-3.5mm Headphone Jack adapter in the box for those who still want to use headphones that have a 3.5mm headphone jack. You can also buy an adapter for £9 which is a very good price (it’s probably the cheapest piece of hardware you can buy from Apple). Again, I have something to say about this. If Apple were pushing for a true wireless experience, why didn’t they ship the iPhone 7 with AirPods? I appreciate they aren’t ready (AirPods ship in late October) but they could’ve either shipped them for free when they did come out or give people who purchased the iPhone 7 a hefty discount. Look at the iMac, that ships with a wireless mouse and keyboard, why couldn’t they do the same with the iPhone? I guess we are going through a phase, give people a choice this year (wired or wireless) but next year (when it’s rumoured we’ll see the biggest design change the iPhone has ever seen) get rid of the EarPods and ship nothing but AirPods.

In Japan, they use a different method of NFC and Apple haven’t supported it, until now. iPhone’s in Japan will be FeliCa enabled so they can work with Apple Pay. Big news for people who live in Japan. If you buy an iPhone in the US for example and travel to Japan, it won’t work. Only iPhone’s that are shipped to Japan will work with FeliCa.

Finally, they talked about performance. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus now include an A10 Fusion chip. The A10 Fusion is a four-core CPU which includes two high-performance cores (which are 40% faster at processing than the A9 chip) for all the demanding tasks and two high-efficiency cores which run at 1/5 of the power of the high-performance cores and are used for less demanding tasks which will result in longer battery life as the phone itself doesn’t need to do as much work. The GPU (which has six-cores) is 50% faster than the A9 chip. Thanks to the A10 Fusion, you’ll get the best battery life iPhone has ever offered. On the 7, you’ll get up to two hours more battery life and on the 7 Plus (which had great battery anyway) you’ll get an extra hour of battery life (both compared to the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus). I have to say, Apple’s chip architecture is phenomenal and it’s all because everything is done in-house. Apple make the hardware and they make the software which means everything works together exceptionally well.

So, they are the 10 new features that the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will offer. I am very excited to get my hands on one and you can expect my review on the iPhone 7 in two weeks or so.

Just because a phone looks the same, doesn’t mean it’s the same phone. Specs aren’t everything, Apple have casually added a 14% bigger battery with an outstanding camera, made it water-resistant, included a second-generation Taptic Engine while retaining the same dimensions.. Apple were ahead of everyone else and now it’s looking like they’re almost impossible to catch. Other companies have to sprint while Apple are talking a causal walk on a Sunday.

AirPods

I have genuinely never been more excited for a product (apart from the iPhone) as the AirPods. It’s Apple’s first real attempt at true wireless earbuds that have no wires at all. They look the same as EarPods expect they have no wires! The AirPods last up to five hours on a single charge (which isn’t great but then again, when do you listen to music for five hours straight?) and they come with a charging case which has 24 hours of battery life. I’m unsure how long it takes to fully charge them but you can charge the AirPods for 15 minutes which will give you three hours of battery life. That’s very fast charging!!

Apple have engineered their own custom W1 chip which simplifies the user experience. You simply pop open the case and a dialog will appear on your iPhone, hit the button and you’re all connected, you’ll never need to connect or disconnect again. Also, once they’re connected to your iPhone, they’ll automatically connect, via iCloud, to Apple Watch and Mac (as long as they’re running watchOS 3 and macOS Sierra). That’s a fantastic feature. You can stop playing music on your iPhone, start playing music on your Mac and AirPods will switch between the devices and it does it all in seconds.

The AirPods have all kinds of sensors inside them. They are very clever too. If you take them out of your ears, the music will stop and they’ll turn off automatically to save battery life. If you want, you can leave one AirPod in and it’ll still play music (it can also be used as a Bluetooth headset). You can also double-tap one of the AirPods to enable Siri or to play/pause music, this can be changed in the Bluetooth settings. Unfortunately there are no physical buttons on them so if you want to change the song or adjust the volume you’ll need to ask Siri or use your watch or phone. On a side-note, these are only available in white, I wish they came in black so they’d match the new iPhone colours.

They aren’t yet available as they ship late October but they’ll be a day-one purchase for me. I can’t wait to get a pair. Some people might not like the look of them but once they get over the design, I think the AirPods will be very successful, thanks to, as always, the user experience.