SAN FRANCISCO — Rarely have there been such modest expectations leading into an iPhone launch. All we’ve heard lately is how Apple has misplaced its mojo and how the entire smartphone industry has been languishing in an innovation glut.
Apple found that mojo. No, the company didn’t go gaga with a ton of new features on the $649 (on up) iPhone 7 and $769 iPhone 7 Plus that Tim Cook unveiled at San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium Wednesday here, and that hit stores a week from Friday.
What Apple has done however is provide a lot of stuff that is sure to please the faithful.
Start with the fact that Apple, at long last, has made iPhones that are water and dust resistant. Yes, Samsung (and others) got there first. But better late than never still translate into “better.”
We'll all appreciate the longer battery life that Apple promises--if true, iPhone 7 gets two extra hours of juice compared to the iPhone 6s. Same goes for double the storage capacities (32GB is the new entry point), plus phones that are likely to be snappier, what with a new A10 Fusion chip that company executive Phil Schiller has likened to a “rocket ship.” The graphics have also been bolstered. The home button is more versatile.
Most of the Apple love though went to the cameras on iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, the latter of which gets not one, but two rear cameras that will let you easily switch from a wide angle shot to a telephoto.
Both phones get a larger f/1.8 aperture that should improve low light photography. There’s optical image stabilization, a wider color gamut and other camera features that have me excited to start shooting some pictures with the latest handsets.
Now let me get to the biggest bummer of the whole event. As had been widely rumored, Apple indeed removed the standard headphone jack from the iPhone 7s that has been on every iPhone to date, and virtually every other modern cell phone that is out there.
Apple has done this sort of thing before, acting, before others do, on getting rid of stuff we’ve been seemingly using forever. Remember for example how we all went nuts when Apple removed optical drives from Mac computers? Few of us miss them now.
Still the removal of the standard headphone jack is one of those things sure to pique users.
Apple is supplying for free new EarBuds that connect to the phone’s Lightning connector, which for Apple anyway, becomes the new standard for headphones. An adapter will also be included at no charge that will let you plug in your older headphones. Such adapters tend to be clumsy to use however so we’ll have to see.
By making this move, Apple is also pushing the use of wireless headphones of course.The company unveiled new wireless AirPods that are apparently easy to setup and charge. Most importantly, if Apple is to be believed, they sound swell too.
I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve put them in my own ears when I can also judge how comfortable they feel. You charge them their case (which in turn connects to the Lightning port). Battery life for the wireless AirPods are s a mere 5 hours, which doesn’t strike me as great. Nor is the price at $159. If you’re listening without headphones or EarBuds, the phones now have stereo speakers that promise improved audio.
One other key thing to keep in mind is that the new iPhones will run iOS 10, the next version of the mobile operating system that adds Siri improvements, fancy tricks to the Messages app, and voicemail transcription, among other new features. I’ve been running the iOS 10 beta most of the summer and like the software a lot.
Those of you not inclined to buy either new iPhone can upgrade your existing devices to iOS 10 starting Sept. 13.
On balance, the new iPhone doesn’t appear to have broken new ground and in removing the standard headphone port not every user will be pleased. But whenever Apple introduces a new iPhone it makes the identical claim: that this latest device (or devices) is better than the ones that preceded it. That's what we all have come to expect that's what I expect of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.
I’ll have more to say once I’ve had a chance to review the new phones.