New iPhone 7 and 7 Plus stay on course, substantiate rumors
Today, Apple ended this year's rumor mill with the unveiling of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The new iPhones have increased built-in storage, improved cameras and are water resistant and headphone jack-free. Pre-orders start on September 9; shipping begins on September 16. Paired with the release is the iOS 10 operating system, scheduled to go live on September 13.
Since all iOS devices will share the new operating system, let's start with the new software unveiled at WWDC in June. iOS 10 promises better integration between apps: You'll be able to prompt Siri and Maps to operate third-party apps like Lyft. iOS 10 will also introduce an updated Apple Homekit app, which wants to make your iPhone the premier controller for the "internet of things," and appears to have made significant compatibility headway with many manufacturers of smart home accessories.
Presenters at the Apple event also told us to expect more messaging features. As a boon to productivity, it will become possible to send content from other apps without leaving Messages. On a more fanciful note, you will no longer be restricted to flourishing your messages with only emojis and photos – you will be able to include fullscreen decorations, animations and stickers as well.
Both the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will sport a unibody build with internally housed antenna and camera, along with a new second speaker for stereo audio and twice the volume. Both phone models are available in jet black (glossy), black (matte), gold, silver and rose gold. Their built-in storage capacity is finally catching up to the amount commonly found in Android phones, with 32 GB, 128 GB and 256 GB capacities, though jet black phones are only available in the 128 and 256 GB sizes.
The new iPhones are also IP67 water and dust resistant. This means that it is protected from immersion between 15 cm and 1 m in depth. This is less than the IP68 rating of the newest Samsung Galaxy flagships, but it's still welcome news for anyone that's lost an expensive phone to an accidental dip.
So long, headphone jack
As rumored, the new iPhones no longer sport an analog headphone jack. But they do come packaged with Lightning-port wired EarPods and a Lightning-to-analog adapter, so there's no need to replace or update expensive older headphones.
For an additional US$159, you can also buy the newly unveiled AirPods (to be released in late October), which communicate wirelessly with Apple products running iOS 10 via Apple's proprietary W1 chip. AirPods have infrared sensors to detect when they're in your ear, so they don't play needlessly. They also have an integrated microphone, so you can make calls or talk to Siri without removing them. Apple promises skip-free play and high-quality sound, but that will be better tested than read about.
Camera & display
The rear-facing camera on both the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus has optical image stabilization (appearing in the smaller model for the first time), an f/1.8 aperture lens for letting in more light, a 50-percent faster and 30-percent more energy efficient 12 megapixel sensor and a quad-LED flash with a flicker sensor. It can also capture RAW .dmg photos for the first time, so DSLR-type editing is made possible. The front facing camera has a 7 MP sensor with optical image stabilization for clearer selfies.
The main difference between the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus seem to be in the camera: iPhone 7 Plus has a dual lens camera. One lens is the common wide-angle lens, and the second is a telephoto lens. This translates into dramatic improvement in zoom quality. Whereas most smartphone cameras until this point had only digital zoom – which is basically just photo cropping – the telephoto lens adds optical zoom as well.
The iPhone 7 Plus camera also introduces a new Portrait mode, which adds bokeh (blurriness) to the background of the photo. The resulting shallow depth of field helps create emphasis within images; Apple likens it to the kind of effects typically only possible in DSLR lenses.
By extension, the "Retina HD display" (which still have the same respective pixel counts from the past two generations) on both phones is 25 percent brighter, with a wider color gamut for brighter and more saturated color.
Battery & processor
Apple says the new iPhones will offer, on average, two hours more battery life per charge than the iPhone 6S. It also says the new A10 Fusion chip is powerful enough to offer console-level gaming, though we aren't aware of anyone that chooses an iPhone based on its gaming power.
When all is said and done, this year's flagships seem on target with rumors. These are worthy upgrades, especially at more or less the same price point, but it looks like we'll be waiting until next year for a more dramatic overhaul. As far as OS X and MacBook announcements go, we're still in the dark.