Apple unveiled the iPhone 7 yesterday. What's come to pass since last year's flagship, the iPhone 6s? While many specs are identical, there are a few standout upgrades and at least one divisive change.
No updates in this department. This year's iPhones are the exact same dimensions as those unveiled at last year's September event.
Despite being the same size, the new iPhone 7 is a hair lighter than last year's flagship. The five grams Apple shaved off means it's nearly 4 percent lighter, but to keep things in perspective, that's about the weight of two US pennies.
iPhone 7 has the same aluminum body we're used to seeing from Apple. This time, there's a more cohesive unibody structure, making the camera and internally housed antenna less visible (the antenna lines are only around the edges now, as opposed to stretching across).
Gone is the long-standing "space gray" color, replaced by two new blacks. Jet black is glossy, while plain black is matte. Trendy silver, gold and rose gold options are sticking around.
Display size is another holdover from last year. Android manufacturers consistently fit larger screens onto similarly sized phones, but that doesn't seem to be a priority for Apple. For reference, the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge have 5.1-inch and 5.5-inch screens, respectively.
Apple stays loyal to IPS technology over AMOLED, but the iPhone 7 is said to have a wider color gamut and 25 percent brighter display.
When it comes to resolution, we have another instance of identical specs.
3D touch (pressure sensitive display)
This feature – which creates shortcuts depending on how long and hard you press the screen – first made its appearance in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Despite it being left off the budget-minded iPhone SE earlier this year, it returns again to the iPhone 7. Apple has said that its newest iOS will make 3D touch more powerful.
At the launch event, Apple said that the iPhone 7, on average, should last two hours longer per charge than the iPhone 6S. But in typical Apple fashion, they have not published an exact mAh spec. We'll figure that out once we get our hands on one.
It's true – Apple's bid goodbye to the designated headphone jack. Instead, headphones plug into the same Lightning port as the charger. Before you bemoan a loss of compatibility, know that a pair of Lightning port earbuds and an analog-to-Lightning adapter are both included with the iPhone 7. Apple is also trying to make wireless headphones happen: AirPods become available in October, for an additional US$159.
The megapixel wars are over for the most part, but we're still seeing worthwhile gains in front-facing cameras.
Consistent with what we've seen from other manufacturers, Apple has installed a larger aperture lens in its rear-facing cameras. The larger aperture lets in more light, and allows for better low-light photography and shallower depths of field.
Optical image stabilization
This photography boost, which is new to the 4.7-inch model this year, is incredibly common in recent Android flagships. Optical image stabilization helps keep your photos blur-free, even with long exposure times and unsteady hands.
Apple also updated its flash, another boon to low-light photography. It doubled its amount of LEDs, and added flicker detection to correct anomalies in artificial light.
IP67 water resistance is a welcome addition to the new iPhone. This rating means the phones are protected from immersion less than one meter deep. It falls short of the IP68 rating on the Galaxy S7 series, but it's enough to give iPhone users a brand new peace of mind.
The fingerprint sensor stays, and it's still intuitively placed on the home button.
Capacitive home button
The characteristic iPhone home button has been updated in the iPhone 7. The button now has vibrational haptic feedback, similar to the Force Touch in the trackpads of newer MacBooks, though it will be interesting to see how that technology plays out on a much-smaller phone button.
There were conflicting rumors that iPhone 7 would have either more RAM or the same amount as the 6s, but Apple stayed silent on that point at the launch event. A seemingly paltry 2 GB is about half of what is commonly found in Android phones at similar price points, but thanks to iOS efficiency, we don't expect lack of RAM to be an issue, even if the amount does remain stagnant.
This year's iPhone flagships are the first to include quad core processors. We don't have an exact speed measurement yet, but since the iPhone experience was already pretty snappy, there's no reason to doubt the iPhone 7's processing power.
Doubled internal storage could prompt sighs of relief from iPhone devotees, though it also may raise a new dilemma: Upgrade iCloud accordingly to accommodate larger backups, or do some other type of file wrangling? Note also that the glossy jet black version is only available in the two larger sizes.
The asterisks, by the way, denote older storage configurations for the 6s, which will be phased out as Apple moves to its new tiers.
Apple Pay support shows no sign of slowing down. It's being offered in more devices and is accepted by an increasing amount of merchants.
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were revealed yesterday; the iPhone 6s is now a year old.
Starting price (full retail)
If you're disappointed that Apple didn't make more sweeping upgrades, be consoled by the fact that the price didn't get an upgrade, either. The new model starts at the same $649 that the 6s launched at a year ago. With the iPhone 7's arrival, the 6s got the token one-Benjamin price drop.
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