My Thoughts On The iPhone 7
by David Nason, October 2016
Perhaps against my better judgement, in September 2016 I chose to pre-order an iPhone 7. Already owning an iPhone 6S, the 2015 model, I would struggle to convince anybody that I really needed an upgrade, but the fact is I liked the look of the new one and I really do love to have the latest and greatest tech, especially when talking about the phone in my pocket.
I was once on the "S cycle", that is to say I upgraded every two years, my first three iPhones being the 3GS, 4S and 5S. In 2014 however, I liked the idea of a larger screen, and went all out in going for the 5.5 inch iPhone 6 Plus. Frankly I wasn't a fan, I tried to like it, I tried to convince myself that I would get used to it, but ultimately I just found the size of the physical device too big and unwieldy, I simply had to upgrade yet again in 2015 and downsize to the 4.7 inch iPhone 6S. At this stage I was no longer taking out two year contracts, instead buying full price from Apple and selling last year's model, and so free to upgrade if and when I want.
Having said that, I was very happy with my 6S and far from convinced that I would upgrade again in 2016, especially with all the rumours that the iPhone 7 would not be a significant upgrade. When it came though, I couldn't resist. I loved the look of the new jet black finish, was intrigued by the new haptic feedback engine, and my contract-free approach meant is it is easy enough for me to upgrade.
I chose the 128gb 4.7 inch iPhone 7 in jet black. Historically I've always gone with 64gb and found it to be just right, so with the new options of 32gb, 128gb or 256gb this year, 128gb was the obvious choice for me. I liked my white and silver iPhone 5S, but in general I've always stuck with the black colour option. Some of the other colours look great, and I'm not crazy about the increasingly faded space grey backplate colour, but I prefer the black faceplate to the white one. I was delighted then to see the new black and jet black options for the iPhone 7, and wasted no time in deciding which one was for me. I wasn't disappointed. The shiny jet black finish is absolutely gorgeous. It looks and feels great. Also as someone who chooses not to put a case on my phone (it's far too pretty to be covering up), I appreciate that it's a lot less slippy than it's predecessor, which resembled a bar of soap!
One rather interesting feature of the new iPhone is the haptic feedback engine, and the non-mechanical home button that comes with it. It doesn't feel quite the same as pressing the old real home button, but it definitely does trick my brain into feeling like I'm pressing in. I quickly got used to it and actually quite like it. It's one less thing that is likely to break in the phone which is a bonus, and the haptic engine is nice in other areas of iOS too, such as when scrolling through options in a picker menu, it almost feels like you are using a real click wheel. This isn't enough to have me tell you to run out and immediately buy an iPhone 7 by any means, but it's an interesting development and I look forward to seeing where Apple takes it next, perhaps no home button at all on the iPhone 8???
Ok ok, get to the headphone port already I hear you say. My thoughts on this all along were that I can see where Apple is coming from in dropping an old analogue technology who's functionality can be replicated in the lightning port anyway, and honestly that like the serial port, the floppy drive and the optical drive before it, we'll all get over it pretty quickly. For the most part I stand by this opinion, but having used the iPhone 7 for roughly a month, I must acknowledge that in the short term at least, it is going to be a little annoying. Until I was using the new phone, I never consciously thought about how often I would charge my phone and have earphones connected at the same time. Oops, can't do that anymore. In addition, and this is probably more significant for me as a screen-reader user, I can no longer use the same earphones in my phone and my Mac and work PC. I would often be working away on one of the laptops and receive a message or something on my phone. In this case I would simply pop my earphones out of the laptop and into the phone. Oops can't do that anymore either, unless I want to use the old Earpods plus an adaptor in the phone. So instead I have one pair of old Earpods for the laptops, and a separate pair of lightning Earpods which I have to fish out of my pocket, untangle, replace the other ones in my ears, and plug into the phone to reply to that message. First world problem, certainly, but I do miss only carrying one pair of earphones around. Perhaps Apple could even give us an adaptor to plug the new lightning Earpods into the old headphone port, I could then simply keep that adaptor with the laptop. I'd accept that.
Apple told us that they see the real long term solution as being wireless, and I would tend to agree. When the new Airpods are released, I am very likely to be at the front of the queue. The wired EarPods fit and stay in my ears better than any other in-ear earbud I've ever tried and I'm no audiophile but they sound just fine to me too, so their wireless cousins, the Airpods, look like a great fit for me. The only concern I have is around Bluetooth lag. I have tried Bluetooth earphones in the past and while they're great for listening to music, podcasts and audiobooks, or watching a movie, the lag becomes an issue when trying to navigate around iOS with VoiceOver, and particularly when typing. As a VoiceOver user I simply haven't been able to go full time wireless. My hope is that Apple's new W1 chip magic might improve this situation, but even if not, I'm sure I'll still get plenty of use from the Airpods. Full time use may just have to wait for the Bluetooth 5 standard to arrive.
All in all I would say that if you are on an older iPhone then the iPhone 7 is a fantastic upgrade. If you are on a 6S as I was, then the upgrade is much less significant and probably not necessary, but if you like to have the latest tech, and can afford the upgrade, you won't be disappointed with the iPhone 7.