Apple’s biannual release of the iPhone — this year being the iPhone 7, started, rather tellingly, with a rather funny mistake on Apple’s part.
Rather than rely on a network of millions of hungry tech bloggers, Apple unceremoniously leaked some of the main features of the iPhone 7 through promoted Twitter posts. In effect, they began advertising for a product they hadn’t yet announced.
To tech bloggers, this was a damning let down for what would otherwise be a feeding frenzy. Consumers on the other hand were left scratching their heads with the features proposed.
And Apple? As always, they’ll go to bed tonight fat and rich. Some of the changes in Apple’s design approach, however, have left the iPhone 7 with a much more lukewarm reception than its predecessors.
The Good – Longer Battery Life, Better Camera
In the the quest for competitive processing power and high-quality rendering, the last generation of smartphones were a disaster in terms of battery life. The Samsung S7 clocked a near two full hours less than the S6 on average, and the iPhone 6S hardly performed that much better than either.
The iPhone 7’s proposed 2-hour battery life extension on top of the 6S is probably where most consumers are going to feel the generation change. For most, battery life *is* convenience. The longer your phone is going to last, the more convenient it is to take with you, to use during a commute, and to keep work organized and timely. A battery increase is a fundamental feature and one Apple properly addressed.
Additionally, a high quality camera: 12MP front and back (a big jump from 7 and 5MP, respectively) is always a welcome quality-of-life improvement, and a sure sticking point for the more media-oriented owners.
The Not-As-Good – Taptic Feedback, Loss of 16GB
Where the iPhone 7 starts to make its missteps is in the removal of features that were long since forgotten but important parts of the smartphone market. The first, the removal of the Home button, seems like a relatively modern and smart change. After all, less buttons means more screen space.
But in reality, the debate between Tap and Touch hasn’t really been settled, and Touch’s primary strength has always been in the ability to customize button layouts, something that’s considerably difficult (if not impossible) with Apple products. While many feel Tap offers more customization, Apple has always been against customizing features and changing how the “Taptic Touch” function works on the iPhone 7 may be more trouble than the feature is worth.
We would also like to bemoan the death of the 16GB model of iPhones. With the 32GB being the base model for the 7, it seems like Apple has begun a path of pushing the lower end of their market off buying their product. With a starting price tag of $649.00 USD for the smallest of the iPhone 7s, the lack of an “economy model” may be a mistake on Apple’s part.
The Baffling – RIP Headphone Jack
And onto the one feature that no one can shut up about, perhaps because the iPhone 7 seems so unambitious as a product, or because this one change seems so confusing to many: the headphone jack is no more.
What’s to replace it? The iPhone 7 will support two options: a converter plugged into the Lightning port (meaning you cannot charge and use headphones at the same time), or the option to buy one of Apple’s new products: the AirPods.
A pair of wireless earbuds that promise an impressive list of microtech: accelerometers and optical sensors that ensure the headphones are not playing when not in your ears, a laser microphone that gives clarity when speaking, and easy pairing by tap. A great list of features to be sure, but offset by the extremely small size of the buds themselves and a sharp price tag of $159.00 USD when they launch in late October.
While wireless headphones are a welcome trend, the small size of the buds raises a few concerns. To compare: the Beats X wireless earbuds (by Dre) run a similar price, and at least had the common decency to connect the two buds by strap so they don’t fall out and go missing.
The Unexpected – Super Mario!
What has a lot of tech bloggers scratching their head is where the audience at Apple’s launch party cheered and hollered the most. To enormous fanfare, larger than anything Apple announced on Wednesday, was the news from Nintendo lead designer Shigeru Miyamoto that Mario is coming to iPhone as an App Store exclusive.
Both Apple and Nintendo have a lot to bank on from this relationship. Apple has a critical lack of quality content-based Apps, and Nintendo is still reeling from the hot-cold fad that was Pokémon Go.
That an App announcement trumped a Hardware announcement is rather telling, or at least it should be for Apple. We’re seven generations into the smartphone war and each iteration has seen less and less enthusiasm for hardware features, but a frenzy-like obsession for Apps and content seems to bring fads to killer apps and back again.
Perhaps over the next year, we’ll be talking about what brands are working with Apple, rather than letting Apple run the show.