Apple started its presentation by announcing it’s sold over a billion iPhones, making it the best-selling smartphone ever. But, of course, that doesn’t mean people will stick with Apple forever. So what has the company done this year?
The big question, of course, is audio. Apple led with the good news: It now has stereo speakers with increased stereo spread. And yes, the headphone jack is now gone. Apple claims that Lightning is the highest selling “digital” audio connection, stating that you can do things with it impossible in analog, which, while true, isn’t necessarily a good. The good news is that you get a little adapter, for the rest of us. Apple is claiming that they’re showing “courage” to move technology forward, that it doesn’t have the room for a headphone port, and that the analog port is slower. Apple claims cables are holding us back, which may be seen by some consumers with skepticism.
Apple also debuted the rumored AirPods, which we still think should be called AirBuds. Apple is shipping the iPhone 7’s headphones with a proprietary wireless chip called W1 that the AirPods interact with, confirming last-minute rumors. They do come with a little case, connect quickly, and the case charges them, with a 24 hour battery. Beats has a 40-hour headphone set coming, as well, and a line of headphones using the W1.
The iPhone itself is designed with as few moving parts as possible, and Apple spent a lot of time talking about how the casing was engineered. It turns out that camera bump is built right into the body. Apple broke the iPhone down into ten major features. The first is the design, with a high-gloss, jet black case. Don’t worry, there’s also a matte housing for people who hate gloss. Gold, silver, and pink are still there, too.
On a practical level, it’s water and dust resistant. Which is, of course, a pretty big deal. So much so Apple leaked it on Twitter. The Home Button is now customizable and, most surprisingly, force-sensitive. In other words, how hard you press can control different actions. So different pressures you put on it will create different effects, and it has different feedbacks that can be worked into different apps. The display is brighter, with cinema standard depictions, and, of course, 3D Touch to go along with that home button. For the guts of the device, the A10 Fusion, a 64-bit four-core processor, with hugely improved graphics performance. Apple is claiming its the fastest chip in a smartphone, and console-level graphics. In terms of battery, Apple is claiming at least an extra hour of battery life.
Probably the biggest push for Apple was photography, to the point where Instagram executives took the stage to show up how tightly integrated the iPhone and the Instagram app were, right down to a new filter designed to show off the color reproduction. Next, the camera has better stabilization, and a wider aperture with a six element lens, with a fast 12 megapixel camera. The flash has four LEDs and a flicker sensor that compensates for artificial light, improving your snapshot. It also performs 100 billion operations on your picture to clean them up. They’re also applying that to their GIFs, er, Live Photos, with more editing tools. Even the FaceTime camera is getting more megapixels.
The 7 Plus gets that long-rumored second camera as well. One has a wide-angle lens, and the other is a telephoto, and they’re two complete cameras. The two interact to create an optical zoom feature not unlike a DSLR. There is still a software zoom, but up to 2x, it’s all optical and thus a cleaner image. Intriguingly for photo nerds, the two cameras allow it to get a nicer depth of field to create a more professional image.
So how much will it cost? $649, just like the last iteration. And, even better, the storage configurations have doubled. The 7 Plus is $769, with the same storage. Interestingly, the 6S and 6S Plus will get a storage upgrade. If you’re on a plan, the iPhone 7 starts at $27 a month. Orders open on Friday September 9, and will start shipping September 16. iOS10 arrives September 13th, and the AirPods in October.
The audio will be, by far, the most controversial aspect, but Apple appears, as usual, to have delivered a huge update. The question now becomes whether the lack of a headphone jack will get in Apple’s way. We’ll find out when preorders open this Friday.