So it has finally arrived – Apple’s newest smartphones have arrived: the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. With great fanfare (and a rather un-Apple-like snafu) CEO Tim Cook took to the stage at San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Center Auditorium and spilled the beans on the much-anticipated device, announcing a whole host new of features and accessories. So what do we make of it, and will you see us first in line when they arrive at the Apple Store on 16 September?
The new iPhone 7s now come in five colours, their signature silver, gold and rose gold as well as new black matte and glossy jet black colours. Both are made of tough aluminium and like the previous models have 4.7- and 5.5-inch screen sizes. They’re also both about five grams lighter and are water and dust resistant for the cack-handed tea drinkers like us out there.
Alexander McNamara (Online Editor – currently sporting a Sony Xperia Z3): I’m disappointed they don’t have a smaller version personally. I thought the iPhone 5 was just the right size to fit in my hands/pocket and not really come to terms with the bigger beast that currently bulges out of my trousers. I’d definitely be inclined to make the change if they reintroduced something a little more svelte. Looks pretty though.
Dan Bennett (BBC Focus Editor – wields an iPhone 6S):
Clearly my hands and pockets are bigger than Al’s, as the current design suits me: unfussy, gimmick-free and familiar. But, as a tech journalist you always want to see innovation – maybe next year.
The camera on the iPhone 7 has got a healthy bump in features. Although it remains 12MP it has a wider aperture, upgraded from f2.2 to f1.8, which means you should be able to better pictures in the dark and get more of that delicious blurred background. The real killer feature though comes on the 7 Plus, which now sports not one, but two cameras! The first is an f1.8 wide-angle lens for glorious landscapes and the second is an f2.2 “telephoto” for regular snaps, and the clever software on the device will work out which is the best camera to use depending on the type of photo you are taking. A bump from 5MP to 7MP on the front camera will mean you can take bigger selfies and really zoom in on your questionable skin care routine.
AM: Two cameras you say? The iPhone has always had a decent camera so why not double it up. Anything that gives you more control over your shots is a welcome addition.
DB: It’s easy to be numbed by spec lists but the last generation’s iPhone camera was one of the best out there, particularly thriving where smartphone cameras struggle: low light, landscapes, action shots etc. These additions (especially the telephoto, which by the way isn’t a telephoto) will only strengthen these,
We thought they’d never have the guts to do it, but according to Apple it took courage to finally ditch the ever-present headphone socket. Instead the new iPhones will have a solitary lightning port (and an extra speaker grille) on their underside, meaning the days of charging your phone and listening to podcasts are over – unless you have the new £159 AirPods (or another set of Bluetooth headphones). The wireless headphones promise more than 24 hours of battery life with the charging case, superior sound and are touch enabled so you can interact with voice-assistant Siri. If you’re unwilling to splash that sort of cash, both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus come with a dongle for plugging in your boring old wired headset.
AM: Meh, was never bowled over by the sound on the EarPods, so spending a small fortune on a pair that I’ll probably lose within a week doesn’t appeal. Also I think they look like you’ve left a cotton bud in your ear – I’ll pass.
DB: Here’s the innovation bit. It’s a marmite decision. I fear for Apple this will put off buyers on the fence, who don’t want to invest in new headphones. And I’m not a fan of the AirPods either, they look like minimalist Christmas baubles. But I do like their thinking. I, for one, welcome a wireless future, where I no longer devote a good 5 minutes of every day untangling wires with a will of their own. And it could see a new type of audiophile headphone, that thanks to the lightning port, can power it’s own DAC giving you even better sound.
It wouldn’t be the launch of a new iPhone without another upgrade to its operating system, and the biggest update comes to Siri, which will now work with other apps so that you can use it to book a taxi on Lyft or pay someone with Square. This will open up a lot of possibilities for the feature and should make Apple’s voice assistant considerably more useful. Other updates include a new Home app for controlling your world of Internet of Things, improved Maps, iMessage and Music apps, and a change to Apple News which means you can now pick up subscriptions to your favourite magazines (like this one).
AM: Siri and I have never really seen eye to eye. Although it has improved over the years, I still find it misses the point of what I’m trying to achieve, so I can’t say I entirely trust it to book me a taxi, especially if I’m, let’s say, slurring my words a little. Some of the improvements to iMessage, like integrating apps into it, seem a bit like catch up behind WhatsApp and Facebook messenger, but then again I’ve not really been excited about an operating system update since iOS7 finally killed off its skeuomorphic icons. Everything else seems like window dressing after that.
DB: One day, when the Robots take over, some embodiment of Siri will come and kick me in the gut for ignoring her for so long. Unfortunately I’m still going to keep ignoring her as I hate talking to my gadgets. The Home app is exciting though. This simple control centre will become invaluable as we all start invite more internet-connected devices – like smart TVs, thermostats and kitchen appliances into our homes.
Super Mario Run
Finally Mario bursts out of warp pipe onto a smartphone, albeit it only for iOS at this point. Details are relatively thin but it will work a bit like an endless runner, needing only one finger to play, and will be distinctively Mario through and through with multiplayer capabilities.
AM: My head has been turned, but I’m not ready to part with well over £500 of my cash pile just yet. I love the look of the new camera but it is a shame that it appears only on the iPhone 7 Plus, which is way too big for my stumpy fingers. I’m not really concerned about ditching the headphone socket, there is a dongle, I’d use that, even if it does stick out like a sore thumb. I’ve spent enough time and money building up a collection of wired headphones I’m in no mood to ditch them for a potentially flaky wireless system.
DB: There’s nothing here that makes me resent my 6S and want to go flirt with the 7 in the store. The improvements keep the iPhone on the top of the smartphone pile for me, but not as far ahead as it once was. Though the excommunicated headphone port will lose it some buyers, I think it could clear the way for a wafer-thin phone in the future – that would be a radical step up.