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The magnificent 7

The introduction of the new Home button in Apple's latest iPhones is nothing short of amazing.
Sep 24, 2016 5:50 AM

APPLE'S latest iPhones come with a faster processor, higher storage capacities, a new solid state home button and water resistant features, while the higher end iPhone 7 Plus comes with a second camera. But there is no glossing over the fact that despite wearing a solid number in its name over last year's 6s monicker, it doesn't bear the marking of a full fledged phone upgrade that the company offers every other year.

Apple has stuck with the design of the iPhone 6 and 6s series, and the biggest change here is the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack. Some traditionalists might complain about this radical change, but it is really not a big deal. Those who want a wired headset connection will be used to dangling wires, and Apple has provided a Lightning to 3.5mm connector in the retail box, and this additional accessory is not that heavy.

If you want the convenience of plugging in different 3.5mm cables, these connectors are sold for S$14 each at the online store, and Apple fans should be used to the so called Apple Tax, of always paying more for convenience by now. The biggest adjustment is when you want to charge the phone and listen to music, which is impossible unless you pay more for a third party accessory that allows for it.

The only gripe here is that Apple removed the headphone jack because it believes that wireless connectivity is the way to go, but instead of offering a better alternative in the form of its new Airpod wireless earphones, it has delayed them until the end of October. This leaves early users stripped of a key phone feature, with the Apple recommended alternative restricted to them, and this is not the best way to roll out a new standard.

On the other hand, the introduction of the new Home button is nothing short of amazing. Instead of a physical button, there is no more actual button. Instead, the indent of the round button is part of the main screen, and placing your finger on it triggers a haptic feedback to indicate that the phone is unlocked.

This works in tandem with the fingerprint biometrics and there is no need to swipe the screen to unlock the phone any more. It took a while to get used to this, but a day later, it feels so much more intuitive to just scan, press and unlock your phone in under a second. And because the new button requires the presence of your skin, it means that random objects in your handbag or pocket will no longer be able to trigger the home button. Reports from the US indicate that this button will not work with gloves in the winter, but that is not an issue here.

Aside from raising the internal capacity from 16GB to 32GB for the base model, Apple has also released a new Jet Black iPhone 7 (left) that is reminiscent of the glossy rear of the iPhone 3GS. While it looks like glass, it is actually made of metal, and created by Apple's anodisation and polishing process. Though prone to scratches, it is in high demand and also only available in 128 or 256GB capacities.

New to only the iPhone 7 Plus is the dual camera system that comes with a wide angle and telephoto lens. Aside from offering 2x optical zoom, which maintains much of the details in a tighter shot, the two lenses work together to snap photos, offering greater colour and details. While it is not the first company to do it, the implementation here is solid and a good reason to pick the larger Plus over the regular set.

That said, the actual photo taking improvements over its biggest competitor, Samsung, and even to last year's iPhone models is not that great. Against last year's iPhone 6 Plus, the level of details has increased, but improvements to the colours are slight. Photos taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note7 are also much brighter than the iPhone 7 Plus, which comes with muted, albeit slightly natural looking tones. Still, the camera here is incomplete, as the feature that allows users to adjust depth of field in portraits will only arrive in a future update.

With the removal of the headphone jack and more reliance on the Lightning connector, Apple has successfully walled off its iPhone even more, though fewer users are complaining. Given that next year will be the 10th anniversary of the popular device, the slight changes in the iPhone 7 series feels more like a preview for something incredible next year.


SPECS

iPhone 7 Plus

Price From S$1,248

Processor Apple A10 Fusion, Quad-core 2.23 GHz

Display 5.5-inch, 1,080 x 1,920 pixels (401 ppi pixel density), with 3D touch display and home button

Camera (Rear) Dual 12 MP, (28mm, f/1.8, OIS and 56mm, f/2.8), phase detection autofocus, 2x optical zoom, quad-LED (dual tone) flash, (Front) 7 MP, f/2.2, 32mm, face detection, HDR, panorama

Operating system iOS 10.0.1

Memory 32/128/256 GB, 3 GB RAM

Battery Non-removable Li-Ion 2,900 mAh