The iPhone 7 Plus Review
I actually wasn’t even planning on purchasing an iPhone 7 in any form. I was one of the people who felt as though the iPhone 7 hadn’t “done enough” that it hadn’t “innovated” in a way that made me feel as though the entire smartphone landscape had been morphed. I mean, look at it! It looks virtually the same as last years phone! Slap a case on it and it looks identical! How will people know that I have an iPhone 7 if the entire design isn’t drastically different than last years? It’s not about the device! It’s about the ATTENTION dammit.
Sarcasm over, (maybe.) Listen, I really wasn’t planning on purchasing an iPhone 7. I told myself, “NO HEADPHONE JACK! NO BUY!” But of course I caved, because I’m a weak drone of the capitalist system or whatever the internet hate mob will call me for my decision that won’t affect them in any way. I saw the performance of the camera, the overall performance of the phone, and decided that my iPhone 6 was beneath me. I had to evolve. Enter the iPhone 7 Plus. (Jet Black)
That title isn’t subtle at all is it?
The headphone jack is gone. We knew it was coming, Apple did it, it’s not on the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus and will likely never be on future iPhones. Apple did an absolutely horrific job of defending this choice at their keynote presentation. The buzzword used was “courage.” What courage does it take for a company worth over half a trillion USD with some of the highest margins of any consumer products to remove a feature? In what way is that courage? Maybe, just maybe, this was less about “courage” and more about their placing form over function. Just look at the most recent Macbook. A single USB Type C port on a laptop. There are arguments to be made that it’s not designed for power users, it’s designed for people who just want something to type on or engage in some media consumption. It’s not for you! To that I say, no.
The iPhone 7, The Macbook, and more recently, the new Macbook Pros are simply putting the aesthetic quality of the product over the actual functionality it provides. There’s doesn’t deem to be any reason that Apple couldn’t include the headphone jack. Some people will argue that “just didn’t have enough room.” Really?
Look at the “taptic engine” placed at the bottom left of this picture. (I know this is the iPhone 7 not 7 Plus.) Apple wants us to believe that this glorified vibration motor couldn’t possibly be smaller (or just not there) to fit a headphone jack. The purpose of the “taptic engine?” To provide haptic feedback while using the phone. That was worth the loss of the headphone jack, really? Defending Apple’s design choices used to be simple. The phones provided a uniqueness in design and a fluidity of user experience that no other smartphone manufacturer could provide. Now however, it’s become… Complicated. Apple seems to have made it their mission to turn nearly every device they create into a design feat rather than a functional, user friendly marvel. The omission of the headphone is unnecessary. It’s indicative of the growing disparity Apple is placing between form and function. Wireless headphones/speakers are not reliable enough yet to confidently rely on, yet Apple assumes they are and omits the headphone jack which forces users to carry an extra,unnecessary, poorly made dongle that’s hilariously easy to lose.
I can confidently say that this is the best smartphone camera system that I’ve ever used. Apple’s camera team absolutely outdid themselves this year. The camera renders incredibly crisp details in good to even moderate light and though Apple’s marketing department is prone to hyperbole, the phone does perform admirably in low light. (Or as well as a smartphone can reasonably be expected to.)The picture above is one that I took, and yes it’s in good light and has been edited, but the fact that I was able to even create the picture is incredible. Smartphone camera technology has grown so much in the past 10 years that it’s startling. I owned the OG iPhone. That camera wasn’t fantastic even for the time, incredibly blurry shots even in absolutely perfect lighting. Now, the iPhone 7 Plus could serve as most people’s primary camera. The image quality is far better than most other phones one the market (save the Google Pixel) and it can match or exceed the vast majority of point and shoot cameras (save of course, for the unbelievably excellent Sony RX100 series. I know there are other cameras with 1" Sensors, but the Sony RX100 series manages to combine incredible video and stills quality in a tight, handsome package. It’s honestly the only pocket camera that’s worth buying today.) think about it, why bother carrying both a phone AND a camera when you could just purchase one (rather large) phone?
The zoom function works really well, I was expecting some sort of delay when switching from 1X to 2X. However there’s virtually none, and the second telephoto lens is just as crisp and detailed as the wide angle 28mm lens. However, in low light, the second camera is noticeably worse with far more detail lost and a visible amount of noise. If you’re shooting pictures at a festival or something brightly lit, the iPhone 7 Plus could be the perfect companion for you.
Unfortunately, that’s the extent of what’s NEW and ADDITIVE to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Of course the phone is faster, apps open quicker, games run better, etc etc. But these aren’t new features, they’re iterative, “to be expected” features that come with every new iPhone. However, what do we really expect?
The iPhone 7 is (despite the glaring lack of a headphone jack) one of the best if not the best non-exploding phone on the market. The camera is excellent, it performs well, it does everything I ask it to do without stutter or delay, so what more do we expect from Apple? Apple has sort of created this issue for themselves. Since the release of the new iPhone, every concurrent iPhone had some sort of standout feature or design element that sat it far above other smartphone of its class. The iPhones were always faster, more reliable, and less prone to failure. However, with the announcement of the iPhone 6, we saw a sort of peak in both design and feature set of the iPhone. These iPhones were the bigger phones people had been clamoring for and of course they were fast, but that was all they offered. It sold like hotcakes of course, but it seemed that excitement for the phone had waned. Fast forward to now, and the main conversation being had about the iPhone 7 isn’t what the phone is, or what the phone has, but rather what it lacks. That’s the story of modern Apple. Removing features for the sake of “innovation” even at the cost of user experience. The removal of the headphone jack seems like a publicity stunt more than an attempt to move technology forward. If the iPhone 7 had a headphone jack would we really be discussing the phone in the way we are? Or would we be criticizing Apple for creating a boring, iterative phone with little in the way of design or technology progression? My opinion leans towards the latter.
This isn’t so much of an indictment of Apple as it is a question to the tech industry, and consumers as a whole: What is it that you expect? What should Apple do? In what way should Apple drastically modify the metal rectangle to deserve the term “innovative?” I agree, Apple seems to have lost its way (especially with the new Macbook Pros, ugh) but how should they find their way back? Maybe the issue isn’t with Apple, but with the consumer electronics industry as a whole. Maybe we’re hitting a plateau. Maybe we’ve done nearly everything possible that can be done with smartphone technology and subsequent phone releases will simply be iterative spec bumps with improvements in processor and camera technology, which will eventually stagnate as well. What is it that we want smartphone manufacturers to do?
I’ve seen articles begging for Apple to “innovate” again. That Apple isn’t doing anything “exciting.” What constitutes “exciting?” Call it a lack of imagination, but there’s only so much we can currently do with a thin metal rectangle. Maybe on the software front there’s more to be done, but how much can we actually expect from Apple’s industrial design?
Next year, Apple is expected to release a new, drastically redesigned iPhone for the 10 year anniversary of the iPhone’s existence. This redesign is expected to be a massive overhaul of the iPhone’s design and supposedly will contain some new tech and an entirely new design language. Is this true? I don’t know, but I do see a return to form at some point in Apple’s future. As much as I enjoy following the company its hard to continue keep a open mind about their decisions especially post-2016. I want to believe that this phone will be exciting, but its hard to really believe that considering the apparent stagnation of smartphone design ideas and chill of mobile technology advancements. It’s not solely Apple’s fault, in the last 9 years mobile technology has progressed at an unprecedented rate. We saw phone become hundreds of times faster in a span of less than a decade. We saw smartphone cameras grow from VGA quality mush to pocket camera destroyers. Maybe its time for a slowdown. I don’t want this, I want to see Apple and the rest of the industry continue to create new exciting products, but I can’t predict the future. I can only analyze the present, and the present day iPhone is a great, powerful albeit unexciting phone.