Yesterday, Apple’s revealed the iPhone 7 at a keynote presentation in San Francisco.
Apple executives spent an inordinate amount of time during the press conference revealing to punters how the iPhone 7 is “the best iPhone we’ve ever created”. As far as I’m concerned, the jury’s still out on that.
While Apple has incrementally improved the iPhone in most new iterations the latest handset looks to be a massive step backwards for the firm.
I’m not just talking about the loss of the 3.5mm jack here, though that did inspire this train of thought, but there are a number of other new features that just feel out of place.
Your headphones are dead, long live AirPods
Okay Apple, I understand moving away from a piece of tech that has been around since 1964 takes “courage” but it also takes a certain degree of detachment from your consumer base.
Apple says that the choice to remove the ubiquitous audio connector was driven by a need to put more technology into the phone.
Aside from the Taptic Engine which sends vibrations and other physical notifications to the user through the Home button, there doesn’t seem to be all that much extra in the handset.
The removal of the jack means that if you want to charge your phone and listen to music through your favourite headphones, you’re out of luck. Worse still, if you want to charge your phone in the car and listen to music through an aux cable, once again you will be left wanting.
There is no doubt in our mind that we will soon be seeing 3.5mm jack and Lightning connector converters coming to stores soon which would solve that problem. The trouble with this is that inherently Apple is making the lives of users much more complicated by having them carry around a connector that they might, possibly need for something.
We could have gotten behind the removal of the 3.5mm jack had Apple added some sort of audio improvement technology.
Instead, with the extra real-estate left behind after the jack was gone Apple decided what we really needed was a vibrating home button that does different things at different pressure points. Because, well, you know, 3DTouch just isn’t enough.
While this seems like a clever idea when you consider that Apple created an entire engine for the iPhone that will vibrate the home button in a special way, you have to ask what the point of that is.
Not to start a flame war but Android phones use the entire phone to send physical notifications to the user. Fingerprint not scanned correctly? The phone vibrates. Battery low? Here’s a subtle vibration to let you know.
It’s not new Apple, and you really didn’t have to dedicate space in the handset to making one button vibrate.
Great camera, puny storage
During the keynote something leaped out at us. The fact that the iPhone 7 Plus will be able to capture RAW image files.
For those that aren’t aware, RAW image files are massive because they aren’t yet processed or compressed. This allows a photographer to go back and edit the colour to their particular style and create great looking photos.
The entry level iPhone 7 has a paltry 32GB storage which is going to fill up extremely quickly what with these RAW images, UHD video and all the apps you’ll want to run.
The argument could be made that users can rely on iCloud to house a chunk of that data but have you ever tried to upload a UHD video to the cloud on a South African internet line? Good luck to those that try.
An improved battery that wasn’t that much of an improvement
The one feature that many smartphone users request time and time again is longer battery life. Many manufacturers heed that call and I’ve started to notice a trend, especially from Chinese manufacturers where a large battery is now a necessity.
Apple doesn’t seem to play by those rules. For instance, battery life in the Watch Series 2 was not even mentioned during the keynote and when the iPhone 7 was unveiled we got a comparison to the iPhone 6s.
This is worrying because “two hours more life compared to the iPhone 6s” is hardly a specification. What conditions are these measured under Apple? What was connected to the phone and was it connected to speaker system over Bluetooth?
It’s all good and well to tell us the battery has been improved but what I really want to see is a numeric value that we can compare to other phones on an apples to apples basis.
Cost of the AirPods
I’m going to keep this short to avoid ranting but for $159 (R2 200) you could get a really great pair of studio headphones, DJ headphones, hell, for that money you could get a new pair of cheap earphones every week and lose them and still come off for the better.
Smug Apple is smug
It takes gall to stand in front of your audience of tech journalists and long-time customers and tell them that courage was the main driver behind the decision to remove a ubiquitous piece of hardware they probably used that very same day.
To our mind it feels like Apple stood up and said, “we heard your pleas for us not to remove the 3.5mm jack and thought screw it, they don’t know what progress looks like.”
And perhaps I don’t but when your decision results in more scathing remarks from the denizens of the internet than a Westboro Baptist Church picket, I can’t help but think that we’re all a little justified in raising some doubts about the iPhone 7.
As I said earlier, the jury is still out on whether the iPhone 7 is the best phone Apple has ever made, but from what we learned last night, it certainly looks like it’s the most draconian.