“Everything about [the camera] is entirely new,” said Apple’s Phil Schiller as the company announced its two newest flagship phones, the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus. The highly-anticipated announcement was heralded by the traditional wave of rumours, leaks, allegations and accusations that now accompany the impending release of many high-profile products. The event itself, therefore, held few surprises.
Once again, Apple has made photography the focal point of the iPhone, selling some massive camera improvements to make up for the loss of other features, which we’ll get to later. OIS is now included in both iPhones, a feature that was previously exclusive to the 6 Plus. A wider f/1.8 aperture comes to both models too, combining with OIS for much better low-light performance. You can now shoot in RAW DNG format for greater flexibility in editing, and Quad-LED True Tone flash is also included.
The iPhone 7 Plus does have more than a few bells and whistles that might prompt you to consider it over its sibling though. Most notably, the much-anticipated second lens. The first lens is the same as the one found on the iPhone 7 – a 28mm-equivalent, 12-megapixel device. The second, however, is a telephoto lens allowing for up to 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom. Users who want the telephoto perspective simply select the second lens for greater reach.
The Apple team also teased a feature called ‘Depth,’ which appears to be a software-aided bokeh simulator. It sounds similar to the system found on the Huawei P9, which was quite convincing. Depth isn’t quite ready to go yet, and will debut via software update later.
For Tim Cook and his team, the past few years have been about perfecting the iPhone, rather than reinventing it. This year is different. With the addition of a second lens, we’ve seen the biggest hardware update to the iPhone in generations. The iPhone 7 however, also marks the first time we’ve seen a hardware feature entirely removed from the iPhone.
The headphone jack has been unceremoniously dropped, seemingly to make way for easier waterproofing and to further slim the profile of the device. Outrage, as predicted before the launch, is likely to be widespread. Although other tech manufacturers have slowly lined up behind Apple in the past when the company decided to ditch a piece of technology, Tim Cook and his team appear to be striking out alone on this one. The only other manufacturer to drop the 3.5mm connector from its flagship device is Lenovo with the Moto Z, a smartphone maker that is struggling to make a name for itself, rather than one that sits amongst the upper echelons of mobile excellence.
Apple usually prides itself as a pioneer, and will anticipate that other manufacturers fall in line behind dutifully as previously in history, but the 3.5mm jack is still enormously popular and widespread, meaning that Samsung and others will probably sit back and wait to see the reaction of consumers to the new iPhone before pushing for one less port.
Changes were also made to the iconic home button, where Apple’s Taptic Engine will now provide feedback rather than a physical click. iOS 10 will debut next week, and there are a bunch of small improvements across the board, including IP67 certification, making the new iPhones water and dust resistant. However, for most users, this launch will be remembered for one significant hardware upgrade, and what may be seen as another significant hardware downgrade. Will the two be enough to offset one another? We’ll find out in a few weeks.