Ladies and gentlemen, hold your breath. The iPhone you’ve always wanted is here. Let me guess. You’ve been waiting for a phone that is:
-Shaped exactly like the iPhone 6 Plus
-But won’t work with your expensive Apple iPhone 6 Plus case
-Has no headphone jack
-Can zoom in on your dog across the room
-Is water resistant, whatever that might mean
If that’s what you’re looking for, the iPhone 7 Plus might be for you. Yeah, there wasn’t really a crowd waiting with baited breath for this incrementally better iPhone. (Which some argue is worse because of its lack of headphone jack.) I upgraded anyway because I signed up for the iPhone Upgrade Program, which frees me from any phone carrier contract and lets me upgrade every year for no extra cost.
The upgrade program is a good racket, but it seems to take forever to trade in your old phone and get your new one. They said that had something to do with the fact that we ordered our phones to our houses, so maybe our situations were atypical. Still worth it!
I wasn’t very torn up about the lack of a headphone jack, since I switched to wireless headphones a couple years ago. They really come in handy when you walk your dog every day and said dog tends to jump on you and rip any cord from your ears. This problem is a good argument for why Apple is trying to “cut the cord.” I agree that cords suck, but I wish they would have made it a bigger pronouncement by selling the iPhone 7 with wireless headphones and a wireless charger. Selling it with the same charger and lightning earbuds doesn’t seem that “courageous.”
(Also, if you want wireless headphones that aren’t earbuds [because earbuds are inferior], I love my Bose SoundLink On-Ear headphones a lot. They sit over your ears comfortably but aren’t so bodacious that you feel shy wearing them around the neighborhood.)
Despite my relatively rosy attitude about the lack of headphone jack, I have still found it annoying several times. When I’m out and about and need to take a quick stroll, I often don’t have my Bose headphones with me. In this case, I can’t just grab any old pair from around the office. I guess I may still need to carry around that dumb converter and lightning cable headphones. More cords!
What about that hot telephoto lens? I haven’t gotten a ton of chances to use this yet, although it does help me capture my dog being silly from across the room. As you can predict, it works a lot better in bright light. All you need to do to engage it is tap the 1x circle on the screen and it switches to 2x. Pretty handy. The iPhone 7 Plus camera is pretty great. Here are a couple photos I shot with it.
So what’s the biggest improvement with the iPhone 7 Plus? The main thing I like about it is the haptic feedback. I felt pretty confused about why Apple invested so much in their whole creepily-named “force touch” platform. Did I need to right click on my iPhone? I barely used this feature. But now I’m starting to see the bigger picture of why we want screens that respond to us and move with us. As I’m setting my alarm, the phone shakes a bit every time I toggle past a number. It feels like a real improvement in accessibility that brings some of the tactile joy of using a regular keyboard to this mobile platform. I’m excited to see more apps integrate it. (MyFitnessPal uses it quite a bit already.)
Another uncanny measure of this feature is when your phone dies and you realize the home button isn’t really a button at all. It sits there limply until the phone turns on, when it once again is able to respond and bounce against your finger.
Considering how haptic feedback is the most interesting thing coming to the phone this year, it’s disappointing that the touch screen bar on the new MacBook Pro doesn’t include it.
Overall, the iPhone 7 Plus is faster and a bit more delightful to use than the iPhone 6S Plus. That said, it’s not a huge upgrade unless you really need a telephoto lens and consider yourself an Instagram photographer.
Between this and the new MacBook Pro, which seems equally incremental, I’m hoping for a better year from Apple next year!
NOTE: I will post a full review of Portrait mode later. I just got access to this and have not had the chance to try it on anyone but my dog …