This has been a decent month, Apple wise. First, those of us with older iPhones and iPads were treated to the launch of iOS 10, and despite a glitch or two here and there, this one may turn out to be the most usable iOS version yet. Second, Apple started shipping iPhone 7.
That means I’ve had about two weeks to take both iOS 10 and iPhone 7 through my traditional shakedown cruise. What I did was rather simple. I started with Settings and walked through every, well, setting, to see what was new and different. Then I started checking all the new apps. Finally, I dug around to see which apps have been updated to handle iPhone 7’s unique features and iOS 10’s new capabilities.
I would like to tell you how wonderful the Jet Black iPhone 7 is, but I’m under the impression you need to be an Apple employee, a major investor, a thief, or one of CEO Tim Cook’s relatives to get that color. By now you’ve read a dozen articles on iPhone 7 and iOS 7 so I won’t regurgitate what is readily available, but let me give you my list of what surprised me.
- iPhone Magnifier – it takes a bit of effort to find it and use it but it works. The iPhone’s screen becomes giant magnifier with a slider to zoom in. Open Settings, press Accessibility, press Magnifier, and turn it on. Triple tap the Home button to get Magnifier to the screen.
- Stopwatch Face – Apple’s Clock app has a new Bedtime feature with a nice alarm to wake you up each day, and a scheduler (needs to work independently on each day; it doesn’t), but also cool is the set of Stopwatch faces. Open Clock, press the Stopwatch button, then swipe until the cows come home to view new faces.
- Safari Tabs – everyone knows tabs are a gift to humanity from the digital gods, but Safari on iOS 10 lets you open up more tabs than you’ve ever opened before. What’s the problem with so many open tabs? Too many tabs. So, Apple put in a tab search option but you have to rotate your iPhone into landscape mode. Tap one of the tabs buttons and Search pops up in the upper left corner and it only searches your open tabs.
iOS 10 seems more polished than previous iOS updates, but there are some user requirements. Dig into Messages and you’ll see. The Lockscreen is cluttered with Widgets and Notifications, so some pruning is in order. Ditto for Apple Watch which has a new Dock function and it requires testing, too.
What about iPhone 7 itself? Surprisingly, iPhone 7 is anything but a boring rehash of iPhone 6s. I opted for the big screen Plus and there is much to like because only the screen size and case shape remain the same everything else is different.
- No Headphone Jack – this bothered me. For about two minutes. For older wired headphones the Lightning-to-headphone jack renders it a moot issue. For wireless earbuds or headphones there is no issue.
- Water Resistant – my iPhone collection dates back to 2008 and I’ve dropped more than my fair share, damaged a few screens, and dropped one in the bathtub but fished it out in an instant. It still worked. That seems to be the case with iPhone 7, too.
- Screen – it’s the same size and resolution as last year so it’s understandable why critics are howling ‘Where’s the OLED?’ However, iPhone 7 Plus’ screen is as bright as any Samsung I’ve held, and screen testers say it’s indistinguishable from perfect. I sure would like to see such a screen on my soon-to-be-purchased MacBook Pro, late 2016 model.
- Camera – somehow the janitor at Consumer Reports was allowed to check out the iPhone 7’s camera and pronounced it boring and much the same as last year’s model. Try it yourself. Real reviews with real photos indicate that Apple upped the bar again, and is nibbling away at the entry-level DSLR crowd after having destroyed to point-and-shoot-camera industry. The dual camera takes some getting used to come up with a zoomed in photo and the wider angle, but the crispness is obvious, and low light photos are much improved.
- Price – kudos to Apple for ridding the world of a 32GB storage option, but for mostly the same money every new iPhone customer gets a bit more storage, and Apple thinks customers will ante up for what amounts to a price tag similar to high end iPads or low end MacBook Air models. But, hey, the iPhone is a Mac in your pocket so there’s that.
iPhone 7 was supposed to be boring with few changes and it turned out to be more exciting than expected, with plenty of changes other than screen size and case shape.