Meet the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus share a similar design to their predecessors, but that’s where the similarities end. Apple’s latest smartphones have been upgraded in nearly every way possible, from its cameras, to speakers, processors, storage capacity and even the way the phones are built. It’s time to meet the new iPhone.

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The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus share a similar design to their predecessors, but that’s where the similarities end. Apple’s latest smartphones have been upgraded in nearly every way possible, from its cameras, to speakers, processors, storage capacity and even the way the phones are built. It’s time to meet the new iPhone.

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When a button isn’t a button.

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Instead of a button that physically moves, the iPhone 7 has a solid state Home button that uses Apple’s Taptic Engine to simulate a click. “Taptic” is Apple’s trademark for the concept of combining capacitive finger taps and haptic feedback to create an experience that emulates interaction with a physical device. In other words, vibrations delivered through the home button feel like you’re clicking a button but there’s no longer any moving parts to wear out or get damaged. Try pressing the Home button when the iPhone 7 is off, nothing happens! The solid state button also means that Apple has been able to integrate the Taptic Engine into more parts of iOS 10. You’ll get vibration feedback as you navigate around the OS and when you get notifications too. During the setup process, you can choose between three levels of haptic intensity for the Home Button. This setting can be changed at any time in Settings.

This isn’t the first time Apple has dropped a mechanical part in favor of a digitized version. Apple’s newer MacBook Pros use a solid state Force Touch trackpad instead of a mechanical one. While some people prefer the feel of the old Home Button, there are definitely benefits to a non-moving system. Getting rid of mechanical parts means less breakages and allows Apple to create a sealed enclosure — necessary to make the iPhone 7 water resistant.

Apple has also released a new haptic API for developers targeting the new hardware on the iPhone 7, enabling them to incorporate haptic feedback into their own apps. We’ve already seen this with rumble feedback on some games.

Why Apple removed the 3.5mm headphone port.

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The iPhone 7 doesn’t have a headphone port, only a universal Lightning port for everything. So why did Apple remove a 50-year-old industry standard? Apple senior VP Phil Schiller gave an impassioned speech during the iPhone launch event about how removing the headphone port was an act of courage, but all he really needed to say was: progress.

The 3.5mm port is over 50-yearsold and only carries an analog audio signal. The problem is, the music on your iPhone is a digital signal. To listen to music through the 3.5mm port, your iPhone has a built-in digital to analog converter (or DAC). However, because of its analog nature, that signal degrades as it travels along the cable. On the other hand, Lightning-connected headphones use a digital signal, so that signal isn’t affected as it travels up the cable. This is a big deal for high-res audio, where any amount of data loss can completely negate the benefits of large-bitrate tracks. Furthermore, because the signal doesn’t need to be converted inside the iPhone, Lightning headphones aren’t limited by the quality of the iPhone’s DAC. Instead, headphone manufacturers can build their own digital signal processor, DAC and amplifier right into the headphone itself, giving them more control over the sound quality produced.

There are other benefits to delivering audio over the Lightning port too. The 3.5mm port is one of the biggest components on your phone. Remove that port, as well as the circuitry required to make it work, and you free up a lot of space, which means the iPhone can be thinner and smaller than before or alternatively, it means more space inside the device for other components, such as a larger battery, which is what Apple has done for the iPhone 7.

The most intriguing upgrade Lightning has over 3.5mm is that it is capable of transferring power as well as data. In the short term, this means features like active noise cancellation won’t require an additional battery. But what else is possible with powered-headphones? Apple has a patent for Lightning headphones with pressure sensors built into the bud, which could then be used to dynamically change the audible frequencies for each user, based on the quality of the seal between the device and the ear. Based on this technology, the headphones could provide a customized audio experience for each individual. There are also rumors that Apple is working on Lightning EarPods fitted with a powered sensor inside each EarPod that will be able to monitor your heart rate during physical activity. None of these things are possible with a passive 3.5mm headphone port. Of course, every iPhone 7 and 7 Plus also come equipped with a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter, so you can still use standard 3.5mm headphones with your new iPhone.

Why two cameras are better than one.

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The 7 Plus is the first iPhone with dual cameras. Both cameras are 12MP, but one has a wide-angle 28mm lens, and the other has a ‘telephoto’ or ‘normal’ 56mm lens. The iPhone 7 has the one 28mm lens, and the sensors are identical on all three cameras.

The iPhone 7 Plus’ two lenses gives you true 2x optical zoom, which means you can zoom without losing image quality, unlike with digital zoom which crops and enlarges your original picture. The dual cameras also serve another function. No matter which focal length you shoot with on the iPhone 7 Plus, the iPhone snaps an image with both lenses, and then merges details from both photos to create a richer, single image.

Optical image stabilization (OIS) used to be an exclusive feature for the larger iPhones. The iPhone 6 Plus introduced OIS for stills, then the iPhone 6s Plus worked in OIS for stills and video. OIS is now available on both the iPhone 7 and the 7 Plus.

OIS shifts the sensor to counter shaky hands, helping you get sharper images in low-light instead of a shaky blur. It also works to smoothen video, getting rid of the shakiness that plagues handheld movies. There is one big ‘but’ though, OIS is only available on the iPhone 7 Plus’ 28mm camera; the 56mm camera doesn’t have it. That’s unfortunate, because longer focal lenses are more prone to camera shake than shorter ones.

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus’ 28mm cameras come with a wider aperture lens, f/1.8 compared to f/2.2 on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. A lower aperture number means the lens opens wider, so it can capture more light at a single glance. That gives the 28mm cameras better shooting ability in low-light. The iPhone 7 Plus’ 56mm lens, however, comes with a lower f/2.8 aperture, which means it can capture less light in a single shot, and thus will need to lengthen the shutter speed to do so.

Both iPhone 7 front-facing cameras now have a 7MP sensor, compared to the 5MP sensors on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. They can also shoot video at a higher-resolution of 1080p. The 7 cameras are the first iPhone cameras to shoot and save in wide color. Wide color is Apple’s name for the DCI-P3 color space. Previous iPhone cameras saved in sRGB — an older standard with less colors.

Thanks to the iPhone 7s’ ability to shoot in wide color, as well as the ability to display images in wide color on their new screens, most people will notice that photos appear richer, with a wider range of color. The iPhone 7 can also save images in raw, specifically Adobe’s DNG open format. Raw files are uncompressed image files that give photographers more details to work with in post-production. The ability to save in raw is also available on the iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, SE, and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro through iOS 10.

More powerful and more efficient.

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Apple has quietly become one of the most advanced chip makers over the past few years, and the new A10 Fusion processors inside the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus stand as the pinnacles of its engineering prowess.

The ‘Fusion’ name refers to the heterogeneous quad-core architecture inside the A10, which uses two highpower, high-throughput cores and two much smaller cores that are much more power efficient. In fact, the two powerefficient cores only use about 20 percent of the power of the high-power cores. The A10 has an incredible 3.3 billion transistors, with the large jump in transistor count mainly due to the addition of the new power-efficient CPU cores along with a greatly enhanced Image Signal Processor used by the camera module.

Unlike Samsung, who moved to a 14nm FinFET process for the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, Apple is using the same 16nm process it used on the iPhone 6s’ A9 processor. While this means a larger die size, it also gave Apple the freedom to focus on optimizing its architecture rather than experiment with a new process.

Apple has ramped up its core clock speed on the A10 Fusion, up from 1.85GHz on the A9 to 2.33GHz on the A10, which brings it much closer to the clock speeds of competitors Qualcomm and Samsung. The end result is that the A10 runs 40 percent faster than the A9 chip in the iPhone 6s, and twice as fast as the A8 in the 6. In fact, the A 10 Fusion is a whopping 120 times faster than the original iPhone!

The A10 Fusion isn’t all about power though, it also offers much better efficiency, resulting in far longer battery life. By introducing the pair of low-speed cores, the iPhone 7 now has dynamic voltage and frequency scaling options for completely disabling cores or their subparts, as well as a performance controller to manage the workloads between the cores, similar to how ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture operates. This all results in roughly two hours more battery life on the iPhone 7 and one hour more on the iPhone 7 Plus.

The GPU has also been upgraded, and Apple is promising “console-level gaming” as a result. Inside the A10 Fusion is a hexa-core graphics chip that’s 50 percent faster than the A9 found in the iPhone 6s, and three times faster than the A8 in the iPhone 6.

Jet Black is the new Black.

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For the first time in four years Apple is bringing back black iPhones. Along with Silver, Gold, and Rose Gold, the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are available in two new colors: Black, a matte black finish that replaces Space Gray and is quite similar to the black finish we last saw on the iPhone 5, and Jet Black.

It’s hard to believe that the Jet Black iPhones are made of the same series 7000 aluminum as the rest of the iPhone 7 range. As Apple’s Chief Design Officer, Jony Ive, put it, the new Jet Black finish has resulted in “the most singular, most evolved” iPhone ever. The glossy black finish puts the iPhone through a 9-step anodization and finishing process that involves rotational 3D polishing with a specialized compound and a magnetized ultra-fine ion particle bath. The end result is a beautiful ultra glossy black finish that wraps around the entire device.

Do note though that the new finish probably isn’t the best option for perfectionists. The glossy black shows fingerprints easily and is quite susceptible to scratches, or, as Apple puts it, “its high shine may show fine micro-abrasions with use.”