iPhone 7 Review: My First Five Days


| In-Depth Review

Page 2 – My Initial Reactions

The first question you may be asking is why I bought an iPhone 7. Certainly, if I’m going to write about Apple’s new iPhones, I have to own one. But, upon reflection, I think I would have bought one anyway. I explained the reason on June 29th: “Why I’ll be Buying a New iPhone 7″ The fact is, iPhones are what we do as Apple customers. They’re part of our technical life. I wrote:

What I’m going to do is ignore the incessant voices that try to control the conversation and [instead] believe that Apple will always lift us up, move us forward, and give us what we need. Sometimes in baby steps. Sometimes in giant leaps.

If the spirit also moves you, and it pleases you technically, go out and acquire the best that Apple has to offer. Ignore the critics and pompous naysayers.

That turns out, in hindsight, to be good advice in my estimation because the iPhone 7 really is a fabulous iPhone, worth investing in for the sake of growing with a fundamental technology of our lives.

Now I want to turn to my personal observations, in the first five days, about the device. Items are in the order I think is important to most users.

Observational Details

iPhone 7, 6s, side-by-side

I think (standard) black is gorgeous compared to the bland space gray. Antenna lines are gone. But Apple logo is hard to see.

1. Home Button. I can understand why Apple would want to eliminate a moving part that could fail. It turns out that, despite the fact that the legacy button is well designed and has never failed me in nine years of iPhones, some users are paranoid about the failure of such a critical component. Here’s a story I first pointed to in last Friday’s Particle Debris that describes that concern, especially in Asia.

From an engineering standpoint, I can also appreciate the likely numbers. I’m guessing here, but if I were presented with a Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) of 1 million presses (actual button) and 100 million presses (Haptic engine), I know which I’d chose as an engineer.

But none of that gets to the core of the issue. How does it really feel? That, I believe, turns out to be a matter of subjective taste combined with an acclimation period. At first I didn’t like the feel. Right away, when I puled the iPhone 7 out of the box in the Apple store, I had the chance to select the setting I liked upon first setup. (Here’s how to do that.) Personally, I like the strongest feedback (level 3). But even that feels shallow and artificial. The real question, however, remains: is that a deal breaker?

I believe the answer is “no.” We’ll all get used to this feel over time. Plus, Apple will have the opportunity to refine the feel in future iOS updates. And so. Should you be concerned that the upgrade to the iPhone 7 will annoy you? I think not. It’s just something new. It works. It’s good enough. It’ll probably get better. The merits outweigh the negatives. It’s one of those things that, in time, we’ll wonder what the fuss was all about.

2. Speed. I have 2015, 12.9-inch iPad Pro. One of the things that I constantly notice is how much faster it feels than my iPad mini 3, the iPad Air (wife’s) or the iPhone 6s. This is especially noticeable when updating apps in the App Store. Updates just fly. This is no doubt due to the combination of the A9X SoC and 802.11ac. But even though the 6s has an A9, this iPhone 7 feels more like the iPad Pro than the 6s.

I’m not going to repeat benchmarks already done, but I will refer you to an interesting article. “The iPhone’s new chip should worry Intel.” If you missed the September 9 event, here’s the chart Phil Schiller showed. These curves, amazingly, are on what appears to be an exponential growth path.

iPhone performance curves over time.

iPhone performance curves over time. Image credit: Apple

Phil Schiller didn’t specify what kind of operations those 100 billion photographic operations were, done in 25 milliseconds. But if we optimistically assume they’re each the equivalent of a floating point operation (FLOP) then 40 x 100 billion operations in one second, equal to 4 teraflops, really is supercomputer power. At least from ::cough:: a decade ago.

Next page: The camera system

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archimedes
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archimedes

It’s telling that Macworld (or what’s left of it) basically recommended “sitting out” this upgrade cycle, simply because of the missing audio socket.

That being said… I’m kind of impressed by how bright the screen is, and the lightning earphones seem significantly louder (and possibly better?) than regular earphones plugged into the adapter, which is a bit mysterious since the adapter seems to feature essentially the same DAC chip.

Lee Dronick
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Lee Dronick

Here’s a thought. If you still have the plastic case from a previous iPhone, use that. That is, if you have the patience to fold up the cord.

I do that because I have found that it keeps the cord from corkscrewing. It is harder in the pocket and can contribute to wearing out the fabric, no worse than a key fob though. I also keep ear buds coiled and wrapped inside of a change purse which isn’t so hard on pocket fabric.