This past Wednesday Apple unveiled the newest iPhones: The “7” and the “7 Plus.”
And because they aren’t markedly different from the last year’s phones, there’s not a lot to report, except for one very major change that may not make iPhone owners, past and future, too happy.
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus “selfie” camera gets two more megapixels and “auto” image stabilization.
The iPhone 7 rear-facing camera still has 12 megapixels, but now has a wider aperture and “optical” image stabilization.
The 7 Plus gets a second lens with 2x “zoom” capability.
The camera lenses for both “7” models may be better overall than those on last year’s phones.
It’s unclear whether supplemental lenses, such as those from Olloclip, designed for earlier models of iPhones will fit the 7 or 7 Plus, even though the dimensions of the phones haven’t changed.
The flash may be somewhat better on the new phones.
Battery life may be improved somewhat, but my guess is that “power users” will discover that they will need either a separate battery pack, or a battery case, to keep their iPhones ready-to-go at all times.
The iPhone 7 models will be available with up to 256 GB of storage, double the maximum of last year’s “6” and “6 Plus” phones.
The iPhone 7 models’ displays may be somewhat brighter than on past models, which could be helpful when you are using the phone in bright sunlight.
Size and Weight
This comparison chart on the Apple Website indicates that the iPhone 7 has the same dimensions as last year’s iPhone 6S, and the same is true of the 7 Plus and 6S Plus.
That should mean that cases designed to fit last year’s phones will fit the new phones.
Both “7” models are slightly lighter in weight than their “6” counterparts.
Now you’ll push down on the Home button at varying degrees of pressure to perform certain functions, and not everyone may or may like that change.
The new “7” phones will be “water resistant.”
I’m not sure if that means you can drop them into a toilet (or into a pint glass of beer as the daughter of one of my wife’s cousins did) without damaging the phone’s innards.
It probably means you can get the phone a bit wet, but probably not take it scuba diving.
Audio: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
For months there have been rumors that the new iPhones would not have the standard 3.5 mm headphone/audio jack that all previous models, as well as various other kinds of audio gear, have had for years.
Apple moved that headphone jack from the top to the bottom of the phone a few years back, and as expected, it did eliminate it from the “7” models.
If you buy a 7 or 7 Plus you’ll get two things that will let you continue to listen to music on your phone (or the audio tracks of movies and videos): Wired earbuds that plug into the phone’s Lightning (charger) port, and a Lightning to 3.5 mm adapter that will let you use any earbuds or headphones that have a cable with a 3.5 mm plug.
The bad news is that adapter, which is similar to ones the Mophie supplies to its battery case customers, may prove to be a nuisance to carry, could easily be lost, or the wire segment could break. The good news is that you can buy a replacement for just $9.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like you will be able to simultaneously charge your phone and listen to music/video audio using wired earbuds or headphones, something you well might wish to do while traveling by plane.
And while it was unclear to me whether it is even possible for someone to make and sell an adapter that would allow you to “share” the phone’s Lightning port with a charging cable/battery and wired earbuds/headphones, according to Yahoo Tech’s David Pogue (who wrote this detailed commentary on the headphone jack issue), Belkin has indeed made such an adapter.
Your other option is to use “wireless” earbuds or headphones that use Bluetooth technology connect to the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, much as hands-free microphone/earphone devices that are used to make phone calls.
Sometime in late October, Apple itself will start selling its branded Bluetooth “AirPods” for $159.
Of course, if you want to listen to music or watch a movie in stereo without using earbuds or headphones, you’ll benefit from the replacement of the headphone jack with a second speaker at the bottom of the phone.
Filmmakers, like myself, who have purchased external microphones to record high-quality audio while shooting video with an iPhone may find that those microphones won’t work with the “7” models.
For example, the RØDE VideoMic Me that I recently bought plugs into the iPhone headphone jack and clamps down onto the phone’s surface. While it works fine on my all of my older iPhone models, I wouldn’t be able to use it with a “7” or “7 Plus” because neither has a headphone jack and using the Lightning-to-3.5 mm adapter would prevent securing the microphone to the phone.
Other external microphones are designed to plug into the headphone jack and fit snugly against the end of the phone, and none of those will work with a “7” model, either.
Availability and Pricing
The new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are available from pre-order today and will be shipped to buyers beginning on September 16th. It’s unclear whether the new phones will be available for purchase in Apple Retail Stores or other retail outlets on that date.
The smaller iPhone 7 with sell at full retail price for $649 (32 GB), $749 (128 GB) and $849 (256 GB).
The larger iPhone 7 Plus will cost $769 (32 GB), $869 (128 GB) and $969 (256 GB).
And One More Thing (or Two, or Three)
Thanks to the Yahoo Finance staff, here are three important bits of information about the new iPhone (and iPads) that you probably won’t read anywhere else.
Confused? No Problem
If your head is spinning after reading everything posted here about the new iPhones, just sit back and watch David Pogue’s video (with an accompanying article) about them.
Buy Now or Wait?
So, should you buy an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus?
Neither phone is much different from the earlier 6/6 Plus and 6S/6S Plus models, so if you own one of those, you might want to keep using it for another year until a new, and perhaps significantly improved “8” is released.
If you’ve got an iPhone 5S or an earlier model, you might think about replacing it with one of the new “7” phones. However, I normally wait about a month or so after the initial release date to buy a new iPhone since that gives “early adopters” a chance to find any flaws in the phone and for Apple to attempt to fix them.
The new phones will come with the latest operating system, iOS 10, pre-installed installed. Those who own older iPhones (and iPads) will be able to install that new operating system on September 13th.
However, iOS updates seem to always come with a few “bugs,” so I also typically wait a month or so after a new operating system is released before installing it on my existing iPhone or buying a new phone, giving Apple time to “squash” those operating system “pests.”
(Tales Told From The Road editor, Dick Jordan, has been using iPhones since 2009. The first was an iPhone 3GS, the second a “5,” and his newest phone is last year’s iPhone 6S.)