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First Look: iPhone 7

This is probably the most controversial iPhone release since the iPhone 4 and its antenna issues. And it’s due to what’s missing: the headphone jack.

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Mobile phones have had headphone jacks from well before the iPhone existed. However, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are Apple’s first phones without one. The plugs aren’t coming back, so how does this affect you?

If you use wired headphones with your phone, you’ll need to use a dongle. The iPhone 7 comes with standard Apple earbuds and an adapter that turns the Lightning port in the base of the phone into a headphone jack – an inelegant solution to say the least.

However, there is another option: Bluetooth headphones. Apple will be releasing Air Buds, its own wireless earbuds, later this year. If you already own a pair of Bluetooth headphones, you’re set. A problem is if you need to buy a pair, they tend to be expensive or aren’t very good.

What about the rest of the phone?

The iPhone 7 handles tasks with ease and nothing runs slow. Even taxing it with video editing or running several apps in the background didn’t slow it down. The battery life wasn’t as good as I would have hoped from a top-of-the-line iPhone, though this wasn’t helped by my heavy usage of Siri and my Apple Watch, which the phone was in constant contact with.

The camera is excellent, even without the extra lens of the iPhone 7 Plus (we’ll review the larger, double-lensed phone in the near future). The iPhone 7 takes excellent photos, with amazing detail and colour. It’s a step up from the previous model, though it is notable the camera lacks manual controls (ISO, white balance etc), which are often found in Android phones.

It also runs iOS 10, Apple’s latest mobile operating system (which is also available on newer iPhones and iPads). While it does more, this iOS can be confusing to use at times. For example, swiping right will either open a message (on the lock screen) or dismiss it (on the notification screen). The new iMessage service has more options for sending “stickers” and notes to other iPhone users.

It has often been said that Apple products work well with other Apple products. This is very noticeable with the Apple apps. I found using Apple apps on the iPhone, rather than third-party apps, worked much smoother.

For example, I plotted a walking route in Google Maps and then tried to follow it from my phone but kept having to unlock the phone every couple of minutes to make sure I was on the right track. The phone was also getting very hot. Switching to Apple Maps, the phone kept the instructions available in my lock screen (so just lifting my phone showed it to me) but also sent directions to my watch, which buzzed every time I needed to make a turn.

The big new software change for Kiwis is Apple Pay (available on iPhone 7(+), 6S(+), 6(+), and SE). Currently it’s only available to ANZ customers but hopefully more banks will follow suit. Essentially, Apple Pay allows you to load your cards (including some loyalty schemes, such as Airpoints) into your phone and pay by tapping your phone to an eftpos terminal. It works anywhere you use Paywave with your credit card, but with added security.

To make a purchase, you simply use the fingerprint scanner after or while you tap it to the terminal. If you use your Apple Watch, just tap the watch and it’s done. The credit card number stored in Apple Pay isn’t the number printed on your card, but a temporary one allocated by the bank. The same is true for the three-digit security code.

You can also pay for items online using Apple Pay via apps using fingerprint authorisation.

I’m not with ANZ so haven’t tried it, but I have seen demos “in the wild” with both the phone and Apple Watch. Both work fast and with no fuss.

While this phone is certainly different from the previous iteration and there are some great new features, it isn’t the phone that would get me switching from the 6S. If you were mulling upgrading your iPhone, I’d recommend waiting for the 7S.

Specs

  • $1199 (32GB), $1399 (64GB), $1599 (128GB)
  • Screen: 4.7” LED, 1334 x 750 resolution (326ppi)
  • HxWxD: 138 x 67 x 7mm
  • Weight: 138g
  • Water resistant: Rated IP67
  • Processor: A10 Fusion chip with 64-bit architecture
  • Camera: 12MP, ƒ/1.8 aperture (rear), 7MP ƒ/2.2 aperture (front)
  • Colours: Rose gold, gold, silver, black, jet black

First Looks are trials of new or interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.

By Hadyn Green

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