It's as predictable as autumn. A new iPhone drops on us every October and it's only coincidental that I have more reasons to rejoice the day of my birth.
So, what does this year’s iteration bring with it? Well, like you all probably know by now, this year's iPhones come in two new shades of Ninja - Black and Jet Black. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus have new robes on but the garb under the new veils don't change much. Sure, the antenna lines are better hidden along the edges and the home button isn't really a button anymore, but more on that later.
If you've raked in a massive bump in Instagram followers this past year, chances are you are an iPhone photographer and the news will only get better from here. The iPhone 7 Plus might be a bit unwieldy but there was no doubting its superior optical capabilities, including the OIS, which only the 6S Plus model had. Both the new iPhone 7 models get the love, but the 7 Plus i'm testing here gets the red-carpet treatment and comes with a Dual-lens camera. Interested already?
Apple iPhone 7 Plus Camera: Hunting for DSLRs
Who are we kidding? Even before the iPhone 7 came out, everyone knew it's the camera to watch out for and possibly, upgrade from the 6S for. Apple didn't disappoint. The all-new optics deploy cutting-edge image processing technology along with improved six elements and most crucially, a wider aperture of f1.8 that allows for twice the amount of light to be captured. It really does give a huge boost to your personal ego as well as your social following due to the fantastic low-light shots you'll be capturing with ease now. Couple this with iOS10's new swipe-right-from- lock-screen-gesture means that you'll be snapping more than waiting around for the perfect light or the perfect focus. Perhaps the more overlooked hero here might be the new screen with Wide Colour Gamut support and 25% more brightness than before and this makes a world of a difference when you're reviewing or editing your pictures on the device itself. Instantly, colours have more pop in them without ever resorting to AMOLED like oversaturation and bleed. There is an inherent honesty to the colours that is true to life and Samsung Galaxy 7 users might feel that they got a better real, but really, they didn't. Even your low-light shots get a boost with a four-LED True Tone flash for putting that ting in the teeth, although I have always preferred my shots without flash.
Move up in size and price and the 7 Plus proves why this year's phones are not just freak twins. The dual-lens system is a genius idea that while sounds similar to what HTC, LG and even Huawei have done in the past, is implemented on the iPhone very differently. For starters, the secondary lens has an aperture of f2.8 and only comes into action when you decide to tap on the new 1x option on camera app. What you then get is closer to the subject, for instance, with no loss in quality at all. 2x optical zoom and if you want to use Apple’s secret-sauce image processing, you can keep going all the way to 10x, but as expected, things get fuzzy and works at best as a handy binocular. What impresses is that this zoom can be used in every camera mode the iPhone offers, including Panorama and Time lapse! Switch to video and the digital zoom maxes out at 6x, but you can still get closer to the action on the fly with the telephoto lens and the transition is entirely seamless. Though it has to be said that the amount of light you will be able to capture will reduce significantly in the trick modes due to the smaller aperture of the secondary lens. The video stabilisation is as good as the one of the 6S Plus, if not better. Walking around with the phone in your hand has little effect on the drama created by the smooth pans enabled by the OIS and has the potential to get you involved deeper into videography if the bug catches you unaware.
iPhone has always been a favourite with semi-pro photographers who couldn’t be bothered with a DSLR at a dinner party and with the incoming Depth effect, this dual lens wonder seems to be the final nail in that coffin. During the review process in the iOS 10.1 Public Beta version, I did try out the soon-to-be-made-public Portrait mode and I have one word for it - WOW! The bokeh effect it creates between the subject and the background is so natural, it’s virtually impossible to tell that the image was captured by a smartphone. No hints of software manipulation and no smearing of sharp detail around the edges of the foreground subject, this is the next big step in mobile photography and sets the stage for next years mega 10th Anniversary iPhone 8.
If you’re into selfies unlike we are, you can have more reasons to show off those pearlies now. Camera resolution has been bumped up to 7MP and it even gets the wide colour capture and image stabilisation. Apple is really pushing the likes of Gionee and HTC to come up with better arguments for their devices, but I would’ve liked a wider angle on the front camera to fit in more people in a group selfie.
Apple iPhone 7 Plus Display: Brighter, not bigger
Many might lament the fact that Apple held out on the Quad HD resolution or the OLED screen on the iPhone 7 and while we wait until next year’s version, I can safely claim that no one will ever complain about the 1080p IPS LCD screen on this year’s model. It’s received two major changes - more brightness (more nits always equals to better outdoor visibility) and more importantly, Wide Colour Gamut. Deeper colours and richer graphics are just one part of it, but what catches your eye instantly is the way it depicts the grayscale without any of the banding issues that plague a lot of the competition. It doesn’t have the inky blacks of an AMOLED on the Samsung Galaxy S7, but that’s not to say it can’t hold its own against the explosive device. Try out a graphic-intensive game like Assassins Creed or NFS and it pulls you into the action along with the Taptic engine providing haptic feedback and the console-level graphics just frying your retinas.
What’s different with the iPhone 7’s screen compared to the 6S is the fact that more of the internal apps and functions use the Taptic engine for better feedback. For instance, scrolling through time options to set an alarm gently triggers a feedback so you know you’re scrolling through something and similarly, it’s peppered across iOS10, so the more you use it, the more it surprises you. I honestly never got around to using 3D Touch much, but the iPhone 7 Plus has me trying out the pressure-sensitive screen on more apps than ever before.
Apple iPhone 7 Plus Audio: Less is more
There’s been a satanic outcry about the abandoning of the 3.5mm headphone jack, but there’s always resistance before change and whether you like it or not, Hi-res audio in the future will need to be fully digital in playback, and this is Apple’s way of clearing the path for that obvious eventuality. Sure, the included adapter is a bit cumbersome to carry around or even remember to pack in on a day out, but it just means that you’ll see more commuters on local transport plugged into the little white EarPods now. High-end third-party brands like Audeze and Oppo have already begun selling lightning-based headphones and if you want to experience some magic, Apple’s own Airpods are coming later this month. I did experience them and it took 30 seconds to convert my inner sceptic into a believer. All the pictures don't do it justice, making you believe that they would fall off the moment you stick them in your ears. Nothing could be farther from the truth in fact. The lack of any cables means there’s no weight transfer or accidental pulling of the ear buds out and the AirPods fit perfectly and didn’t fall off even during my brief head banging session on Sepultura.
Even more amazing is the way they connect with the iPhone, just by flipping open their charging case! The sensors tell them when they’re out of your ears and when they’re in, playing and pausing music accordingly while the magnetic suction in the charging pod gently sucks them in place for a quick burst of power that can soundtrack your life for more than 5 hours. Sound quality isn’t bad either and is well suited to your iTunes-downloaded collection at least. Beats currently has three models on sale that use the same tech as the Airpods, enabled by the W1 chipset, so pairing is extremely easy and intuitive and they will potentially provide higher sound quality as well. A good Bluetooth wireless headphone should work equally well but might take away from your character of playing Captain Spock from the year 2022.
There are stereo speakers on the device itself now, on either side of the screen. The ones on the bottom remain and additionally, the earpiece hides another speaker to balance out the stereo audio and it remains sufficiently loud to watch YouTube videos without reaching for the backup buds.
Apple iPhone 7 Plus Design: Measured evolution
From the front you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the older model and the 7, but look closer and you’ll realise that the chrome garnishing around the home button is missing and that’s because the home button isn’t a button anymore. The pressure-sensitive nubbin can now be customised and you can select between three levels of vibration. I liked the middle setting as it works the best, the max setting seemingly shakes the entire bottom part of the phone while 1 is hardly perceptible. I’m personally not a big fan of this, but like most new interface designs, I would presume it’s a matter of getting used to until it becomes a way of life. But the tactility of a real button will surely be missed, and then again, compensated for by the IP67 water-resistance that the new models offer. Apple claims you can dip these expensive toys for up to 30 mins in 1mt of water, but you need a heart of stone for that. I’ll take their word for it and keep it close to me in the shower and agree.
In Black and Jet Black finishes, it does make for a futuristic-looking device, especially given the usual high order of build quality and surface finishes that iPhones are known for. The curved screen fuses perfectly with the aluminium back without letting your fingers know about the mating process. Around the back, the ugly antenna lines have been pushed to the edges so they’re all but invisible, unless you go in for the lighter finish options.
The Jet Black is a fingerprint magnet, but you can't deny its inherent sexiness and just the drool-inducing and jelly-kneed feelings it induces.
Apple iPhone 7 Plus Power and Battery: Speed Demon
It may not sound like much in Apple’s Keynotes, but the bump in the A10 Fusion chip’s power performance is actually palpable. Every action has a buttery smoothness to it, even when I had more than a dozen app windows open, background App updates, iTunes song downloads and Whatsapp texting all happening simultaneously. Battery life is also much improved and even after using the 7 Plus for about 4 hours straight now, it’s showing 78% battery charge, opening the possibility of more than a day’s work on a full charge. The smaller iPhone 7 also improves by 2 hours on the older model's claims, so finally the bane of standing close to a power outlet during public functions and airports should be a thing of the past. Power through your day and possibly in bed too.
APPLE IPHONE 7 PLUS VERDICT
The premium price tag is almost justified by the new black coloured iPhones. Their build quality, user experience and premium feel are second to none. The 16GB model has been sent to the grave and a new 256GB star is born, but that will lighten your wallet by a hefty ₹92,000! 32GB and 128GB options are available for ₹72,000 and ₹82,000 respectively, but you know you’ll need the storage once you start using it as your primary camera, including shooting 4K vacation videos. There’s no argument against the absurd pricing for high-end smartphones these days, but if you absolutely need to have the fastest, most capable and sexiest iPhone out there, the 256GB iPhone 7 Plus should be high on your list. Its waterproofed wares, dual-lens camera and the ever-expanding Apple ecosystem (Watch, TV) means that if you’ve sinned already, might as well go the whole hog and reap the benefits of taking a big bite of the Apple.