iPhone 7

For the first time, Apple has used the same design on its flagship phone three years running. The first feature Phil Schiller mentioned is the new Darth Vader-inspired Jet Black finish, which is an unusual opening line. My guess is Apple just wanted to blast right over this fact then move on.

While I don’t think the iPhone 6 design is the best looking — or easiest to hold — I don’t think it’s the end of the world that Apple didn’t revisit the design in a radical way this year.

At first, I thought I was going to be on the hook for a Jet Black iPhone 7, but after seeing a bunch of hands-on photos from reporters on Twitter, I think the matte “Black” finish is the one for me.

The iPhone 7 brings Force Touch to the home button for the first time. This new home button doesn’t physically click, but rather a Taptic Engine gives haptic feedback when pressure is applied to the button.

This Taptic Engine sits across the bottom of the phone, behind the home button. My guess is that this move was a strike against the headphone jack staying in place, along with the waterproofing Apple has applied to the device.

The 3.5mm headphone jack is gone. Apple is putting Lightning EarPods in the box, along with a Lightning to headphone jack adaptor.1 Phil Schiller called this move an act of “courage,” which really strikes me as the wrong word. Bold, maybe, but not courageous.

The move away from the “ancient” jack will allow Apple to move forward to better audio, as well as more innovative features inside the phone now that the jack is gone. While in time, I think the pain of this transition will fade, right now, I think a lot of people aren’t onboard with what seems like a change with half-hearted reasons behind it.

To round the audio system, Apple is now using the earpiece as a second speaker, giving stereo sound when the device is held in landscape. This system is supposed to be twice as loud as the 6S, which will welcomed by all of us who listen to podcasts around the house on our phone speakers.

Around back, both the 7 and 7 Plus have picked up better cameras. The 12 MP shooters now feature an aperture of f/1.8, which is pretty awesome when coupled with the optical image stabilization that is now present on both phones. The LED flash is better, and the FaceTime camera is now 7 MP, and should result in much better selfies.

Video capture is unchanged from last year, but Live Photos should be smoother and clearer.

The Plus, of course, now packs two cameras side by side. One is the same wide-angle lens as on the 7; the second is a f/2.8 telephoto lens. Zooming in will cause the iPhone to switch over to the telephoto lens for clearer, cleaner images.

The 5.5-inch iPhone has a second trick up its sleeve when it comes to using both cameras:

When you take a shot with iPhone 7 Plus, the dual-camera system uses both cameras and advanced machine learning to make your subject sharp while creating the same out-of-focus blur in the background — known as the bokeh effect — previously reserved for DSLR cameras. So no matter what’s behind your subject, it’s easy to create a great portrait.

The sample images Apple shared today are impressive for coming out of a smartphone, but I won’t be leaving my Canon 70D at home when I want nicer photos.

Interestingly, this feature won’t be present in iOS 10.0, but will be coming “later this fall,” according to Apple.

Inside, the iPhone 7 is faster than previous models thanks to some new silicon. This new chip is called the A10 Fusion chip, and the awkward name shares what’s going on under the hood. The A10 Fusion chip has four cores. Two are “high-performance” while the other two are “high-efficiency.” The iPhone switches between them as needed. These improvements mean this iPhone is getting 2-3 hours better battery life than the 6S and 6S Plus.

All in all, while the iPhone 7 may not bring a new design, it’s a bigger jump in terms of specs and features than a normal S phone. While I’m not thrilled about the removal of the headphone jack, I think it will prove to be a worthy upgrade for anyone with a phone older than a year. 6S users on contract, enjoy your listening to wired headphones and charging your device for another year.

  1. Additional adaptors can be picked up for $9.