TECH

The iPhone 7 Plus Review: Evolution, Not Revolution

Apple's newest flagship sets the stage for the 10th anniversary iPhone.

25/10/2016 3:57 PM IST | Updated 26/10/2016 11:07 AM IST
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Every year, the Apple CEO takes the centrestage in September and every year, people expect magical things from him. Steve Jobs, the company's legendary founder and former CEO set the bar for presentations and products so high that fans are often disappointed with Apple for not delivering a magical product in the post-Jobs era, even though the Apple product line remains exceptionally good.

The iPhone remains Apple's star product and, with the launch of iPhone 7, the company has taken some bold steps, setting the stage for the iPhone's 10th anniversary launch that will fall next year. I have been using the matte black iPhone 7 Plus, the 256 GB version, for over 10 days and it certainly has many talking points.

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Out of the box, the iPhone 7 Plus looks almost the same as the iPhone 6S Plus. It almost seems that Apple is saving all the design changes for the next year. But, I have to say, the black edition feels kind of sexy. The soft corners and the finish gives the phone an excellent hold

As you may have heard already, the most noticeable thing about the new design is the missing headphone jack. Apple created a bit of a stir by omitting this most commonly used technology in the audio and smartphone sector. We will get to the part about how it affects usage soon.

As in all my other encounters with iPhones, the iPhone 7 Plus' hardware feels nice. The overall usability and design is great. The new home button which is a static button with a 'taptic' (Apple's version of haptic) engine behind it, is brilliant. Some people miss the physical press but the haptic feedback is something which grows on you.

In fact, the implementation of the feedback was fantastic throughout the smartphone experience. Whether it is in the calendar to spin the wheel, or a light thud when you pull down the notification tray. Some applications, such as Noisie and Auxy, also make ample use of it.

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The 5.5-inch screen is amazing to look at, after coming from using Android screens with plenty of colour saturation. However, the 7 Plus screen has never been dull to look at, at any point. In fact, the display is 25 percent brighter than the previous iPhone which helps in using the phone outdoors.

At 441 pixels per inch (PPI), the phone's pixel density remains almost unchanged but since Apple is using a wider colour gamut, you have a larger variety of colours to look at. And, the new iPhone camera also includes wider colour capturing. So, a screen which can display that effect does wonders.

Performance wise, the newest iPhone is a flying chariot. I have thrown many things at the iPhone 7 Plus and it handles multitasking like a charm. I played games such as FIFA 17 on the phone and the new A10 fusion chip seems to be working quite well. Geeks, for your information, Apple has used something similar to the big-little architecture, with two performance cores and two power saving cores for light tasks.

The iPhone 7 Plus comes with the advantage of 3 GB of RAM as well. Along with a bigger screen, that is a huge advantage in gaming. Apple played a trump card by partnering with Nintendo to launch Mario Run exclusively on iOS.

Now, let's address the elephant in the room, also known as the headphone jack. Apple decided this year to give this omnipresent veteran of audio technology the pink slip. The company replaced it with two things -- first, the lightning jack earpods that are supplied with the phone; and second, the soon to be released Airpods.

If you sit mostly at home, or your commute time is not very long, you won't find this too much of a hindrance. But, if you go out a lot and have a pair of high-end headphones, this can be a bit of a problem. I always made it a point to carry my earpods wherever I went but there were times when silly me lost or misplaced them and could do nothing about it other than kicking myself later.

Apple does supply a lightning-to-3.5 mm jack adapter so that you can use your old headphones. But you'd have to get a few of those to keep them in your bag, office, and home.

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Airpods

The company introduced its ₹15, 400 Airpods that contain Apple's new W1 chip, which helps with better Bluetooth connectivity as well as with certain gestures. I happened to try the Airpods and they are very light, although the price is steep compared to earpods that deliver similar audio experience.

But this move by Apple will surely push the lethargic Bluetooth headphone industry to make better quality headphones at a cheaper rate. And, maybe, within a year or so we'd see that everyone has a pair of Bluetooth headset.

Another noticeable audio feature is the use of dual stereo speakers. The signature speakers on the bottom grill remain, while Apple has included a stereo speaker in the earpiece. The general audio quality was very amiable while watching videos or listening to music.

I have been always a fan of dual speakers in the phone although I don't use them to listen to music or watch videos most of the time. Basically, it gives you a good option to watch a sports clip while you are on the move.

The software is what I have most qualms about. While you always get the latest updates on your iPhone right after they are released and then be able to use them, a lot of iPhone updates have been known to screw up critical parts of the phone. In my case, it was the front camera which stopped working. Many iPhone users were having different problems, including WiFi connectivity and battery drain.

Assuming these issues will be fixed with minor updates, it was a pleasent experience using iOS as a whole. The interface, as always, is clean and user-friendly. Everything you want to tinker around with is in the settings menu. The new 'today' screen in the home screen gives you contextual information, along with the widgets.

Applications in iOS are just fanstastic. They don't feel like the shoddy jobs that some Android apps look like. Switching between apps is easy; when you click on a notification you get an option on the top to go back to the previous app. Notification interaction through 3D is also great to handle quick replies.

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CEO Tim Cook talks about Siri

But things start to get murky when you try and use Siri, Apple Maps or built in search. Right away, you'd want to run back to Android. Siri doesn't understand what you want to say most of the time and some searches, such as movie shows, are not even available.

Apple Maps shows you where you want to go to but can't provide you with directions. Google Apps on iOS works well but you wish there was tighter integration.

Apple has opened up Siri to outsiders and companies such as Ola Cabs have integrated their services to it. So, now you can call the cab through Siri. By comparison though, the Google has put in some serious focus on Artificial Intelligence and search in its new Pixel phone.

Moving on to the part that I enjoyed the most, the camera, the iPhone 7 Plus doesn't need you to be a pro photographer or even an enthusiast to click amazing photos. You just have to hold the phone and start clicking.

The iPhone 7 comes with a 12 MP rear camera with an aperture of f/1.8, and the iPhone 7 Plus, on the other hand, has a dual camera set up with two similar lenses in the rear. One of them acts as a wide angle lens and the other as a telephoto lens for depth.

iPhone 7 Photos

Apple also has a new six-stage sensor for the rear camera in this iteration of the iPhone. By employing larger pixels, the new sensor is almost 30 percent more power efficient and more than 60 percent faster than its predecessor.

iPhone 7 Slow montion

The phone is generally exceptional at capturing any colour range or low light images. Mostly, you don't need to worry about how the shot will turn out to be as the phone comes with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) in both versions of the phone. The colours are warmer and pleasing to the eye. The new colour capturing technology is working very well in tandem with the screen. You can read more about iPhone 7's camera tech here.

iPhone 7 special effects

I also tried out various effects, such as the new Bokeh effect which needs some more work. The optical and digital zoom work like a charm, with the 2X optical zoom giving you an extra edge over the other phones.

Video capturing on the iPhone 7 is great too. You can shoot videos that have 4K quality, along with slow motion videos at 240 frames per second. But the quality will be limited to 720p. If you have animals or kids at home, it is a fun feature to use. The front camera is bumped up to 7 MP HD Facetime camera which is a sizable upgrade from the previous version, and comes with image stabilization.

If you are wondering, Should I upgrade to this phone? The answer is, if you are using an iPhone 5 or iPhone 5s it would make sense to upgrade. And, also, if you have been using the same Android flagship phone for two or more years, because you're not going to get any software updates.

If size is not a constraint, I'd suggest the plus model. It has a dual camera which developers can use in many different ways, and it has a bigger battery, a bigger screen and greater processing power.

The phone is surely a sign of what is in store for the iPhone's 10th anniversary next year. There will be a better implementation of the dual camera, 3D touch, wireless audio and, perhaps, fast charging. You just might want to hold on for it.

But looking at recent flagship smartphones, with Note 7 out of the way, the iPhone 7 Plus will be battling it out with Google Pixel XL. We will have the comparison soon.

iPhone 7 Dual Camera Secrets

iPhone 7 Dual Camera Secrets
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