07 September 2016

Apple for the day

Slate has an article by Will Oremus, Slate's senior technology writer, about the iPhone 7:

We've reached the point in the iPhone's evolution where the latest generations are more notable for features they don’t sport than for any they do.
Apple has announced the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and, as expected, they look a lot like their immediate predecessors. Also as expected, based on a preponderance of credible rumors, they're the first iPhones to dispense with an analog headphone jack.
In place of the venerable 3.5mm port, Apple proposes two alternatives:
First, the new phones will come boxed with a set of earbuds that connect via the Lightning port, as well as an adaptor for your old headphones. Yes, the Lightning port is the same one you use to charge the phone. Yes, that means you won't be able to charge the phone and listen to headphones at the same time. Apple’s own explanation for the change was a little baffling. Schiller said the rationale for jettisoning the headphone jack could be summed up in one word: courage, What kind of courage? “The courage to move on, and to try something new that betters all of us,” he elaborated. Okay, then!
For the most part, though, we knew or suspected all of this going into the event. So for those mourning their soon-to-be obsolete headphones, the real question was: what would Apple offer in exchange?
Well, for one thing, you can now drop your iPhone in the toilet. I mean, you could do that before, but now when you get it back out, there’s a decent chance it will continue to function. Eliminating the headphone jack enabled Apple to seal the phone at last, making it “dust and water resistant”, albeit not fully waterproof.
Meanwhile, the iPhone, for the first time, will have stereo speakers, a feature that will be welcomed by the kind of oblivious jerks who walk around with their phone’s sound turned on.
For those who have no plans to either drop their phone in the toilet or annoy passersby by blasting One Republic, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will also come with more than the usual performance upgrades.
They’re powered by a new, four-core processor that Apple calls the A10 Fusion. Two high-performance cores will offer a step up from Apple’s previous A9 chip, while the other two cores will be optimized for power efficiency, saving battery when you run apps that don’t require peak performance. An Apple-designed “performance controller” will take on the task of shifting the load between those cores.
Apple has also invested heavily in the new phones’ cameras, adding dual twelve megapixel rear-facing cameras to the 7 Plus, which will work in tandem to offer a 2x optical zoom, along with 10x digital zoom. Optical image stabilization, previously limited to the 6 Plus, will be included in both the 7 and 7 plus. The flash is brighter, and a new “image signal processor” with will help to automatically adjust your photos for various conditions. Apple calls it a “supercomputer for photos”.
In other news, the home button will no longer click. Instead, it will be a solid-state button with “taptic” feedback, a technology (and neologism) it borrows from the Apple Watch. Basically, you’ll feel a little tap when you push hard enough to register the equivalent of a click.
Apple says the new iPhones will also offer an extra hour or two of battery life­, aka “the longest battery life ever on an iPhone”, in Apple’s breathless parlance.
It adds up to what inevitably feels like another underwhelming iPhone launch. It's worth remembering, though, that it’s already a remarkable device, and totally reinventing it every year would be crazy. Incremental upgrades are still upgrades, and a better processor and camera will probably make more of a difference to the average iPhone user than any number of flashier gimmicks the company could have introduced.
Not that the event was without flashy gimmicks, although they skewed retro, as with the announcement of the first Mario game for iOS and the coming debut of Pokemon Go on the Apple Watch. The watch itself came in for its own round of upgrades, which my colleague Jacob Brogan has covered here.
But the iPhone 7 will not be remembered primarily as the one that introduced the dual rear camera or the A10 Fusion chip or the taptic home button, nor even as the first iPhone to prove toilet-worthy. Rather, it will be remembered in one of two ways: the device that killed wired headphones for good, or the one that tried and failed.
Rico says that, if you can afford a new iPhone, you can afford new headphones...

1 comment:

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