Is your two-year contract up, or have you fully paid for your last iPhone? Or did you sign up for Apple’s annual iPhone upgrade program? If so, you are a prime candidate for the company's latest iteration of its billion-sold smartphone. On Wednesday September 7th, Apple announced the forthcoming availability of two new models, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. As usual, the new models offer a mix of upgrades and new features. Here is a quick overview:
Screen sizes stay at 4.7 and 5.5 in. like the iPhone 6, 6S, and 6 Plus. There have, however, been some improvements to the brightness and color quality of the Retina HD display. It now features 3D pressure touch layers. Screen resolution is still less than that of a Samsung Galaxy 7, but we may see screen resolution jump in the next model in 2018.
A new home button has been added. This one features directional control and programmability.
There is a more powerful processor, the A10 Fusion. This 64-bit four-core processor offers two cores for higher performance and two for better battery efficiency.
Audio has been improved. The new models feature two superior speakers with stronger output and full stereo.
There is no headphone jack. As predicted, Apple did eliminate the headphone jack to make the case thinner. New earbuds use the Lighting jack for connectivity. A standard earphone jack-to- Lightning connector dongle is included so you can use your existing earphones. Now you cannot charge the phone while listening to music.
New AirPod wireless earbuds are now available using Apple’s W1 wireless chip. Presumably using Bluetooth, the AirPods connect seamlessly, include a microphone, and are Siri-enabled. A charging stand is included in this accessory.
There is a new, thinner aluminum case that is now water- and dust-resistant. It comes in new high-gloss and matte black models, along with gold, silver and rose gold finishes.
New cameras are perhaps the most significant change feature of the 7 models. The new 12-megapixel camera has an f1.8 aperture lens with six elements that provide brighter, sharper photos. The 7 Plus has a second camera with a 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom. The 7 Plus cameras enable a depth-of-field effect popular on DSLR cameras. A new 7-megapixel front camera permits even sharper selfies. A new quad LED flash unit is brighter than ever.
Battery life has improved. An unglamorous feature that everyone appreciates is longer operating time with fewer recharges. The estimate is two hours longer life that a 6S, or 12 to 14 hours.
The new phones also cover 25 LTE bands and enable LTE-Advanced. LTE-A uses channel aggregation to widen the bandwidth and increase download speed. Most of the big carriers are rolling out LTE-A in the major cities, so you should be able to enjoy rates up to 450 Mb/s.
There is also a new version of iOS. The upgraded iOS 10 offers improvements to messaging and Siri, redesigned maps, and more.
The base 32-GB model of the 7 costs $649. 128-GB and 256-GB versions are also offered. The new phones will be available September 16. The new AirPods sell for $159.
Oh, by the way: Apple also introduced a new Watch model called the Series 2, targeting the fitness audience. Its main new feature is built-in GPS. The new cases are water-resistant to 50 meters. A faster dual-core processor and a brighter screen are other improvements. A new Nike model for runners is also available. The low-end model sells for $269.
So what do you think? Overall it is a reasonably good update. The iPhone 6 and 6S owners probably won’t be swayed (unless they are real camera buffs), but iPhone 4 and 5 owners will be tempted. My iPhone 5 still does mostly what I want, but I may give in and go for the upgrade.
Or should I wait? The next model, iPhone 8, will probably be out in 2018. Or will it appear on the iPhone’s 10th anniversary next year? I suspect that Apple is planning something special. What could it be other than better screen resolution (perhaps wireless charging)? Is it worth the wait? Or is it time to consider the Watch in the interim?