On “Newness” in the iPhone 7

I’m sticking with my 6S Plus this year, but I was talking with a friend of mine yesterday about his pending iPhone 7 Plus. We were discussing the features he was most looking forward to, and what he thought of the change in the home button from a physical to a haptic control. My friend was looking forward to the changes, but expressed something that surprised me: that the iPhone 7 isn’t new enough because it doesn’t have a dramatically different physical design.

I have trouble with this aspect because, to me, the iPhone has always been about what it enables me to do. I do like the physical design and I do still find myself drawn to the pure white front and curves on the 6S Plus, but I still see the similarly-shaped iPhone 7 — especially the 7 Plus — as a new device.

The internals have changed enough that there should be significant differences in where and how you can use this new iPhone.

Water Resistance

I’m always pretty wary about water and electronics. I keep glasses of water on the opposite side of my phone, and I’m always wary of rain. But the water resistance on the iPhone 7 means that the device is suddenly usable in an entirely new scenario. You shouldn’t go diving with the phone, but you can be a little less careful and a little more daring. Apple says the phone is water resistant up to 1m for 30 minutes, so it’s now capable of falling into a pitcher of beer, having a glass of water spilled on it…or being dropped into the toilet (although how this could happen, I’m sure none of us could imagine).

56mm 2x Zoom on the 7 Plus

The second lens on the iPhone 7 Plus is a really intriguing idea to me. Now that I’ve bought a few cameras and lenses, I’m realizing how big a difference a change in focal length can be. The 28mm equivalent lens we’ve had on iPhones for years is great for capturing a scene in a room, or doing a group photo of friend at a table. But it’s not a particularly flattering focal length for portraits, and you always need to move back and crop to really be able to capture a flattering angle.

The second 56mm equivalent lens on the iPhone 7 isn’t stabilized like the 28mm lens, but it should be fantastic for portrait shots and making your $5 latte look amazing. I think this really will change the way people approach photography on the iPhone, and it actually has me excited for my next upgrade (even though I’m still in no hurry).

Case Closed

I think the two headline features above are enough to open up new situations for iPhone usage, and that’s not even discussing the stereo speakers, wider colour gamut on the screen, and the new taptic engine (which works to add extra texture throughout the OS). But what surprises me most is that my friend wants a new physical design, but is going to end up covering 85% of the phone’s body with a full-body case. And I don’t think he’s alone in this either, based on the iPhones I see in public. Apple does make some really gorgeous hardware, but I disagree with how certain buyers judge the newness of an iPhone based on changes to the physical body, when cases are going to cover up that design anyway. In my opinion, it’s the internals that make a far larger difference.

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