They say Steve Jobs was a modern day Walt Disney, which would basically equate Apple in 2016 to Walt Disney Studios the same year it released The Barefoot Executive. Okay, to be fair it was also the year Disney released the slightly more enduring Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but hey it’s still no Snow White.
Under the lens of scrutiny, one will find plenty of variations between Jobs and Disney, but the point remains that both men were tremendous visionaries who obsessively and often tyrannically conducted an “orchestra” of talent past its limits in order to break new ground. It was therefore inevitable that in the wake of their passing, the companies they founded would undergo a period of relative stagnancy or at the very least fall far short of innovating the way they used to.
Which brings us to the iPhone 7 (and 7 Plus), a device that’s less like Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks and more like Universal’s Fast and Furious 7, i.e. a technical improvement upon predecessors adorned with contemporary flourishes that reflect not so much in-house innovation as much as industry innovation as a whole. Put another way, the wall to Apple’s garden was scaled a long time ago and the company now seems more preoccupied with keeping pace than it does building a new wall.
More specifically that means a familiar outward design on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus along with some new touches that for the most part are only “new” for an Apple product. For example, the iPhone is now water resistant–a feature that feels like something Jobs would have pushed for years ago. The iPhone 7 is also slightly faster than the iPhone 6 and that’s impressive because speed was where the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus truly shined.
The (arguably overdue) upgrades keep rolling in. The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus enjoy a longer battery life and more data storage than previous entries. 32GB is now as low as Apple goes in the storage department and they crank that all the way up to 256GB for you hardcore users out there. However, some reviewers have pointed out that while 32GB is a necessary expansion, much of the new iPhone software and plenty of modern-day apps will take up far more space than ever before so there’s not necessarily as much ground floor storage room as meets the eye.
Most importantly, the cameras on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus have undergone serious improvements. Users will be delighted with things like a wider aperture, optical image stabilization, longer exposures, a 12-megapixel lens and the ability to capture raw DNG photos. The iPhone 7 Plus takes all that and adds an extra camera with a 12-megapixel telephoto lens to achieve a two-lens dual-camera system, as well as bokeh, a machine-learning technology that can simulate extra shallow depth and recognize people’s faces. Again, for the most part, these specs aren’t exclusive to iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, but odds are they’ll perform better than the majority of alternatives.
And now for the final dish in our buffet of features and perhaps the one aspect of the iPhone 7 that harkens back to days when the company told us what we liked and then told us to deal with it. We’re speaking of course about the absence of a headphone jack. In lieu of said jack is a Lightning port that connects to wireless headphones/earbuds or preferably the wireless AirPods included with the phone.
Embargoing the earbud jack has left us torn. On the one hand, we admire Apple for at the very least recognizing if not steering the turn of the tides. After all, we cover tons of gear on this site and it’s not hard to see that wireless earbuds and headphones are shaping up to become a new standard. Furthermore, by doing away with the jack Apple was able to install more features and a longer battery life into the phone. On top of that most reports suggest that the AirPods basically perform as well as your average “wired” earbuds (even if Steve Wozniak himself is on record saying that the technology represents a drop in audio quality).
On the other hand, there’s almost a shallow sense of upstaging at play, as though Apple wants to take over the DJ set at a party it showed up late too. And it wouldn’t be the first time (cough, Apple Music, cough). There are simply tons of companies out there working with wireless audio and by imposing such a thing it almost seems like Apple’s staking a bold claim on the technology itself when in reality it’s following the industry’s lead.
Do we personally find the jack removal as scandalous as others find it? Not really. If anything it just kind of pales in comparison to the “walled garden” philosophy of an era when Apple was authentically leading the charge on innovation. It will be interesting to see where the move takes them in terms of sales and future products.
In summary, Apple fans will find plenty to relish on the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, which easily keep pace with contemporary trends but don’t bring much genuine innovation to the table. In other words, they might not be The Barefoot Executive, but they’re no Little Mermaid either.