SAN FRANCISCO — Everyone is going to be talking about the iPhone 7's missing headphone jack. But the bigger story is how much better Apple's biggest phone now is.
I spent some hands-on time with both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus at Apple's launch event, and it's clear that the dual-camera setup on the iPhone 7 Plus makes it the Apple phone to get (at least for those who don't mind big-screen phones).
After opening the camera app, I could zoom in 2x by just tapping a button on screen; then I could press and hold the same button and drag my finger to the right to zoom up to 10x. Remarkably, I didn't lose much detail as I zoomed in on a purse across the table.
You'll also be able to achieve a nifty blurred background (or bokeh) effect with the iPhone 7 Plus' two 12-MP lenses. This isn't exactly new, as other Android phones have offered similar functionality, but the early examples I saw from the iPhone 7 Plus were truly impressive.
The good news is that the regular iPhone 7 gets an improved camera, too, complete with Apple's new image signal processor for faster performance, a larger f/1.8 aperture that lets in more light and 6-element lens. So you should expect much better photos from the smaller iPhone 7 as well, though not the dual-lens goodness of the larger model.
Of course, the other big news is that the headphone jack is gone, and it's clear that the focus is on wireless — despite the fact that Apple is bundling wired EarPods that plug into the Lightning Port.
I tried on the new AirPods ($159), which use a dedicated W1 wireless chip, and I enjoyed clear audio playback. I'm not a fan of how these buds dangle from your ear like jewelry, but I do like some of the neat tricks they perform. For instance, when you take one bud off, the music stops, and double tapping a bud fires up Siri.
The most noticeable design change other than the lack of a jack is the redesigned Home Button. It takes some getting used to, because it no longer physically depresses. Instead, you get haptic feedback; it worked well, but I had to press harder than I thought to see all open apps on my phone.
For gamers and those who like to edit video on their phones, the A10 Fusion processor will provide a welcome boost. When playing Oz: Broken Kingdom, I could make out the tiniest details in the bricks even as hundreds of flying monkeys rendered on screen.
For me, the water-resistance of the new iPhones is nice to have but not a must-upgrade feature. I'm more excited by the two new black color options. There's a glossy jet black and anodized matte black that looks more bad-ass. (The jet black look is only available for the 128GB and 256GB models.)
While not dramatic, I'm glad that Apple has added a True Tone display on both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which means more accurate color and a wider color gamut. In fact, apps like Instagram will be taking advantage of the new technology with new filters. Still, I would have like to see Apple ramp up the resolution on its phones.
I couldn't tell how much better the new stereo speakers are, but I'm glad Apple is stepping up it's game in this department. Expect wider and fuller sound.
Overall, the iPhone 7 is a nice step forward but the iPhone 7 Plus feels more like a leap for those who want a truly versatile camera. Stay tuned for our full review.