Apple Unveils iPhone 7: Here Are the Top New Features

The new iPhones are here, with Apple calling both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus a "deliberate evolution." The phones are water-resistant, boast stereo speakers and seriously improved cameras. The iPhone 7 also comes in a Jet Black finish, and the iPhone 7 Plus has two 12-MP lenses to achieve up to 10x zoom.

Apple is also getting rid of the headphone jack in favor of bundled Lightning headphones and leaving enough room for stereo speakers. It's a controversial move, but Apple senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller says this move is about "courage" and having a vision for better audio quality.

The iPhone 7 goes on sale Sept. 16, but pre-orders start on Sept. 9. The pricing will remain the same as with the iPhone 6s, starting at $649, but the storage will start at 32GB and go up to 256GB. Previously, Apple's iPhones started with 16GB of storage and topped out at 128GB. The iPhone 7 Plus starts at $769.

The phones will be available in the silver, gold and rose gold finishes of previous models; Apple's also adding a black phone with an anodized matte finish and a second jet-black model with a high-gloss look. The jet-black iPhone will be exclusive to the 128GB and 256GB models.

Design: Water-Proof, New Home Button

Apple has revamped the Home Button to make it more reliable. It leverages a new Taptic Engine and is pressure sensitive. Developers will be able to tap into it, just as they can update their apps to take advantage of Apple's 3D Touch feature which added pressure sensitivity to the iPhone's display.

The new enclosure is water- and dust-resistant as well, meeting the IP67 standard. That means you don't have to worry if you drop it in the pool.

All-New Camera, Two Lenses on iPhone 7 Plus

The new iPhone 7 camera has a new f/1.8 lens that lets in more light and a 12-MP sensor that's faster and more efficient. The True Tone flash has four LEDs to put out more light while a new flicker sensor detects and adjusts for any artificial lighting when you use the flash. The new ISP performs 100 billion operations every time you take a picture.

The front camera now shoots at 7-MP for better selfies.

As expected, the iPhone 7 Plus features dual 12-MP cameras. One is a wide-angle lens and the second is a telephoto lens. This essentially offers a zoom-in feature called 1x. You press a button and you can do one of two things: you can jump to 2x with a tap (optical zoom). You can then zoom up to 5x, or even 10x to get a better close-up shot.

The dual camera setup can also create a bokeh effect, applying a beautiful blur to the background of images. Apple calls this Depth Effect, and you can get a live preview while you're shooting. That depth-of-field feature will arrive as a software update for iPhone 7 Plus users later this year.

Improved Retina Display

The Retina Display on the iPhone 7 is 25 percent brighter, has a wide color gamut and improved color management. As with last year's models, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus support 3D Touch.

To show off the new camera and display, Instagram demoed creating a Boomerang short video. The app maker said it will also take advantage of the new wider color gamut on the iPhone 7's screen.

No More Headphone Jack, New AirPods

On the audio front, the iPhone 7 ditches the headphone jack in favor of the Lightning connector, as had been widely expected in the build-up to today's iPhone unveiling. The move is sure to be controversial among some users, though Schiller framed Apple's decision as one that will ultimately improve the audio experience on the phone. The bundled EarPods will plug right in to the Lightning port, and Apple will include a headphone-to-Lightning port adapter if you want to stick with headphones that require a jack.

The iPhone rocks a set of stereo speakers, a first for Apple's smartphone. One speaker sits at the top of the phone, while the other is at the bottom. That should come in especially handy when you use the phone in landscape mode, since your hand will no longer cover the iPhone's lone speaker.

Apple isn't stopping there with audio. The iPhone 7 is taking on Bluetooth by create a new wireless audio technology. The new AirPods feature a W1 chip for high-frequency playback and reliable connectivity. The new earbuds dangle from your ears and offer 5 hours of listening time. In a clever move, the AirPods charge using an included case. They'll set you back $159.

Not to be left out of the fun, Apple-owned Beats will offer three new headphones to take advantage of both the Lightning connection and Apple's W1 wireless chip, though pricing wasn't announced.

Seriously Powerful A10 Fusion Chip

The new A10 Fusion chip powers the iPhone 7, which is 120x faster than the original iPhone and has four cores. Two of the cores run at one-fifth the total power. An Apple-designed performance controller decides how many cores to engage.

Apple says the A10 offers up to twice the performance of the A8 processor that powers the iPhone 6 — a two-year-old device that seems like a prime upgrade candidate for Apple's latest phones. TA six-core GPU is also inside, which is 50 percent faster than the A9 chip in the previous iPhone; it also consumes two-thirds of the power that the A9 needed, which should make these new phones capable of playing console-quality games. To demonstrate, Apple showed off a stunning new game from This Game Studio featuring Wizard of Oz characters, and it was an impressive display of the A10's power to see 400 flying monkeys rendered at once.

Longer Battery Life

In terms of battery life, you're looking at up to 12 hours of LTE browsing and 13 hours on the iPhone 7 Plus. Apple says that the iPhone 7 lasts two hours longer than the iPhone 6s, and the Plus lasts an hour longer than the 6s Plus.


On the software front, the iPhone 7 will come with iOS 10, which will be available to other iOS devices on Sept. 13. Third-party integration with Siri highlights the changes in iOS 10 For example, you can book a Lyft using just your voice and Siri, and you can wake your phone just by lifting it.

With HomeKit, you can control a wide range of smart home products, including lights, video cameras and security systems. Apple is touting the Works with HomeKit label and the Home app which offers a place to manage all those devices from your phone.

The big app news is that Mario is coming to the App Store with a Super Mario Run game. It's an endless runner that's designed to be one-hand friendly, where you collect coins and even compete against others around the world.

There are now 500,000 games in the App Store, says Apple CEO Tim Cook, who called the iPhone and the iPad the leading gaming platforms.

On the work side of the equation, Apple is bringing real-time collaboration to its iWork Suite, finally catching up to Google Docs.

Apple started the iPhone launch event by talking about Apple Music updates. Tim Cook announced that it now has 17 million paid Apple Music subscribers. Cook also boasted about the more intuitive design of the iOS 10 Music app, and that Apple Music was the first place to listen to over 70 new releases.

Cook also said that more than 140 billion apps have been downloaded from the App Store. In the last two months Apple saw 106 percent growth year over year in terms of downloads. Apple says that the App Store generates twice the global revenue of Google Pay, its nearest competitor.

Cook also emphasized Apple's role in education as he spoke out ConnectED schools that are teaching children about technology and coding. There are 114 schools Apple is supporting. The company is donating iPads to more than 50,000 students and 4,500 teachers; it's also putting Apple TVs in every classroom of the schools it supports.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.