15 March 2018 05:20:47 IST

iPhone 7 Plus: The story is inside

Not a revolution in design visually, the new iPhone is full of refinements and an even sports a better camera

It is human nature. You look at the whole package on the outside and within a fraction of a second make up your mind whether you like something or not. Psychologists say this is the way people form first impressions of each other as well.

And so it was with the iPhone 7’s, launched in September this year. Even though every feature and spec was leaked ahead of the launch, there was still some disappointment all round to have the rumours proved correct and discover that there was no visual change worth mentioning to the set of new and expensive phones. Users like to know they have a fresh brilliant design on their favourite phone. But this time around, Apple urges you to look on the inside. Accordingly, I put the iPhone 7 Plus into its red leather case and forgot all about its looks.

Tap to feel

The first thing that you will notice physically on the iPhone, apart from little design tweaks, is the change in the Home button. It no longer clicks in the same way. Instead of giving way under your finger, it gives you what feels like a virtual click. This is what Apple calls Taptic Engine and it's in the MacBook and on the watch too. The Home button is a little difficult to get used to at first, but the haptic technology used in various actions is rather nice and satisfying. For instance, when you scroll a setting to set the time, each change of number is associated with a tactile feel. It is difficult to explain but the experience is fun and natural. I soon found myself wanting to feel that little buzz more often, such as when swiping a screen or flipping a page.

Better than ever

Apple execs are very fond of saying their new device is better than it has ever been. That of course is stating the obvious since no new phone could or should be worse than those that preceded it — unless it is busy exploding. And so yes, there is lots about the new iPhone that makes it better. It is water resistant now: not to the extent that Samsung’s S7 is but enough to save the iPhone from accidental spills.

It has a new and much faster A10 Fusion chip, the storage has been stepped up (important for storing photos and music) and the battery life is pretty good. Personally, I find the iPhone 7 Plus the better of the two devices, not just because of the dual wide angle and telephoto camera but of the spaciousness of the screen, which is brighter than before. But for me, as for many others, it’s all about the camera.

The camera to beat

For the past many years, just about every smartphone with a worthy camera has been pitted against the iPhones in detailed tests. The Galaxy S7s surpassed it in many respects. Now, the 6 element lens 12MP dual camera on the iPhone 7 Plus has a larger f1.8 aperture that lets in more light. It also has optical image stabilisation and an optical zoom which is quite impressive. Press the ‘1x’ symbol to zoom in 2x and find a closer image which can then be zoomed further through software, though this is not a favourite trick of photographers as it only introduces noise. The two cameras combine to create a single photograph. An update to Apple’s iOS will bring in more capabilities including shooting portraits with bokeh, the blurring in the background that looks so good in images. The iPhone 7’s camera is good in low light and even compensates when you shoot a subject against the light. There's a Quad LED flash.

What is not so good and the subject of endless discussion is of course the now famous headphone jack removal. You will need to use headphones of your own choice; ones that fit well and sound the way you want them to. The adaptor in the box will take little time to get lost, which is when you will find yourself a little stuck. The upcoming Air Pods’ biggest problem will also be that they will fall right out, as each ‘ear-print’ is different.

The decision on whether to upgrade to or buy an iPhone 7 is getting more difficult over the past couple of releases. In India, a bunch of deals on both old and new models complicates the picture a bit more. It really is users with an old model of the iPhone who should consider an upgrade. And anyone who wants to give up on Android and buy the ultimate aspirational flagship.

Price: Starts at ₹60,000

Love: Great camera, Taptic Engine, brighter screen

Hate: Similar design, losable audio parts, no 3.5mm jack