Wednesday, September 7, 2016

iPhone 7

Overall, it is impressive and better than I was expecting. The processor is much faster, battery life is better, the camera has an image stabilizer (but still the bump), it’s water resistant like the original Apple Watch, the display supports wide color, and the speakers are better. I plan to keep my iPhone 6s, though.

I was a bit surprised that it does not support the Apple Pencil or True Tone, and also that the old iPhones got bumped up to 32 GB.

As expected, the case is the same uncomfortable shape—the worst of all the iPhone designs.

I’m not sure what to make of the new home button—early reports are mixed.

The AirPods look great, especially the battery life and ease of charging. Of course, this assumes that the wireless pairing works as well as Apple promises. Bluetooth audio has always been unreliable. I’m not sure I want to give up my Jawbone ERA, which is very easy to hear in noisy environments. It sounds like the AirPods only filter out the noise for the microphone, not the speaker. And I’m not sure the AirPods will have a snug enough fit for jogging. I was also hoping for better controls, i.e. the ability to play/pause/next without using Siri, a regression compared with wired earbuds.

Of course, there is no headphone jack. The way Apple justified this was pretty disappointing—no real reason was given. Even if the AirPods are great, that is a separate issue, not a benefit. The “courage” line was rather strange. They have the courage to make a proprietary wireless product, but they’re including wired EarPods and an adapter in the box? Or was it the courage to make everyone who likes their headphones carry a bulky adapter? At least extra adapters are only $9. There was also no reassurance about different use cases. For example, I have yet to see an adapter that would let me attach the iPhone to my car’s audio and charge it while it’s in a GPS mount.

Update (2016-09-08): Michael Nelson (via Parker Higgins):

That’s great, right? They “started allowing” it. You know who wasn’t so in love that idea? Headphone makers. As MacWorld wrote back in 2014, the rest of the audio industry largely resisted Apple’s invitation to revamp entire product lines to service a single piece of hardware that was bound to be updated again in a few years anyway.

Nick Lockwood:

Having standard ports lets hardware manufacturers bypass MFI.

The MFi licensing fee is $2/port.

John Paczkowski:

But the thing is, when Apple scrapped the iMac’s floppy drive, the floppy disc was ferociously inadequate as a storage solution and in obvious need of replacement.

The 3.5-millimeter audio jack, however, is neither inadequate nor in obvious need of replacement.


At the top of both devices is something called the “driver ledge” — a small printed circuit board that drives the iPhone’s display and its backlight. Historically, Apple placed it there to accommodate improvements in battery capacity, where it was out of the way. But according to Riccio, the driver ledge interfered with the iPhone 7 line’s new larger camera systems, so Apple moved the ledge lower in both devices. But there, it interfered with other components, particularly the audio jack.

So the company’s engineers tried removing the jack.

Andrew Pontious:

“It’s a dinosaur. It’s time to move on.”

Throwing away perfectly good tech because of “progress” will be the death of us.

David Smith:

I really don’t understand the way they’re marketing this >.< why not lead with “it made room for the camera + 2hrs of battery”?

My guess is because it didn’t really make room for all that. Besides, this is all premised on the idea that the phone’s size can’t change. If the decision really was about size rather than “courage,” surely Apple could have found way to fit the headphone jack into the iPhone 7 Plus.

Phil Schiller:

Remember, we’ve been through this many times before. We got rid of parallel ports, the serial bus, floppy drives, physical keyboards on phones — do you miss the physical keyboards on your phone?

As far as I know, Apple never shipped a device with a built-in parallel port.


This is much worse than I imagined – I was expecting some sort of shoe to drop to make this palatable, like wireless charging of the phone too. I will admit that a fair amount of conventions were uprooted and smart things were done to help the wireless story towards what it needs to be. But here’s the problem: if things that you start to play from your other connected devices really do start to play on the AirPods too, that’s the wireless headphones nightmare, to not have any control over those things.

Andrew Cunningham:

Apple’s Taptic Engine does provide feedback when you touch the button, but it’s now much more like the haptic feedback you’d get from a capacitive or software button on an Android phone. […] The iPhone 7’s Taptic Engine is less precise, so the entire phone vibrates slightly as you press down on the Home button. You can adjust the force of that feedback in the settings (and an Apple representative said it would be added to iOS’ increasingly lengthy first-time setup process, too), but it still feels like pushing a solid thing that makes the phone vibrate instead of pressing a button. It will also take some time to get used to the amount of force needed to register as a “click,” something that was far more obvious with the old clicky button.


A quick note on the W1: it’s used to make pairing and battery status checking and the Siri features work quickly and seamlessly, but the actual audio is still being streamed over good-old Bluetooth, and the AirPods can be paired the standard way with anything that will do Bluetooth audio.

Juli Clover:

Belkin today announced the Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar for the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, an accessory that will allow iPhone 7 users to charge their iPhones and listen to music at the same time.

It has two Lightning ports, but no headphone jack, so you would also need to use Apple’s dongle to plug into regular headphones or a car’s Aux input.

Update (2016-09-20): Chuq Von Rospach:

So Apple came into the event with weak expectations because of the leaks causing a focus on superficial and cosmetic details — but lets be honest, the iPhone depends on a style/design attraction as well, so these issues are important (but it’s not the lead feature each time, which gets forgotten) — and there were some sour notes in the event itself, especially the “Courage Dance” that sidetracked us fro the meat of the event. And that’s too bad, because the good stuff was really good, but it’s muted in the conversation because of the other distractions.

Jean-Louis Gassée:

One could say that the pundits did for Apple what the company should have done on its own: Underpromise as an easy path to overdelivery.

The Register:

The truth though is that large tech companies, especially in Silicon Valley, often use access to their events and their executives as a way to force positive coverage of themselves. If you write one bad thing about them, they threaten to stop talking to you. If you ignore the warnings, they blacklist you.

Riccardo Mori:

It’s not that I don’t think wireless is the future for audio. Nor I think Apple should continue to keep the headphone jack indefinitely. My argument against the jack removal is that the alternative solution Apple has presented doesn’t feel elegant, effective or compelling enough. Since everyone is quick to bring up past examples, I’ll say that again: every time Apple purposely dropped a technology from its hardware, the chosen alternative was better in every way, more elegant, more practical, more efficient — just compare the huge advantages of FireWire over SCSI, to make one example. What Apple has proposed as an alternative to wired audio on the iPhone doesn’t feel this better, but more like a stopgap.

Riccardo Mori:

I’d really like to read a list of those “too many reasons aligned against it sticking around any longer”, but the fact is that this transition Schiller talks about isn’t yet necessary. Instead of solving an existing problem, Apple has created a problem to then solve it their way and feed us the narrative of the courageous pioneer. All the examples of past transitions Schiller makes are valid because all those were technologies that were made obsolete by the appearance of newer, more advanced, better solutions.

Kirk McElhearn:

We’ve been talking about this for more than a year, and I had pretty much resigned myself to accepting the company’s boneheaded decision, and living with yet another dongle (though I hadn’t planned to buy an iPhone 7, and I still don’t plan to do so).

But when Phil Schiller said “Courage,” that flipped my bits.

John Gruber:

Removing the headphone jack but including both Lightning ear buds and a legacy adapter is a nudge. But the nudge will help drive adoption of wireless headphones. In the alternate universe where Apple introduced the exact same AirPods and W1-powered Beats headphones but kept the analog audio port on the iPhone 7, adoption of those wireless headphones would be slower. I think a lot slower. More people would have a worse experience on a daily basis, dealing with tangled cords and all the other hassles of having your ears tethered to a device.


Choosing to do what you know will be unpopular in the short run but you believe will prove correct in the long run takes courage. Courage of one’s convictions, not courage running into a burning building to save a life, but courage nonetheless.

Henry T. Casey (via Kirk McElhearn):

Both accessory-maker Belkin and Apple offer a solution to this problem, but neither provides users with a good experience.

Rob Griffiths:

Traditionally, third-party battery pack cases plug into the Lightning port, and typically provide a micro USB connector in its place. They also then usually have a headphone passthrough, either via a port extender or a special headphone cable extender, to allow you to plug in headphones without removing the battery pack.

I was curious how the case makers were going to address this for the iPhone 7, because blocking the Lightning port means that users will have to use wireless headphones when using a battery pack.

Josh Centers:

How big of a deal is the lack of a headphone jack? It wasn’t popular, with a post-announcement survey of 1140 American consumers by Toluna Quicksurveys revealing that Apple’s move ranks among the least favorite changes in the iPhone 7. However, Toluna Quicksurveys added a couple of exclusive questions at our request. Of the respondents, 74 percent said that the lack of a headphone jack wouldn’t affect their purchase decision, and 56 percent of respondents went further, saying that it wouldn’t even require them to change their habits, presumably because they already rely on wireless audio or the iPhone’s built-in speakers.


Apple has played this game before. Apple are the experts of coming out of things with the same attitude as it went into it with. The actual casualties will be ignored. The point is that Apple will never do anything that will allow the theories they put forward to be tested.


Why don’t they offer this? Because it wants to be a company to which it is more important to be right than to serve the actual needs of their customers. It wants to put a dent in the universe in terms of causing upheaval and in terms of implementing an idealistically pure world view, not in terms of being solicitous towards the everyday problems of people. Letting people pick thicker mocks their effort and drive to make things thinner, even if that drive is exactly what would let them offer iPhone P, too.

John Gruber:

If you have to have a bump, own the bump, I say. And the new iPhones own their bumps. Some of Apple’s product photography highlights the bump — the complete opposite of the iPhone 6 shots two years ago that hid the bump. And the antenna lines have been cleaned up significantly.


One surprise for me is that the new iPhones lack the True Tone color-balancing feature in the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. At the March event introducing that iPad, Phil Schiller said of True Tone, “Once you get used to it, you can’t go back.” I took that as a hint that the new iPhones would get it too. Clearly, I was wrong. My guess as to why: space. True Tone requires extra sensors. iPads have room for those sensors; the iPhone doesn’t (yet). Too bad.

John Gruber:

My gut feeling from my time in the hands-on area is that in the real world, the black iPhone 7 looks better, and the jet black iPhone 7 feels better. I say “in the real world” because in the perfect vacuum of a retail display or photo studio, the jet black iPhone looks like the most stunning device I’ve ever seen. There’s no way it’s going to look like that in the real world. But I think it’s going to feel great in your hand even when it’s smudged with fingerprints.

Dan Graziano:

The company traditionally issues a statement about the record number of people who purchase the devices during the first weekend of sales, but this will no longer be the case.

Update (2016-09-28): Peter Kirn (via Michael Yacavone):

First, it appears the analog output in Apple’s headphone adapter (that is, via the Lightning port) isn’t strong enough to drive analog headphones reliably. There’s an excellent and detailed study of this by Germany’s CT magazine.


Second, Apple’s efforts to improve Bluetooth pairing appear to be locked to their own headphones. That would be fine, if Apple were any good at making headphones – except, sorry, they really aren’t.

14 Comments RSS · Twitter

"As far as I know, Apple never shipped a device with a built-in parallel port."

He probably was making a reference to SCSI.

I think Apple did make a parallel printer (and optional card) for the Apple II.

My other thought was that the DOS Compatibility Card might have had a parallel port on it, but it did not.

The Lisa had a parallel port (generally used for the ProFile hard drive, but could also be used for parallel printers). There was also a parallel interface card:

Meant to include this in the above - Apple's iPhone dock could be useful for your car if you just want an audio output and Lightning passthrough for your car, but mounting may be an issue. I'm sure a wide variety of other adapters are coming, though; there'll be huge demand.

Vis a vis the argument that the headphone jack is old must therefore be replaced I'd just point out that the pitot tube used to measure airspeed on every aircraft currently flying was invented about 150 - 200 years before the headphone jack.

To use Apple parlance, it "just works", much like the jack.

"The way Apple justified this was pretty disappointing—no real reason was given."

I think this is a softball. Apple likes [imo, etc] to design without concern for legacy when they can. If you were going to design the perfect iPhone today, would it have two audio-out ports? No. Even more, would you add a legacy port that was inferior -- at best equal -- at audio-out? Goodness no.

And we should've seen it coming. Buying Beats signaled the end of the 3.5mm. This seemingly small move has been a long time coming, and Apple has much bigger plans for what you can do with what you wear on your head than the control hacks we've seen with 3.5mm. The JBL example at the keynote, though weak, was telling. Think of headphones as interface, not as audio-out devices limited to music control and a mic for calls.

Though I totally agree with the lack of courage. If this is better, quit with the adapter as a pack-in. If everyone needs an adapter, you screwed up.


Schiller might also have been making reference to the fact that Apple popularized USB which, in turn, effectively killed the parallel port industry-wide. In context, however, I agree that it sounds like he was probably referring to SCSI.


> do you miss the physical keyboards on your phone?


I don't use the 3.5mm headphone jack on my Android phone, since all of my headphones use Bluetooth (which works quite well for me), but I do think that it is disappointing for Apple to remove the headphone jack, but still ship the phone with wired headphones - and then not even put a pause button on their wireless headphones. They didn't make things better for users in any way. Your old headphones and speakers no longer work without an adapter, by default, you still use wires (but now you can't charge while listening to music), and if you "upgrade" to wireless, you lose the button. From the user's point of view, it's a regression, no matter what.

OTOH, getting rid of the floppy didn't make things better for anyone in the short run, either, but in the long run, it helped create a ton of better alternatives.

I'm at an impasse. I am still using a 16gb iPhone 5 -- it 5 has treated me well and I love the fact I can comfortably, confidently use it one handed... but I need to upgrade.

As with a lot of people, I am somewhat underwhelmed by the 7 and am wondering how the 5S is holding up. I'm compared the specs online, but its difficult for me to qualify the differences in real world use. I’m looking at used options because I’m not going to buy the 7 I don’t want to pay full price. Anyone have experience with this company ?? Thanks! - David

[…] said, I think there’s a pretty good case to be made that they should. That would take some courage because people don’t like change. But I don’t think it would be that hard of a sell. […]

[…] not sure what to make of this. They were originally introduced last September, supposed to ship in October, and actually shipped in December. They continue to […]

[…] Removing the iPhone’s Headphone Jack, iPhone 7, Apple’s Lightning to Headphone […]

Leave a Comment