The Telegraph
| Sunday, October 23, 2016 |

Graphiti

The smarter 7s

The much-awaited iPhone 7 and 7 Plus pack a number of significant under-the-hood improvements into a familiar design, says Tushar Kanwar

Is that really the new iPhone?” You’re likely to hear that a fair bit, if you pick up the iPhone 7 or the 7 Plus — unless, of course, you get it in the brand new Black or Jet Black variants. At first glance, little differentiates number 7 from last year’s model, or even the one from the year before, for that matter. It isn’t until you spend a day with them that the improvements really start to shine through the unchanged aesthetic — but do they impress enough to warrant 
the outlay?

So, about that design. With Apple probably reserving a slick new look for next year’s 10th anniversary models, the new 
design typically reserved for major number upgrades from Cupertino is missing this time around. Minor changes abound like the less discernable antenna bands, a new look camera bump, and two new colours — a gorgeous muted matte finish black and a glossier fingerprint magnet that is the Jet Black variant. There’s a new pressure-sensitive solid-state button too, which vibrates to “simulate” a click when it’s pressed. It’s a tad disconcerting, initially. 

Stereo speakers at the top and bottom are a big improvement while watching videos and listening to music.

By far, the most controversial design change is the headphone jack, or lack thereof, and Apple’s solution is a pair of headphones that connect to the Lightning port, plus you get a bundled adapter for your old headphones. Of course, any Bluetooth headphones will do too. Yet, removing the jack is an annoyance every now and then, particularly when you want to listen to music and charge your phone at the same time, say in the car. The upside of this move — water resistance, more internal space for a better Taptic Engine (for those aforementioned vibrations), a larger battery and optical image stabilisation (OIS) on the smaller iPhone 7 — are totally worth it, and one soon gets used to it.

Beyond doubt though, the big changes are under the hood, and it starts with a massive improved camera (or cameras, in the case of the Plus). The iPhone 7 gets a 12MP sensor, but with a wide aperture to let  in more light in low-light situations, a new image processor and OIS, which had been missing thus far on the smaller iPhones. All this helps take extremely colour-accurate and realistic images, especially in low-light. Samsung’s flagships may take images that are unnaturally bright and vibrant, but the iPhones nail the brief for realistic captures.

Of course, the real game-changer is the 7 Plus with its two lenses — one the same 28mm f/1.8 lens as the 7 and the other a 56mm f/2.8 telephoto lens for real optical zoom, a rarity in smartphones. The results are a big leap forward when you compare them to the software-assisted zoom on most smartphones, plus the second lens enables the blurring of the background for excellent portraits, a feature that is still in beta but will come to the 7 Plus via a software update soon. The second lens, and what it can achieve in the hands of apps developers, is a genuinely exciting move that could have 
immense potential in the future.

Of course, the new iPhones run new silicon, by way of the new A10 Fusion chip, which is as snappy as they come, but since it has what are called “efficiency cores”, you save battery for less intensive tasks such as sending an SMS or looking up a contact. Combined with the slightly bigger battery, you get a decent couple of hours extra on the previous generation iPhone, which is always welcome. And, thankfully, the iPhone 7 now starts in 32GB configurations, with 128GB and 256GB variants — no more of that anaemic entry-level 16GB nonsense folks were buying (and regretting) in recent years.

Version number 7 then has taken a seemingly minimal upgrade aesthetically and amped it up into a significantly improved device overall. A phone that is more durable, lasts longer and does everything the earlier one did, just a notch better. Sure, if you were holding out for real jaw-dropping design, your phone is a year away, but for all others, this is a supremely competent device that comes highly recommended.

iPhone 7

  • Rating: 8/10
  • Price: Rs 60,000 (32GB) onwards

iPhone 7 Plus

Right on track

Xiaomi is all out to get you to open up your wallet for one of their products, and if it’s not a phone you’re looking at, or an air purifier or a power bank, surely you’d be in the market for a fitness band with a ton of features at a typically-jaw-dropping Xiaomi price? That’s where the Mi Band 2 comes in, a fitness band which builds upon the popularity of the first generation Mi Band by adding a display and a heart rate sensor. Like its predecessor, you get two components — a capsule-sized tracker and a band, and the latter is made of a rubbery material which is comfortable to wear all day (and night) long. Just as well, since I enjoyed tracking my sleep, a duty that the Mi Band 2 does fairly accurately and without any need for manual intervention. 

As a fitness band, the Mi Band 2 tracks steps fairly accurately, deviating only about 2 per cent to 3 per cent in terms of distance and step measurements. The heart rate sensor is a tad inconsistent —most of the times, it’s within 10bpm-15 bpm of the actual heart rate but sometimes the readings are all over the place. Clearly something that needs some finessing.

Aside from the fitness tracking, you also get basic calls/texts/app notifications on the 0.42-inch OLED display, but you can turn them off especially if you already have a smartwatch for this purpose. With notifications turned off, I eked out 45 days on a single charge, which is the sort of battery life I want from my gadgets — instead of having to charge them every other day.

[email protected]; follow me on twitter @2shar