Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

New toys

I’ve got to say that it’s pretty strange that I now have anecdotes of writing about technology that date from 20 years ago. When I started, I was the youngest person in the office—in fact, the first person most of my co-workers had worked with who was born in the 1970s. They were appalled. (I told this story the other day and someone said, “Wow, the ‘70s!” They meant how old I was, not how young. These kids today.)

Anyway, my anecdote from the 1990s is this: When I told people what I did for a living, and they asked me how I liked it, my standard answer was that I get to play with all the newest toys for a living. And to this day, I still feel like it. The greatest pleasure in being able to write about technology as my profession is that I get to use the latest and greatest stuff, and have a legitimate work reason to do so. Nice work if you can get it.

So it’s been three weeks since I got the newest toys. Because I’m a product reviewer, I’m in the enviable position of having both an iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in the house, which is great, because it lets me use both and be able to write about both knowledgeably. I don’t think I would choose to buy a Plus model, but having some time with a review unit lets me at least have some experience with it. And it let me test out the new Portrait mode in the beta of iOS 10.1 last week, which was pretty cool.

I’ve already reviewed the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and at some point soon I need to review the Apple Watch Series 2 and watchOS 3. But in the meantime, just for you, here are some additional impressions:

A few weeks of using the Jet Black iPhone 7 without the case has convinced me that this is the model I want to buy for myself. I had forgotten just how delightful the curved edges of the iPhone 6/6S/7 design are, because the 6 and 6S were so slippery that I had to use a case. I wouldn’t say the Jet Black phone feels like it’s glued to my hand or anything, but it’s just tacky enough to give me the confidence to use it caseless.

A lot has been made of Apple’s warning of microabrasions on Jet Black cases. You know that if Apple didn’t put that warning on there, we’d be in the midst of Scratchgate or Jetblackgate right now, right? It’s an interesting bit of pre-emptive warning on Apple’s part. Now we expect the scratches. So after a couple of weeks in my pocket and on my counter, how is my Jet Black iPhone holding up? To my eye, extremely well. If you’re the kind of person who goes over your phone with a jeweler’s loupe looking for imperfections, maybe don’t get the Jet Black, put it in a case, and live a happier life. But it doesn’t bother me one bit.

I’ve also heard a lot of people say that they were opting for the Black model over the Jet Black model, not because of fear of microabrasions but for dislike of fingerprints. This is a personal choice, obviously: the Jet Black back of the iPhone 7 collects fingerprints just like the glass front of every iPhone collects fingerprints. It’s even got an oleophobic coating, like the glass does, so you can wipe those fingerprints off more easily.

The iPhone 7 Plus I have is in Black, rather than Jet Black. It looks great, and if it were the only black phone option, I would choose it. But if fingerprints bother you, I’m not sure the Black phone is much better. It reminds me a lot of the old Black MacBook—it’s a matte black that still picks up fingerprints, but since the fingerprints come from shiny oil from our fingers, they end up smudging all over the matte black case. I don’t think finger smudges on matte black look better than fingerprints on shiny, slick black, but your mileage may vary. Once again, if a reminder that we are beings who ooze oil from our fingertips (and everywhere else) makes you uncomfortable, you might want a case and a phone color that doesn’t remind you of this fact!

I’ve also had an Apple Watch Series 2 strapped to my wrist for the last couple of weeks—except when I sleep, of course—and I am happy to report that you’d never know it was a new watch. I like the original Apple Watch design and this new model doesn’t feel thicker or heavier (though it is, a little), and of course, uses the same bands. The battery life is noticeably better, the screen is definitely brighter (I can tell when I’m trying to look at it in bright sunlight while wearing sunglasses), and while I haven’t taken it swimming, I have it on good authority that it’s waterproof.

Still, unless you’re a swimmer or tend to go running without a phone (and therefore want to use the GPS features), the Apple Watch Series 2 isn’t a must-upgrade product. It’s a product for people who waited for the second version of new Apple hardware. Not only is it good, but watchOS 3 is fantastic, and keeps getting better as I receive app updates that take advantage of the new app features of watchOS 3, including fitness apps that can stay in the foreground. When the AirPods ship next month, people who use an Apple Watch won’t feel constrained by their lack of remote controls, either, since the Apple Watch is a pretty good remote itself.

Next step for me: Switching from the iPhone 7 to the iPhone 7 Plus as my primary phone for a few weeks. I don’t love the act of switching iPhones—there’s a lot of Apple ID nonsense that happens—but it’s worth doing so I can have the full experience with the device. I’m traveling to Ireland in late October (see the next item for an exciting offer!) and may bring the Plus phone with me then, because it’s got better cameras and more battery life and those are pretty good things for when you’re traveling. We’ll see.

And, with any luck, next month will bring some more new toys into the house: new Macs. There are a lot of rumors flying around that we’ll finally see updates to the Mac, especially the laptops, but hopefully the desktop models, too. The entire Mac line needs a refresher, and while rumor had it that there were going to be new Mac laptops announced at WWDC this summer, none arrived. Two years ago, Apple followed up a huge iPhone and Apple Watch event in September with a smaller, low-key event in Apple’s tiny Town Hall theater. Last year the September event was all we got. This year, I’ve got a strong feeling that Apple’s got one more event in it. Here’s to October, and with any luck, new Mac toys!


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