By Jason Snell
September 14, 2016 4:30 PM PT
Some iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 notes
Here are a few extra tidbits that I’ve picked up while reviewing the iPhone 7 and the Apple Watch Series 2…
The grip of the Jet Black model. The internet’s been going back and forth about the facts about the Black and Jet Black models of iPhone 7. Is one more grippy than the other? Does the Jet Black model look good? Does it scratch easily?
So let me throw my own personal experiences into the mix, just to confuse everyone further: Yes, the Jet Black model does feel more grippable than other iPhone 7 or iPhone 6 models. (The Black iPhone 7 feels just like a Space Gray 6S, though it’s dramatically darker.) I don’t know what it is about the Jet Black that makes it more grippable—it doesn’t feel sticky at all, but it’s tacky, as if the moisture from my fingers was causing them to drag a bit more on the back surface of the device.
Before laying hands on both the Jet Black and Black models of the iPhone 7, I was deeply torn about which one I preferred. It’s still a tough choice, but even though the dark looks of the Plain Ol’ Black model are beautiful, I think I’ve got to say I prefer the Jet Black. Mostly because of the consistency of the look. This really is the culmination of Jony Ive’s quest to have the entire iPhone look like it’s a single slab of the same material. The antenna lines vanish, and the shiny black back melds perfectly with the curved glass of the screen. It’s a striking match of materials and design.
Apple’s packaging game is still good. One pulled tab and the plastic wrap around the iPhone box unravels. Inside there’s a little paperboard package that features the shockingly tiny Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter, pinned like it’s smiling at you, and on the flip side of the same bundle, your Lightning EarPods. It’s adorable, compact, and plastic free.
Two cameras are better than one. So you know that the iPhone 7 Plus has two cameras, one with the traditionally wide field of view of an iPhone camera, the other zoomed in. Apple calls these “wide angle” and “telephoto” and designates them as 1× and 2×. When you zoom in beyond 2×, you’re obviously seeing the effects of a digital zoom. So what happens in the realm between 1× and 2×? Evidently the iPhone uses the output from both cameras to try and assemble the best quality shot possible in a single JPEG, most notably in the area of noise reduction.
Basically, the iPhone 7 Plus does try to use the fact that it has two cameras to improve the look of the pictures you take. Almost every time you snap a picture, both cameras fire and then the iPhone’s hardware and software set about generating the best-looking picture from the data. (If you use an app that shoots raw from the camera, of course, this doesn’t happen—that app just gets the raw data from a camera and does what it wants with it.)
The taptic home button. I left the demo room last week unimpressed with the iPhone’s non-moving home button. Turns out there are three different settings for that button, from a very gentle vibration to a much more aggressive tap. When I set the home button to the most aggressive setting, I felt a whole lot better about the home button experience. It’s not quite the same as depressing a physical button, but it’s much better than the relatively wimpy vibration I felt in the demo room.
Speaking of the Taptic Engine in the iPhone 7, one of the banner features of this release is that app developers can now access the Taptic Engine for their own uses. I got to try a couple of games and even a music app that used the feedback, and it was pretty cool. Even spinning the timer dial in the Clock app gets a bit more fun when you can feel it as the virtual wheel ticks around. (You can turn off haptics in the freshly renamed Sound and Haptics menu in the Settings app.)
Unfortunately, though the iPhone 6S did feature a Taptic Engine as a part of the 3D Touch upgrade, that engine is apparently less precise than the one in the iPhone 7, and so the haptic features of the iPhone 7 won’t be available for the 6S. Sorry, 6S owners.
Apple Watch GPS, fast. Getting a GPS trace quickly and keeping it even in urban areas can be hard for a standalone device, including many modern GPS fitness bands. The Apple Watch Series 2 uses three different sets of data to lock onto a GPS signal almost instantaneously. Not only does it know the location of its companion iPhone when it was last connected to that phone, but it’s got a cache of GPS ephemeris data and the ability to use nearby Wi-Fi spots to better pinpoint location. Basically, the Apple Watch is using all the tricks that your iPhone uses to keep your location pinpointed, even though it doesn’t have access to a cellular data network itself.
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