Before we even start, it’s worth saying straight away that the iPhone 7 isn’t the best or most impressive iPhone update we’ve ever seen. From the outside at least, the iPhone 7 looks a lot like the iPhone 6s before it, and a quick look through the features list isn’t that exciting either. However, the iPhone 7 is a quite a lot more than the sum of its parts, and if you’re looking to get a new smartphone, it’s still one you really should consider. But first, the lack of headphone jack.
iPhone 7 review: Does the missing headphone jack matter?
First of all if you have existing wired headphones you want to use, you can: Apple includes a Lightning to 3.5mm adaptor in the box. Just stick it on the end of your headphones, and you’re good. And if you’ve already invested in a decent pair of wireless headphones, nothing changes for you. The iPhone 7 still has Bluetooth, although it uses the standard SBC Bluetooth codec as opposed to the more exotic, less lossless aptX codec.
And there are advantages to connecting your headphones to the Lightning socket, which are evident in products such as the JBL Reflect Aware: active noise-cancelling headphones that don’t need a cumbersome power source, because all the processing takes place aboard the phone.
iPhone 7 review: What’s up with that new Home button?
The next big change, however, is all good: the replacement of the physical home button with a Force Touch one.
Apple has had a bit of an obsession over the years with removing mechanical parts from its products – think back to the iPod, where it moved from a physical scroll wheel to one that didn’t move at all. As phones move closer towards full edge-to-edge displays, the physical home button became a headache for Apple. Removing it should make it easier, at some indeterminate point in the future, to shrink it or build it into the display in some way.
There’s another, bigger benefit, though, one that helps both users and Apple alike. Any moving part, no matter how well-engineered, will always be a point of failure. Mechanical things tend to break down more often than parts that don’t move, for reasons that should be obvious.
Over time, they attract dust, grease from your fingers, fluff from the inside of your pocket, and all kinds of unpleasant dirty stuff. Removing mechanical parts improves the reliability of iPhones, which means fewer breakdowns for users, and fewer warranty replacements for Apple.
So what is this new home “button” like to use? In short, it’s excellent. Thanks in large part to Apple’s “taptic engine” haptic feedback technology, which the company uses in both the Apple Watch and the latest MacBook touchpads, it’s responsive and feels uncannily like a real button when you push down on it. It’s far more effective than the OnePlus 3’s touch-sensitive home-button-cum-fingerprint reader, which doesn’t have localised haptics like the iPhone 7.
There are a couple of caveats here, though. First, when the phone is sitting on a flat surface, the buzz is reduced in effectiveness. It still works, but with a slightly less intense haptic nudge.
Second, it doesn’t work with gloves, which is an interesting glitch with winter fast approaching. Given the screen isn’t glove-friendly anyway, you might wonder what the problem is. However, it is possible to use conductive gloves with the screen, and those gloves don’t work with the home button either. I tested this out with a pair of mine and, sure enough, the home button failed to work.
This is a problem – at least until I can secure a pair of gloves that do work with the home button (apparently, some do) – because there’s no way of getting to the PIN pad otherwise. You can activate the screen, look at the widgets and access the camera, but you can’t get to the PIN pad without pressing the home button. I’m sure Apple will come up with a solution for this issue given time, but for now, it looks as if I’m going to have to put up with cold fingers, and I’m not happy.
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