Thursday 14 December 2017

Peeling back the hype around Apple iPhone 7 . . . is it worth it?

Apple boss Tim Cook launching the new range of products on Wednesday. Photo: AP
Apple boss Tim Cook launching the new range of products on Wednesday. Photo: AP
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Is the new iPhone 7 all it's hyped up to be? Will it keep Apple in its world-dominating position? This week, chief executive Tim Cook took a break from answering questions about tax in Ireland to focus on what Apple is usually best known for - must-have products.

The company's latest and greatest, the iPhone 7 landed with two defining features.

The first thing is that you can't plug normal earphones into them without Apple's supplied adapter. In the new models, Apple has ditched the traditional round headphone slot, saying people should start switching to wireless headphones instead. And by happy coincidence, it simultaneously launched its own new wireless earphones, called AirPods. (They're pretty good but will cost you an extra €180.)

The other major feature is a big upgrade to the camera on the iPhone 7 Plus, which is the larger (and pricier) version of the new handset. Instead of one camera on this 5.5-inch phone, you now get two. The new camera also performs better in low light, meaning it's a big improvement at parties and night-time occasions.

I've tried the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus and they're mostly impressive.

But they haven't been universally praised. Apple's standards for defining the 'next big thing' are now so high that 'good' can be perceived by some as 'not good enough'.

Critics have moaned about Apple keeping the same basic design as the last two iPhones while rivals such as Samsung are forging ahead with attractive curved glass shapes.

There's also the background clock ticking on when Apple is going to stun us with the next jaw-dropping product. The last time this really happened was 2010 with the iPad. (Its smart 'Watch' device, which was also upgraded this week with a new sports-friendly GPS waterproof version, is taking longer to find a mass audience despite its launch in 2014.)

This has some people wondering whether Apple is settling into a new era as a normal tech company that makes good, popular products but doesn't break the mould any more.

Finally, there's the price. If you get squeamish about big numbers, look away now: the iPhone 7 starts at a whopping €779 before subsidy for the basic 32GB model. (The top-end iPhone 7 Plus, which is the one with the two cameras, starts at an even more eye-watering €919.) It is by far the most expensive new iPhone ever introduced.

Will it still rule the phone market? Probably. Despite the lack of a new case design, it's still among the best made phones out there.

But there are already rumours of a major redesign for 2017's model, the iPhone's tenth anniversary. For those who got an iPhone 6 two years ago, that might be a tempting date to hold out for.

Irish Independent

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