Sunday, September 18, 2016

Initial Review of iPhone 7 Plus

Well, the 24 hour mark has hit since picking up my iPhone 7 Plus 128GB in flat black. Here are my initial thoughts.

Verdict:  Ho-hum

The acquisition process was more painful than normal. I faithfully stayed up to 3AM EST on preorder day and placed order for Michelle's Rose Gold 7 Plus as well as my own in fancy Jet Black Plus. Because the order went through at 3 minutes after 3:00am, the Jet Black was already showing late October for delivery.

Tip to Apple: After screwing up supply planning on the new Gold color a few years back, perhaps you should be more bullish on your customer's quest to get new colors. How about an early order window for all free trade-in contracts to test what the color/feature mix would be?

I was able to change over the order a few days later to a flat black version and secure delivery on the first day at 9:00am, September 16, 2016. Michelle was still out of luck on the Rose Gold into October.

The first major snag came on restore of new phone. After waiting almost an hour in the Apple Store for process to be complete, it failed at 1% with the following unhelpful message:


I decided to try again with an older backup - same thing, after 1 hour it failed at 1% remaining. I updated the phone to iOS 10.0.1 and tried again to no avail.  As a last resort, I followed the bare-metal restore to factory settings via the DFU Mode - also to no avail.

So, I was defeated. Started a new phone and downloaded hundreds of apps and tuned to what I remembered on my old phone. Next time I will back up to iTunes AND iCloud the night before. I lost my health history which seems to be the biggest issue.

After a long day (and night) - it was time to start Saturday fresh with a new phone.

First up: mow the grass while listening to music on headphones. I plugged the the new Lightning dongle adapter and Skull Candy headphones. Everything worked as advertised however I couldn't make out any improvement of digital over analog sound. There was an adverse effect - in 90 minutes of listening, it burned up 30% of my battery. I checked the battery monitor and "Music" was the culprit.

In the analog days, I could listen for hours and barely dent the battery. Does the new digital port have a big weakness?

Side bar: I applaud Apple for getting rid of the analog headphone jack. As an IBM/Lenovo guy for 17 years selling PCs, I do think it takes courage to take away the floppy, CD-ROM, serial and parallel ports, and now the last remaining analog remnant on their products. This was something that the Wintel industry would never do as they were focused on making enterprise clients happy - the consumer was always an afterthought.

Second up: Play with the family on the neighbors slide. This gave me a good chance to put the dual cameras to use. The 2X optical zoom and some of the advanced effects are a real leap forward. The ability to emulate some of the advanced DSLR portrait effects is really cool. Having 2 cameras working independently and having software stitch together the results will change the game for photography moving forward. Watch this space for incredible artistry.

Third up: Go see a Weird Al Yankovic concert and test out low-light settings. Because of the music battery fiasco early in the day, I did have to find a charger for the car ride over to Schenectady however. The video camera worked "at par" with previous phones in this environment. I was hoping for better focusability so the artist wasn't a white-out when a spotlight was on - but I wasn't able to take advantage of the 2 cameras here.

Other observations:

- They are obviously doing the big refresh on the 10 year anniversary with the iPhone 8. This seemed like more of a "S" release. I will call this my iPhone 6SS.

- I like the water resistance to IP67. Not as good as Samsung, but a big step forward for reliability and those occasional rain/boating accidents.

- Because the lower button is now digital and not a physical mechanism, the taptic feedback was cool. Took a number of times to get used to it. Also, to hard reset the phone, you need to hold down Power and Lower Volume buttons instead.

- iOS 10 is a linear improvement over previous versions. I am excited about the Siri integration within apps as well as mapping integrations with 3rd parties. The new Home app is a future win once the cost of IoT devices comes down. I refuse to be a wide early adopter of plastic devices that cost $300 a piece. Homekit is the much-needed industry standard for millions of devices that are coming to market - not an open standard by any means, but at least a popular one.

- Performance wise, I can't tell any difference on the new A10 chipset. Partially because these are not processing devices, the network is the bottleneck. I do like the dual stereo speakers and volume which is much higher than previous.

Conclusion: This is a linear bump to the product line - more of a "S" product than a new model. I will call this my iPhone 6SS Plus until the iPhone 8 comes out with things like wireless charging, edge to edge OLED screens, and more.


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