Testing the iPhone 7 Plus camera

I’ve had the new iPhone 7 Plus for a little over a week, but I’ve still managed to put it through its paces, indoors and out, and I thought I’d share a few of those photos here. Overall, I’m really impressed with the quality of pics.

The camera app seems faster and more responsive than in my iPhone 6s Plus (of course, it could be my imagination!) and the focus is sharper. But have a look below and let me know what you think. Photos were taken in a variety of locations and conditions – there’s no central theme at all!

I’ve included a few shots from last week’s overnight trip to Dublin and some from outside a local bar here in Canary Wharf.

I haven’t shot any video with it yet, but might do during this week’s trip to Barcelona and Sitges. At this rate, it’s beginning to feel like a high quality camera with a mobile phone attached.

Unboxing the iPhone 7 Plus

Excitement levels to the max! I actually got my iPhone 7 Plus yesterday, but it was delivered while I was working up in Birmingham and I was just too exhausted to even look at it when I got in.

Ten hours of sleep later, I backed up my iPhone 6s Plus to my iMac, then set up the new iPhone 7 Plus using that back-up. All in all, it took about 30mins from the moment I opened the new phone’s pristine packaging.

Now, for your viewing pleasure, some hastily-taken and bleary-eyed photos of the new objective of desire on my desk

I’ve made a few phone calls, listened to a couple of podcasts and done a bit of tweeting with the new phone. It’s good. No, it’s great. It’s super-fast and responsive and while it’ll take a bit of getting used to, the new ‘taptic’ home button is a nice idea.

I’ve had to use the lightning-to-wired headphone dongle that came with it (super light, but I’m worried it’ll break easily?) as I don’t have a lightweight pair of bluetooth headphones. And based on how much cash I’ve thrown Apple’s way this month, it’ll be a while before I buy any! It’s not a deal-breaker, but the fact that my phone is matte black and the adaptor is shiny white really makes it stand out. And, dare I say, look quite cheap and nasty.

The above pics were taken with the iPhone 6s Plus, so I’m looking forward to giving the iPhone 7’s camera a go this weekend to see just how much better it is. Expect a fuller review of the new phone in the coming weeks, once I’ve used it more and taken it on a few trips.

But so far, so good.

iPhone 7 Plus: ordered.

Now the wait begins.

I ordered a couple of phones for @FrankDJS and I as soon as the online Apple Store opened this morning. Sat in bed, refreshing the iPhone app until the store opened, I used an old trick to guarantee we’d get what we want. Last night, I selected each of our chosen phones (and my new watch) and marked them as ‘favourites’. This morning, as soon as the store ‘opened’, the three items were ready to select and pay for in just a couple of steps.

@FrankDJS went for the iPhone 7 with 128GB in black and I opted for the iPhone 7 Plus with 256GB in black, as planned. No ‘jet black’ shiny shiny phones for us. (Or rose gold, but I would have thought that was self-explanatory…) I also got an Apple Watch series 2.0 in space grey.

The 128GB and the Apple Watch will arrive here next Friday, but I’ll have to wait until September 29th for my iPhone. Which ironically means I might be using my Nexus 6P for a week during the period between selling my existing iPhone 6s Plus and the 7 Plus arriving. I have an agreed price with one on the online gadget site and that price will only go down from this point.

More thought required to figure that one out. I really hadn’t anticipated a wait for the highest end model, especially as I ordered it at 08:05, just five minutes after the store opened! I guess stocks were low?

I’m really looking forward to putting the 7 Plus’s camera through its paces and enjoying all that iOS has to offer. That and adding swimming to my Apple Fitness regimen, now that the Apple Watch can track activity in the pool (or in the sea).

All in all (and putting the bluetooth/lightning earbuds to one side) it’s not a massive upgrade, but something more iterative. I suppose they’ll go for something more extreme to celebrate the iPhone’s tenth anniversary next year.

But let’s not get into that just yet.

An iPhone without a headphone jack? Sporting the ‘Lobot’ look.

The iPhone rumour mill is in full flow right now, with Apple set to announce a couple of new handsets in the next month. If I’m honest, the update doesn’t sound particularly exciting and (if it’s all true) it represents a iterative rather than significant update.

That said, one of the most interesting – and slightly perturbing – rumours is that Apple are going to remove the headphone jack. That little “hole” where you “stick in” your headphones cable.

Sorry for the overly technical language here.

Apparently, it’s going to be replaced with headphones that plug into the lightning port – which is used to power the device and connect it to external things like speakers. This would imply that you couldn’t charge the phone and use earphones at the same time, for example.

Hmmm.

The tech gurus are pointing to Apple emphasising the benefits of bluetooth (wireless) headphones, and this is where I have a bit of a problem. While I use bluetooth a lot at home – connecting to a TV and two Beats Pills bluetooth speakers in this apartment alone – I’ve not used it on the move. And, while I recently bought a pair of kick-ass bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones, they’re really for use at home and on long flights.

To put it another way, I wouldn’t be seen dead wearing them outside. Here’s an image for you:

databank_lobot_01_169_8a50d7ae

Yes, the charming and not at all creepy Lobot from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. This is pretty much what I look like when wearing them, so…no. Purely from an aesthetic perspective. I couldn’t handle the mocking.

Also, I have finally found the most perfect pair of wired earphones for both running and general commuting and I’m not about to give them up for bluetooth, no matter what Tim Cooks has to say about it. I’ve used them for months now and they are perfect in every way.

So I’m not hugely keen on giving up wired earphones. I’ll need a lot of convincing. But as we’ve seen, where Apple goes, others tend to follow. Removing floppy disk drives. USB-C. And the rest of the developments that seemed so disruptive at first but we all got used to after a while.

If the next iPhone doesn’t have a audio jack, it had better be water-proof. The Samsung Note 7 shows what you can do with a high-end handset and from my perspective, Apple has a lot of catching up to do there.

So, no. I’m not enamoured at the prospect of looking like Lobot in public. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my contribution to the iPhone 7 rumour mill.

Style over substance once again.

iPhone 6S Plus: a quick review

 

My iPhone 6 S Plus arrived on Friday afternoon, while I was at work. I might be getting old, but once I got the text confirming it had been delivered, I managed to somehow put it out of my head and continue working until it was time to get home.

I think had a really short window to get it set up before I had to leave for a flight to Edinburgh. I could have left it boxed until I get back from Scotland last night, but… yeah right. No way. I couldn’t have survived the weekend knowing I had a brand new iPhone waiting for me at home.

So I did what I could. I set it up using a backup from iCloud, which took an age  to download. But once it did, we were off and running. A few key observations since I started using it at 6pm last Friday:

  • It’s heavy. Or at least it’s heavier than its predecessor, especially when you hold one in each hand. (Insert smutty joke here). The difference, when compared directly, is definitely noticeable. But after a couple of hours of just using the new phone, I completely forgot and it was no longer an issue.
  • Touch ID is now lightning fast. So fast that I wasn’t sure it was actually working. The phone seems to unlock just as soon as I touch the home button. A significant improvement over the Touch ID on the iPhone 6 Plus.
  • In fact, the phone is overall much faster than the iPhone 6 Plus. You can tell it has some extra oomph under the hood. Absolutely no lag on any apps I’ve used so far.
  • 3D Touch is interesting. I really need to spend some time uncovering all the various shortcuts, but with some practice, it’s finally becoming intuitive. Not all Apple apps have a 3D Touch shortcut, but I can see this being a great addition to the iOS user interface in the coming months. On the other hand, it makes it more difficult to then move to an iPad that doesn’t have 3D Touch. A minor gripe in the scheme of things.
  • Live photos are fun, but you can’t really do much with them in terms of sharing. Yet. Let’s see if they take off in a big way once Facebook and Twitter animate them for people you want to share them with.
  • I know it’s not strictly limited to this phone, but I was really disappointed to see that Apple News wasn’t included in iOS 9 for those of us in the UK. I’m hoping it’s just a minor commercial matter with the British press (hah!) and there won’t be too much of a delay. Apple News like a personalised and efficient way to peruse the news (I think I’m going to copyright that… it has a ring to it). Like Flipboard, but better? Or like Flipboard, but exactly the same…?

Anyway, so far so good. The phone is definitely living up to expectations.

Questions?

Inevitable iPhone 6s Plus flip-flop

Pre-orders for the new iPhones went live at 8am London time this morning. I happened to be awake and was listening to a podcast and wandering through the bottomless pit of snark that is Twitter when I saw a couple of tweets mentioning the Apple Store.

I suddenly remember that iPhone pre-orders were live this morning. Based on my reflections after the Apple event earlier this week, I had decided to avoid this upgrade cycle and keep my iPhone 6 Plus for now.

And yet… there was a nagging doubt at the back of my mind that I should probably think this over one more time.

I had 40mins to make up my mind, as I knew I had to be in the store and pre-ordering at 8am or I would have to wait weeks. I weighed it up in my mind, did some more research online and eventually…decided to upgrade my iPhone 6 Plus for an iPhone 6S Plus.

Why?!

After my public pronouncement that I wouldn’t, why did I shell out full-whack, un-subsidised hundreds of pounds for a new phone? (Not that I’ve ever been very consistent regarding tech in the past anyway – remember my foray in to the world of Android?)

I think it boils down to this. The iPhone is such a central tool in my daily life – professional and personal – that any incremental upgrade is worth the price. I’ll tell you very clearly what I’m not attracted to: the various photo-related upgrades or 3D Touch. They’re nice, but they’re not what tipped me over the line and into a purchase.

For me, this is about the faster processing power and the better camera. I multi-task with the phone constantly and use the camera incessantly. And not always on pictures of my meals or narcissistic selfies! I use my iPhone daily to scan documents and hand-written notes on the go.

Any gains on processing speed and image clarity are worth it to me. I’m also glad it looks like (though needs confirmation) that I won’t need to replace my existing iPhone cases when the new one arrives on September 25th.

It doesn’t end there

And to add insult to injury (to my wallet), I’ve been seriously considering upgrading my iPad Air for an iPad Air 2 with cellular connection. Why? Well, I took the Air out of mothballs the other day and used it as a laptop replacement for work. It was perfect.

Combined with a ultralight physical keyboard, I was able to do everything I wanted to do on a laptop: take meeting notes in Evernote, check and respond to email, look up stuff on the web, check calendar, directions via Google Maps etc. The screen was glorious and bright, very usable in the sun and a relief from the occasional squint I have to give the screen on my iPad Mini.

And all carried round in my Knomad, removing the need for a bag. Very light, very minimal. I definitely couldn’t survive without a bag when on one of my week-long business trips, but for a day away from the home office, it was perfect.

I need to do a little more research on the iPad Air 2, but I think it’s a likely purchase.

So what’s the lesson here, kids? Never believe me when I say I’m not going to upgrade a piece of Apple kit. Though of course, I’m sticking to my promise not to buy an iPad Pro. Definitely.

Almost certainly.

(Check back in November to see if I managed to avoid getting one)

How time flies

Adding some notes to Evernote on my iPhone 6 Plus a moment ago, I paused to think about what a great phone it is and how over the moon I was when it arrived last year.

And yet…

In just a few hours, Apple will have announced a replacement and the iPhone 6 will feel like a millstone around my neck. An out of date, clunky, ugly phone, which I have to sell at the earliest opportunity in order to buy the latest, improved model.

I will be ecstatic at the prospect of using the (slightly) improved model and the (slightly) upgraded specs. I will have fallen – hook, line and sinker – for Apple’s marketing spiel. I will be keen – nay, obsessed – with purchasing the new iPhone.

Because… I am a deeply irrational Apple fan.

And so the cycle begins again.

You can watch all the fun and games via this link and my twitter account will probably be excitable and exhausting until at least 8pm. Best to avoid if you’re not interested in iPhones.

(Admitting you have a problem is the first step on the way to recovery, right?)

The Pebble cometh

61p-RJ9XSuL._SL1500_I’ve finally gone for it and ordered a Pebble smart-watch. I got a very generous Amazon gift card (among other lovely goodies) from my colleagues when I left my job a couple of weeks ago and it’s been burning a virtual hole in my virtual pocket ever since.

The Pebble was on my “someday / maybe” shopping list since it launched and having done a ton of research on it (seriously – there are so many videos and articles about it online now!), I pushed “go” this morning. Amazon Prime means it’ll be delivered tomorrow at some point.

So why now?

The short answer is the iPhone 6 Plus. I simply adore this phone and it has basically replaced my iPad Mini. (I found the Mini in my home office yesterday, neatly stacked between some A5 inserts for my Filofax). I haven’t brought the iPad Mini out of the house since the new iPhone arrived. I’m not saying it’s completely redundant, but if I were the iPad Mini, I’d be polishing my resumé…

I normally carry around my iPhone 6 Plus in my jeans pocket or inside jacket pocket, so having a watch that displays text messages, emails and other notifications will result in a whole lot less removing the 6 Plus from its snug home and getting it out in public. And seriously – on some recent tube journeys, the crush has been so bad I wasn’t able to get the phone out of my pocket in the first place!

Damn you London crowds! And damn you skinny jeans pockets!

It’s not exactly a “must-have”, but I’m keen to see what life is like with one of these watches. I know Apple is bringing something out in the new year and I also know it’ll be a lot more expensive than the Pebble. Right now, the Pebble is going for £99 on Amazon, which as far as I’m concerned is an absolute bargain. I estimate the Apple Watch will cost at least three times that. Whenever it launches…

I’ll share some first impressions on the Pebble once I have it up and running. Including photos of it lying on my skinny wrist.

It’s not just a phone…

Every time Apple launch a new phone, there’s a predictable chain of events:

  • The media make a big deal out of the crowds queuing up outside Apple Stores around the world.
  • “Commentators” mock people in these queues, calling them all kinds of names and pointing out all the things they could be doing if they weren’t in a queue for a mobile phone.
  • Everyone complains that the new phones are too few and/or too expensive, while pointing out the large “black market” for handsets thriving in countries where the phone isn’t already available.
  • “Commentators” complain about lack of functionality in the new phones (e.g. inability to remotely launch Space Shuttles) and make long lists of things they would have included if only they were in charge of design at Apple.
  • Someone, somewhere, does something incredibly stupid with their phone and the media jump on this story as some sort of proof that Apple is responsible for its customers’ actions and hint at the decline of civilisation as a result.
  • Predictably, commentators then bemoan our “modern obsession” with “mobile phones” and wonder why we can’t return to a “simpler time”.

Apple’s launch of the iPhone 6 Plus basically followed the above cycle, and despite its predictability, it annoyed me far too much. I take issue particularly with the final point above – middle-aged commentators, who still use a Nokia 3210, moaning about why others seem to live for their phones.

(Disclaimer: I’m not being ageist or critiquing others’ use of older phones. I’d ask older Nokia users to reciprocally take the same approach when discussing phones.)

They seem to adopt a Lady Bracknell attitude to anything that wasn’t created while they were 25 and express faux-confusion at any technology that wasn’t launched while the Sony Walkman was still clipped to the waists of their baggy stone-washed jeans. While conveniently forgetting all of the inconvenience this older technology caused.

My point is, the iPhone 6 (like its predecessors) is not simply a phone. Smartphones of all shades are basically small computers in our pockets, allowing us to do so much than make calls and play “Snake” (sorry, Nokia fans).

A quick brainstorm while awake at the crack of dawn this morning generated the following incomplete list:

  • Reading and creating emails and managing multiple calendars to run a business
  • On-the-go access to the internet and all the information is contains
  • Apps for everything from music creation to health tracking
  • Cameras to record a lifetime of memories (stills and video)
  • Video conferencing apps to stay in touch with friends and family around the world

I could go on. But my point is this: people aren’t using smartphones to simple call people to tell them they’re going to be late (we have messaging apps for that after all).

They’re writing blog posts, sharing holiday photos with their friends, sharing music tracks, recording videos of babies and pets and planning their doctoral theses. They’re listening to music and audio books, planning their holidays, bidding for antiques and doing their weekly grocery shopping. They’re managing their personal finances and reading the news and looking at maps.

If you had a single small device in your pocket that could do all this (and more) wouldn’t you develop a slight attachment to it?

And yes, while it can all spill over into a more unhealthy attachment to technology, by and large I have to ask the critics: so what? So what if people are so excited about new technology that they want to queue up in the rain to get one of the first models? So what if they want to capture the moment on camera and high-five others as they leave the store?

How is any of this different to fans queuing to see a boy band, a football team or a film premiere? It’s passion. And (religious maniacs aside) I don’t think we have enough of this in the world.

Ignore the haters – if you’re excited about a new phone (be it iPhone, Android or even a Blackberry) walk tall and proud. Be creative, use it to do wonderful things and show others how.

Just don’t sit on it.