iPhone 7 first look: 'Apple still playing catch up'

Apple's new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

The iPhone 7 is nothing we haven't seen before, says Ed Swift (Photo: Supplied)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

This may be a controversial opinion, and I know I’m going to get slated on Twitter for saying this, but I think Apple has lost its innovation edge.

Some of you will say that’s nothing new, citing the last few models of iPhones. But I’m sure many more of you will be outraged by my comment, believing that Apple is at the forefront of technological change and they can do no wrong. 

But the tech giant’s latest iPhone, unveiled on Wednesday, wasn’t anything we haven’t seen before. In fact we saw some of the new features before the company’s executives even began talking about the device, with a (presumably former) employee tweeting about the iPhone 7 an hour before it was unveiled.

Many of the key features have been around for a while on Android devices. The idea of a water-resistant phone is nothing new – Samsung’s Galaxy range has been waterproof for a number of years. This is their first device which is water-resistant, but it has come years too late. If they were keeping up with the competition, the iPhone 6 should have been the first device that could be used in the pool, or that would survive if it were accidentally dropped in the toilet. Better still, they should have produced the first water-resistant phone.

The camera in the iPhone 7 Plus isn’t too bad. It still sits at 12 megapixels to produce a decent photo, and while it falls short of its Android competitors they have dropped the aperture which is a good thing, helping you take photos in darker settings. They’ve also increased the front-facing camera from 5 to 7 megapixels. But again, nothing new – these features are already out there.

The iPhone 7 Plus camera takes it a step further, with two 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras to give you better-quality photos and an optical zoom. But again, it’s nothing new – Android phones have been doing this for a while, while a few other also offer an optical zoom. On this model, they’re also offering a depth-of-field effect, which they say will be available later in the year. Again, already on Android.

Sure there’s the usual upgrades as well – better screen, faster processor, longer-lasting battery – but those are standard in any new phone and it’s nothing exceptional.

The one area where they really decided to innovate and be a bit unique with was the much-rumoured removal of the standard headphone jack. The company’s marketing boss Phil Schiller said “courage” was the reason to change it.

Sure, I’m all for change – we don’t make progress without change. But removing something as fundamental as the ability to plug in any pair of headphones without an adaptor is stupid. I have a set of headphones I love, and if I were to get this phone I’d have to use their dongle to use it. Chances are I’ll probably lose the dongle within a week and need to fork out another £15 to Apple each time to get a new one.

Its design does look good, and I do like the look of the jet black model. This is where Apple does lead the way. Their phones and other devices are less technology and more fashion accessories these days - they look good and they feel high-fashion.

Yes I know they’ve also launched a new watch, which is pretty good and is a step up from the original Apple Watch (plus it works with Pokemon Go), and there’s a new iOS on the way as well as some wireless earbuds which are extremely expensive. But for a phone that has built its reputation in recent years on being the market leader, they’ve fallen short again.

I’m willing to be convinced, and I’m sure all the Apple fans will be queuing up on September 16 to get their hands on one. But for me it’s got a hefty price tag (starting at £599 for a basic 32GB iPhone without expandable storage), it isn’t anything outstanding and I don’t think I’ll be queuing up for one.