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Thoughts on the iPhone 7 Camera and Whether to Upgrade

Apple introduced the new iPhone yesterday, and the Internet is now marinating in the flow of feedback. There is a lot to like and I am tempted to replace my iPhone 6s for one reason: the improved camera. Tempted, but not convinced.

Would the camera improvements translate into better photos for me? That is the question. Here is what has improved from iPhone 6s and may interest me:

  • Aperture goes from f/2.2 to f/1.8, significant especially for pseudo-macro shots I love to take
  • Optical image stabilization, should improve low-light photos and video generally
  • Not sure what the six- versus five-element lens update will do for my photos, practically
  • New Apple-designed signal processing chip, may or may not be a big deal for me
  • Wide color gamut, may or may not be a big deal
  • Improved LED flash underwhelms me as I’m not a frequent flash user
  • FaceTime HD camera improved megapixel count from 5mp to 7mp, and jump from 720p to 1080p video, doesn’t fill a big need for me.

Overall, I’m sure the new camera will help me take somewhat better photos. But the current iPhone 6s camera already gives me damn nice shots. I would rate the possible improvements as incremental overall. For some types of pictures, the improvements would probably be significant, but those are likely a minority of the photos I take.

The other non-camera improvements are interesting, but I’m not sure the sum of all these changes will compel me to abandon my typical two-year ownership pattern to spring for a new phone. I’m generally very happy with my iPhone 6s.

And then there are the drawbacks of the new design, notably the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack. The loss of the headphone jack is a negative for me. I’m just not ready for this change, given the ways that I use my phone, including plugging it into my car audio system (a car without Bluetooth), and charging the phone while I’m driving and listening to podcasts. The inability to charge and listen simultaneously is an especially serious downside. Surely someone is going to come out with an adapter that melds the charging and audio features if it is possible, but I don’t know if it is. UPDATE - It is possible, and Belkin will have this.

One nit pointed out by others is the notion that because the iPhone 7 is nearly identical-looking to the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6 before it, it’s less appealing, or that this means Apple is not doing something it should be with respect to industrial design (see the New York Times). I think the current design is beautiful, and I’m happy it will stick around for another generation. The one thing I would ding Apple for, however, is that since the new design is so slightly different because of the camera, for those who use a case and are upgrading from one of the 6 versions, you’ll likely need to spring for a new case. Apple surely could have anticipated that the new camera would have a slightly larger lens diameter, and made the cases for the previous design with a slightly larger camera/flash cutout (and it is slight). Spending another $39 would piss me off since I have a perfectly good case right here that would otherwise fit a new iPhone 7 just fine.

So this appears to be another great device, but it’s just a bit better than the one I already have. I’ll probably sit this upgrade cycle out.

Categories    Apple    Technology