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The iPhone is still a fundamentally superb phone

The iPhone is still a fundamentally superb phone


iPhone 7 looks like another winning iteration of Apple’s smartphone

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As unhappy as I might be about Apple’s removal of the headphone jack, I have to admit that it’s not enough to spoil the appeal of the new iPhone 7. This is shaping up to be yet another excellent update to what was already, for many people, the best smartphone in the world. It just feels like the iPhone 7 itself, the essential device and the things it can do, got almost lost under the weight of all the hype and hoopla of its launch. So let me tell you why I find the new iPhone instantly appealing, with as little hype and grandeur as I can muster.

Read next: Our iPhone 7 and 7 Plus review

Firstly, of Phil Schiller’s 10 points of differentiation for iPhone 7, I’m taking the last one and pulling it forward: performance. More specifically than just performance, though, my attention is on efficiency. You might think it impossible to underrate any aspect of Apple’s iPhone business, but the expertise and skill of the company’s chip designers is regularly taken for granted, whereas it shouldn’t be. The new A10 Fusion chip once again adds without taking away: more CPU, more GPU performance, greater efficiency, longer-lasting battery. The iPhone 7 devices have the longest reported battery life of any iPhone generation, which is the sort of meaningful upgrade almost everyone values. And their water resistance, something the iPhone 6S already had unofficially, has also been IP67-certified. So now there's some extra, warranty-friendly peace of mind.

Apple knows the specs that matter and keeps advancing them, slowly but surely

Equally universal is the camera upgrade of the iPhone 7. It will benefit all users, whether they’re business types expensing travel receipts or Instagrammers who live life through their phone’s lens. When Apple says its new 12-megapixel camera is its best ever, I believe it and am immediately excited to use it. This is based on the fact that Apple has a team of 800 people working on the iPhone camera and the iPhone’s imaging pedigree to date. I don’t trust Apple to make good iPhone headphones, because it never has, but I sure as hell trust it to push mobile photography forward.

Quick aside regarding the iPhone 7 Plus dual camera: I suspect that will be another winner for Apple, as it only adds the flexibility of a telephoto lens and versatility of simulated bokeh, but for me it’s overkill right now. I prefer the size of the regular iPhone and will be satisfied with the best single-lens camera Apple has ever produced being on it. One other thing that went somewhat under the radar during the event: the 4.7-inch iPhone now has optical image stabilization just like the Plus model.

So Apple has taken the two hardware specs that truly, really matter in 2016 — battery life and camera — and upgraded both. Something else that matters more to me than most is sound, and Apple has finally caught up to the iPhone’s Android brethren by equipping the iPhone 7 with stereo speakers. It’s a small thing, but I listen to a lot of radio and podcasts and I like having a phone (such as the HTC 10) that can carry a tune all by itself, without the need for an external speaker. Another valuable spec for music lovers is storage, and Apple’s doubled the amount at each price point, maxing out at 256GB, so now I won’t feel the absence of a microSD card slot on the new iPhone quite as much.

OIS on the 4.7-inch model? Longer battery life? A legit matte black? yes, yes, and yes

Also a small but appreciated upgrade with the iPhone 7: the new antenna lines. Once again, Android preempted the iPhone on this front, with the Meizu Pro 6 coming out with the same style back in April, but there’s no denying that the iPhone’s antennas are now better integrated into the phone’s overall shape, and they essentially disappear on that gorgeous matte black iPhone. Yes, I love the "regular" black, and I feel no temptation whatsoever to try my luck with the scratch-prone jet black.

The rest of Apple’s iPhone upgrades are either too minor to mention or things I’m not convinced I’ll notice on a daily basis. The display, for example, is supposed to have a wider color gamut and have higher max brightness, but it was already of a high caliber on the 6S series. As I say, I’m not here to try and hype up this phone, I’m just telling you why I find it appealing. And yes, my own attractions aren’t in themselves revolutionary things, but I don’t believe an iPhone revolution was possible or even desirable. This was the best-selling smartphone in the world in the three months leading up to its refresh. This is the incredible position that Apple enjoys: at a time when its iPhone sales are shrinking, it’s still dominating the world in terms of single-model sales. The iPhone 7, even with the teeth-grinding omission of a headphone jack, will only amp up Apple’s sales later this month.

Android might have tempted me away if anyone was selling Nougat phones

I hate to finish off on a down note, but I must also say that part of my motivation for desiring the new iPhone 7 is the failure of Android devices to keep me as a satisfied user. The HTC 10 has great audio but an iffy camera. LG’s G5 has a great camera but runs LG’s software. The OnePlus 3 is almost perfect, but its camera also makes me tear my hair out with its inconsistency (in my hands). Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 was the one device that I was sure I could settle down with for the long term, but then it got recalled.

And so I’m left looking to Apple to save me once again. To gently lift me from the tyranny of uncertainty and unpredictability, whether we’re talking camera performance, security updates, or user interface design. As a phone reviewer, I never stick with any one phone for much longer than a few weeks, but of the times when I do, it’s almost always been an iPhone that’s kept me satisfied over the long term. The only exceptions have been the Nexus S, Nexus 5, and a rooted LG G2 running CyanogenMod.

In the absence of a new phone from Google, I’m going back to Apple.

Apple's iPhone 7 event in 9 minutes