Same thing Again

All images: Christina Warren / Gizmodo

Apple spent a lot of time today explaining that the iPhone 7 is the most “refined” iteration yet. Which is just a fancy way of saying that this phone’s design is going to look very similar to last year’s phone. Aside from a slightly different finish for the jet black model (glossy!), some redesigned antenna lines, and that apocalyptic loss of a headphone jack, the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus look very similar to their predecessors.

In a way this makes sense—over the last decade, Apple’s phone has come a very long way, and you would expect the design to plateau a bit. The need for radical changes disappears as the asymptote approaches what people really want.

But far from just a listless can-kick forward, the iPhone 7's got big changes that will surely turn some heads.

The home button isn’t a button anymore, which is weird

There are rumors that Apple will be killing the home button next year, but for now it remains, albeit in hardly recognizable form. It’s now a solid-state component with no moving parts. It makes up for this thanks to a “taptic engine, ” which gives you vibration feedback much like the buzzing of the iPhone 6s’ 3D Touch screen.

Pressing on the button for the first time, I was shocked at the immediate vibration feedback. The good news is that while it’s not actually a clicky button with moving parts, the very responsive vibration makes it feel like one.

The bad news is, well, that the button vibrates. This is different than the slight vibration/feedback you get on the current-generation iPhone when you use TouchID or Apple Pay. It’s more pronounced and forceful feedback.

The Apple rep who demonstrated the new home button told me it took him just a few minutes to get used to the feel of the vibration. I think it may take some users longer, just because getting used to feeling a vibration under your finger after years of not having one is a bit of a trip.

Mercifully you can adjust the “click” sensitivity of the home button, and apparently even broader customization is coming. By default, the sensitivity is set at level 2, but you can make it require a lighter or harder touch to click. Personally, I thought option one—which required just a soft touch—was the best.

Even if the vibration isn’t immediately your bag, getting rid of moving parts comes with advantages. For example, you’ll never have to worry about a home button sticking or breaking again. Even better, it means that the phone is now waterproof. For anyone who has ever dropped an iPhone in a sink (or a toilet) and then had to immediately soak it in a bag of rice, you know this is a big improvement. Of course, the iPhone isn’t the first water- and dust- resistant phone. Samsung, Sony, and others have been at this game for a while. It took Apple longer, but it got there.

The new camera has the potential to be incredible

The flashiest feature by far of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus is the new camera system. Broadly, the camera system on both phones has been redesigned to work better in low light and to capture colors more accurately and with better focus. The real story with the cameras, though, is the new dual-lens system for the iPhone 7 Plus. Apple slapped two 12-megapixel cameras into the back of the device, which work in concert. It might be the most powerful mobile shooter ever made.

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