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The iPhones 7 (daringfireball.net)
70 points by alexbilbie on Sept 13, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 91 comments

>I think the real performance story with the A10 Fusion is not what it scores on benchmarks, nor how fast it feels in use, but what it does for battery life with its truly innovative dual two-core design. When high performance is called for, the A10 Fusion uses two performance optimized cores. When it’s not, is uses two energy-efficiency-optimized cores. To my knowledge there has never been a system like this in a phone.

Well, that's just wrong. Android phones had this years ago. The near ubiquitous Snapdragon 810 uses a Big.Little architecture.

There's a handy list of phones with this architecture here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_big.LITTLE

Technically the Android phones using Big.Little are (correct me if I'm wrong) all octacore which is somewhat different than his claim (dual two core design; although there are/have been other chips with this).

No, there are dual 2-core big.LITTLE implementations (the K3V3): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ARM_big.LITTLE#Implementations

Besides, Using 2 instead of 4 cores isn't really a notable difference. It's certainly not enough of a differentiator to make his claim meaningfully true. But that's beside the point because dual 2-core chips exist.

My comment acknowledged that other dual core chips exist, the question is whether phones used them. None are listed.

Come on, he's a huge Apple fanboy, so of course he's going to get some facts wrong.

I know a few Apple people. They are so impressed by Apple because they REALLY think that whatever Apple has on their devices every year is something that no other company has done EVER.

The Nintendo DS did it over 10 years ago.

The NDS case is a completely situation, the second core is a coprocessor with its own specific duties, it's not a low-power "step down" core. And that system (CPU + coprocessor(s)) has a long history — though you could argue that historically coprocessors were more DSPs than general-purpose.

Technically, it's not wrong because the statement is prefaced with 'To my knowledge'. Whether the author's knowledge is more extensive in the domain of the history of Apple's iPhone color offerings than the domain of mobile processor technologies implemented withing the industry does not alter the technical correctness of the statement.

Oh, come on! It would take 2 minutes for him to verify his statement.

Technically, the author already verified their statement by examining the extent of their knowledge. Personally, I would not be surprised if the author chose their words with an eye toward ensuing social media interactions and the nature of the blog's readership.

It is not a technique about which I believe I am unaware or have not employed on the interwebs to dampen the apparent appeal of argumentative replies, and I suspect that I am probably not mistaken about that belief. YMMV, but I feel it is probably sometimes advantageous to write in such a way.

First, I am not Gruber.

Second, the hate he gets on every comments thread is very fun and entertaining to read, but I think it is often misplaced, and always ad-hominem.

Yes, one third of the 'review' is about the finish, and yes one third of the review is about home button usage patterns from Asia, but personally, that is why I read them, that is why they are unique, because they are not cultural reviews from The Verge, or technical reviews from Ars Technica, or node process reviews from Anandtech, which I also read. That is also why I don't read Engadget's review, or Gizmodo's one (are they still online?); their reviews are a subset of the others.

This is clearly a case of niche focus, he writes stuff others won't. And I'm glad I get to read his writing because, and this is the important part, I get to make my own mind, I don't have to agree with him.

Thanks man. That's exactly what I try to do.

Why am I incapable of either discerning or caring about any of this? I can't help but be impressed by his incredible attention to detail and his understanding of the design choices and their ramifications ... but I still feel like I'm reading about the mating habits of some alien species. Interesting yes. But also bizarre and faintly ridiculous.

People have different tastes and obsessions. I enjoy Gruber's writing about Apple products, but his extreme obsession on other topics baffles me. YMMV. I think it's a good thing that there are lots of different types of people on the world. There's extreme value in that diversity.

The thing is I totally agree with you. Intellectually speaking I try to respect the diversity. But viscerally I react with complete bafflement.

I sort of feel the same way. But then again people have different interests. And he happens to spend a lot of words on black vs. jet black, but still in the end concludes: "But what matters is what happens when you turn them on and use them."

Some people spend all of their free time doing needlepoint; others are experts in dog grooming. Some people, bafflingly, collect postage stamps.

Ditto. I think we're a class of people known as "normal".

EDIT: Downvoted by abnormals ;-)

Some years ago Gruber became the community PR person for Apple. The phone isn't interesting in any good way; the only major changes are all things taken away.

This reminds me of people who I dealt with in retail.

People would buy beautiful laptops, with glossy finishes, interesting detail. Yet, people would never pull the original plastic off the surrounding covers or back cover. They would bring in their computers to be worked on and have this hideous, dirt crusted, half pulled up, sheet of plastic flapping in the breeze on their computer. I would ask them why they did this and they always said the same thing: "Because I don't want to scratch the laptop."

I would then go through my speal about how, if their entire purpose for keeping the plastic on was to keep it looking pristine, why did they put up with it looking like shit for years. By the time they get sick of dealing with said plastic, they will pull it off only to realize that the dirt and grime that has accumulated under that plastic causes tiny scratches in the surface of their laptop.

In summary: Laptops with plastic on them looked like shit to begin with, once removed the laptop still looked like shit from leaving the original plastic on. Take the plastic off, enjoy how beautiful your laptop is and try to take care of it to the best of your ability. Nothing lasts forever.

Laptops are still in the "big investment" category. (I put that in quotes because many, even the majority, of non-apple laptops cost less than a phone).

When my wife replaced her 1st gen macbook air she brought it to the shop to have the data transferred. She's a painter and it was covered with drips and smears of paint and had various nicks and other blemishes -- it was plainly a working tool. All the staff at the Palo Alto Apple store came to take a look at it because they were not used to seeing a machine not treated with kid gloves.

Your story is funny, but true. Which is crazy as Apple makes some of the best laptop cases in the industry not just for aesthetic but they can take a beating.

Do you happen by any chance to have a photo of said laptop?

I doubt it -- it was a long time ago, and why would she take a picture of her laptop? (I am sure it is in the corner or background of various photos though -- these things are ubiquitous).

If I could downvote you I would.

I find it fascinating that a review of an extremely complex piece of technology devotes 1,500 words to the color of the back of the thing. What a world.

It's not just the "color". The technology to create those finishes is itself extremely complex and difficult to accomplish. One of the things many people like about Apple products is the company's (or Jony Ive's) obsession with producing hardware that looks and also feels good, solid, pleasing. Some people find those details silly and pointless but lots of people appreciate meticulously crafted objects. Gruber is definitely that sort of person, and he writes for that sort of person. You may judge the relative value of other aspects of the device differently but I think it's reasonable that many phone buyers would be deeply concerned about the look and feel of a device they carry with them everywhere they go and use and touch more than literally any other object in their life.

>The technology to create those finishes is itself extremely complex and difficult to accomplish.

What about it is extremely complex?

I don't know, I think Apple makes good hardware but I doubt they needed such complex technology to create shiny metal. The video describing the process made it seem more about marketing checkboxes than actual improvements.


We think one of the most important questions now, when you buy a computer is gonna be what’s your favourite color. And this is more important in our surveys, in our consumer surveys this is far more important than most of the mumbo jumbo associated with buying a consumer computer…megabytes, megahertz, gigabytes…people don't care about that stuff, they wanna trust us to give ’em a really great computer, what they care about is ‘I wanna express myself and pick the color I want’.

- Steve Jobs, 1999.

I'm actually kind of glad he did. Because what I'm most excited about right now is the possibility of either the black or jet black color coming to the new MacBook Pro's whenever they get updated.

IF they ever get updated. The recent history of Mac and Macbook Pro updates leaves some doubt as to whether there will ever be an update ever again.

On the positive side, even with a three year extended warranty, you can now—whenever your macbook wears out—go to an Apple store and buy the same model with the same tech inside for the same price that you paid years ago for the original model. It creates more stability and reliability of expectation than any computer buyer has ever had before.

The writing is self-indulgently long-winded. It would be trivial to cut it down to a quarter of the length without losing anything useful.

I stopped reading about a third of the way down because my attention span timer expired. It gets reset for dense and interesting content, but 1500 words about a metal finish is... counterproductive.

Agreed. The over-fascination with a feature of a product that is only apparent when you aren't actually using the product is optimizing for an edge-case.

Disagree. I notice the finish on the phone infinite times more often than I've wanted a removal battery, SD card, or IR blaster on my phone.

Really disagree. My phone spends as much time face-down on tables, desks etc as it does in my hand. True, it's not "in use" but it's an object in my environment and I care how that looks. 1500 words... yea that was a bit boring to read. But in practice, for myself and for many people, the industrial design is actually a very important part of the value.

Exactly. And if it's in your hand frequently, what it feels like in your hand, what it feels like coming out of your pocket, matters.

What percentage of these phones are going in a case as soon as they're bought?

Dunno but Gruber doesn't use a case and he's not writing this review for the average iPhone buyer. He's writing for people like him who are obsessive about these details.

A large percentage. However, a surprisingly high number of my friends are rocking their phones without a case lately. It makes me nervous considering how fragile they are, but I think there's some appeal to going caseless, though I'm not sure what it is.

Perhaps it's easier to slide into your pocket?

Or maybe it's more about letting everyone know that you have the latest phone? Who knows.

For myself, I go caseless because, 1) I like the feel of a solid metal device in my hand over plastic or rubber, and 2) it's thinner without a case, and easier to handle.

I have a leather wallet case that the phone slides into easily for when its in my pocket, as I wouldn't want it to get damaged being jostled around, but it's quick to take out when I want to use it.

Do you have a link for your case?


I use the Miami that's at the top of that page. It was 20-someodd US dollars on Amazon, and has held up well for the year I've had it.

My $99 Android phone (out-of-pocket, no contract) that looks nice (to me at least), has 6.0.1, and serves all my phone needs quite nicely has no case. If I drop it, it'll probably be cheaper at this point to replace it. Actually, I have dropped it a few times with no damage. I could care less about the thing at this point, even though it is easily the best phone I've ever owned.

It's actually quite liberating.

I tried to go caseless, but thin metal smartphones are way too slippery. Every time I set my phone down on something, it always seemed to have some velocity towards the floor, just a matter of time.

Also, it feels wrong setting the iPhone down on a bar table or whatever. Either the touchscreen lays against the table or it's seesawing on its protruding camera lens.

Putting it in a minimal rubber case took an $800 load off my mind for $15.

Actually you interact with the finish every time you touch the phone.

He's a designer, so he's writing about the design.

The big/little thing is embarrassing, but he doesn't pretend to be Anandtech.

He's a blogger, not a designer.

He was a professional designer for many years and up until a few months ago he was primarily responsible for the design of Vesper.

He's a self-promoter.

I iPhone 6s+ owner here with iPhone 7+ on order. I wish some of the reviewers would cover the voice quality when using the iPhone as a phone. The iPhone 6s(+) added another microphone for noise cancellation and also it uses H.265 for FaceTime Video compression over cell networks (2x H.264 compression) and one is able to use VoLTE (I'm on Verizon). But I'm always looking for better cell phone quality.

I actually received a phone call while just to about to get on a NYC subway, 1 story below ground and the person couldn't wait until I took my subway trip, so we chatted for awhile while several subways passed both uptown and downtown (they come every 3 - 5 minutes in each direction). She claimed she could here me speaking just fine even when the subway is arriving :-)

But sometimes, people have trouble hearing me on the iPhone and on the Apple $80 in-hear microphone.

I'm curious if there are any upgrade to the iPhone 7 that improves the voice quality and I wish at least one reviewer would test this out.

Also, as an aside, I'm disappointed that the iPhone 7 doesn't cover band 66 (AWS-3) spectrum. I guess there aren't any modem chips out yet (at least not from Qualcomm which is what the Verizon and Sprint CDMA phones use).

Still in dense markets like NYC, even though Verizon has far more spectrum than AT&T, I expect that in the next year or two the existing spectrum will be filling up.

I've been using the iPhone leather case since the 5s (when it first came out) and I've only had one screen break.

Sounds like you should be doing this. I'd read it :)

I love the part about AssistiveTouch. I was just in China last week and also noticed this and couldn't explain it. I thought it had something to do with Chinese writing/characters. But this makes more sense: "why don’t they click the home button? Because of a widespread misconception that the home button will wear out, thus reducing the resale value of the iPhone."

The irony is that if nobody uses the home button, the buyer of the used phone shouldn't care if it works or not either.

Of course psychology and human nature doesn't work that way (I too feel weird buying something when a feature I don't need is broken), but it's still funny.

> misconception that the home button will wear out

I don't think it's a misconception at all. I've had to use the AssistiveTouch solution with both my 2 previous iPhones because either the home or power button stopped working. It's still enabled on my current iPhone and I still use it out of habit. I don't resell my phones, so I'm not worried about that aspect of things. I've only had 3 iPhones, 2 of them had the issue and I feel my current hasn't gotten it because I still use AssistiveTouch.

I've seen a lot of people use AssistiveTouch as a replacement for the home button too. It's definitely because they want to reduce wear on the home button and is also an easily copied habit from one person to another.

I'm also guessing that the amount of dust in certain geographies may play a bigger part in the home buttons not working well after sometime, since there is a gap for dust to get in in all the iPhone models (AFAIK) till the iPhone 6s series. The iPhone 7 series is the first one to eliminate the press button and replace it with a haptic one, which helps in water resistance and also eliminates dust getting in at that point.

> widespread misconception that the home button will wear out

I don't know if Apple finally fixed that in the iPhone 6, but it was everything but a misconception, I had the problem in my iPhone 3G and iPhone 4s my girlfriend in her 5s. Many friends in different versions of the iPhone.

The home button did break after some use.

Happened to my younger brother on two generations of iPod touch also.

Yes, a lot of people use it for this reason. It's really weird. I use the hell out of these things and never had the home button do anything but its job.

> reducing the resale value

It is downright weird how everyone frets about the resale value of Apple products. Almost like they treat them more like art or similar than a device to use to get their life done.

It's not weird at all if you live somewhere where an iPhone is important for status and very expensive. You want every penny back you can get when buying the next one

Say what you want about Gruber's breathless/obsessive style, but as an upgrading iOS user, I found two bits very useful that weren't in the other 2 reviews I read:

-Jet black is the grippiest iPhone finish ever -no OIS on the telephoto lens, making it much less useful than the default lens for night photos and video

> -Jet black is the grippiest iPhone finish ever

The only reason I use a case on my iPhone is because without one, when I'm holding it, I feel like I am constantly on the verge of a rapid unplanned jettison. The thing is so slick and thin that I can't grip it very well.

I'm a-ok with micro-abrasions and treat my phone well, so maybe I'll spring for the jet black version.

The jet black ones look fantastic to me as well and I had worried a bit about durability since I've dropped, scraped and generally abused every phone I've had and I don't like cases.

I may be a bit unusual in this, but I actually want a smaller screen. Like everyone else, I want the phone to be thinner and lighter too, but I miss the days of being able to take my phone with my in my pocket when I go out running. a 4" screen at current iPhone thicknesses would be amazing. I'm not going to watch movies or write long HN comments on a phone. I just need something small that works for checking email, texting and playing me music.

Also on the topic of size, as my screen resolution keeps increasing over the years it feels like John is writing in smaller and smaller text! By changing literally nothing, he's been offering a worse and worse UX.

If you want a smaller screen take a gander at the iPhone SE. My biggest disappointment with the keynote is that they didn't update the SE's internals with the new A10, expanded memory, and storage. It's kind of annoying that the company assumes if you want a smaller screen you must be on a tight budget and willing to accept compromises. This holds true for most Android phones too, smaller screen == poverty option.

I think it might update on another schedule. It was introduced in March: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPhone_SE

I'm also hoping for an Apple Watch that doesn't require a phone. That would be great, especially if it could do VOIP with AirPods.

I think it's really strange that the headphone jack wasn't mentioned at all in the review. In the one instance he refers to it he says "where the whatchamacalit jack used to be".

He made an entire blog post 110% or more on side about the courage to remove the headphone socket, and how it would make the world a markedly better place and cure world hunger. Of course it's hardly the first time he's had a ridiculously pro-Apple position.

Came up on HN the day of the event I think.

It's a well-covered topic. What new thing could he possibly say?

Not even mentioning it says what I think about it more than anything I could write about it.

> Second, both black finishes exemplify Apple’s obsession and mastery with materials engineering.

But first, the Jet Black one is going to scuff and nick like hell. But because of feelings Gruber thinks it's both better and a demonstration of materials mastery and engineering.

Thanks Gruber, 12 paragraphs defining why a poor materials choice that requires a case (which counters the thinness of the phone which was the justification for why the headphone jack is gone) is a demonstration of mastery.

Here's the tl;dr of any Gruber review of an Apple product, he loves it. All the issues are examples of courage, and all the real problems don't get talked about ("where the whatchamacallit jack used to go"). He'll point out a token "problem" but, just like in this example, he then goes on at length about why it's actually some bold solution to a problem that's not actually a problem but is really about how dumb some users are (so dumb that the thing they're doing wrong even gets an entire paragraph of a footnote about how Apple is even helping them through the hopeless superstitious morass of their lives).

Even points that might be interesting to read about (the camera) can't be trusted because he's such a compromised reviewer.

A much better, and still favorable, review is the other one on the front page today by the Verge. There's issues with that review as well, but at least the information in the review is well balanced and considered and not thousands of words of apologia and user blaming.

> "which counters the thinness of the phone which was the justification for why the headphone jack is gone"

Er, at what point did Apple justify the removal of the headphone jack with thinness? The 7 has the same thickness as the 6/6S. They've put many justifications out there, but to my knowledge "thinness" has never been one of them.

The way I view it, Gruber reviews Apple products for people who already love Apple products. He has a broad understanding of Apple and brings a well-thought perspective to many things without getting stuck on comparing products to those in competing ecosystems. Personally I put a lot of value in Gruber's reviews, because he has a similar perspective to the products that I do. But that's going to be a important part of any review - matching perspectives.

> which counters the thinness of the phone which was the justification for why the headphone jack is gone

This is just factually incorrect. Apple gave a lot of reasons why the headphone jack was removed but thinness was never one of them. And it would make no sense for it to be one of them because the iPhone 7 is the same thickness as the iPhone 6 and 6S which have a headphone jack.

I agree Gruber is biased and loves Apple to the point where he will take ridiculous positions (see the EU tax issue) but if you're going to argue, do it from a factually correct point.

I am so glad somebody finally took Gruber head on. His reviews are always biased towards Apple and he fails to take a critical look at Apple's choices sometimes. You also forgot to mention one other thing which is the camera protrudes outside also because of the obsession with thinness. I would think we would probably get another hour or 2 charge if we make it a little thicker.

Why does it require a case? Its a matter of taste, which obviously makes it not required.

It requires a case because Apple must have designed it assuming everyone uses a case anyway. I've used every iPhone I've ever owned without a case, every version from 2-6. I'm always careful with them. I've never broken a screen until iPhone 6, which I've replaced and broken yet again, because it's so slim and the rounded edges are slippery. It's the first iPhone I've really disliked, design-wise. You have to use a case to avoid dropping it. Most egregious though: the thing will not lie flat on a surface thanks to the camera lens protrusion. And since the lens sticks out, I'm much more likely to grab it by the lens when pulling it out of my pocket (everything else is so slick) so my photos are smudge-blurred (along with countless photos I receive from my parents phones) unless I take time to wipe the lens on my shirt.

I just ordered a 7 and will begrudgingly order a case along with it. I felt like the 5 was the pinnacle for exterior design, and I considered buying the new 5 SE version of that, but I really need/want the latest internals given the amount these devices cost.

Edit: cleaned up some writing in the last paragraph

View from the other side:

I'm empathetic. I upgraded a Samsung S5 to an S7 and I'm mostly extremely happy. The phone is astounding, the weight, speed and battery life are brilliant.

Unfortunately, they've done something to the design and finish. It's much more slippery than the S5. I never dropped my S5, and in the 2 months I've had my S7 I've fumbled and dropped it multiple times. No damage yet, but I feel like it's a matter of time. I usually use phones without a case, but I feel like I should buy one for this phone!

EDIT: The S5 has "rubberized" textured back panel and grooved edges. The S7 has a mirror-smooth back panel and shine edges. I feel that they've sacrificed function for form here.

As an iPhone 6 user it was a phone that felt like it was designed to be in a case. The goddamn camera even sticks out, so it doesn't sit flush without a case on it. I never had my iPhone 4s in a case, but I put the 6 in a case the first day. Personally, I wish Apple would just make the phone thicker so the camera can sit flush and use the extra space for more battery and a headphone jack. I wouldn't even mind if it weighed a few more ounces.

All of the talk of the different color options ends up being kind of moot when you have to put a case on the thing anyway.

Given how many smartphones with broken screens I see, it seems like a case is pretty much essential these days, whatever the phone is coated in.

Completely anecdotal, of course, but I'd guess something like 20% of phones I see have a cracked screen. I suppose there's little incentive for the manufacturers to make their devices more robust.

It's to be expected. If you ran a hardware company, wouldn't you give the free/early access units to those who give the warmest of reviews?

Apple may as well issue a press release, written by Ive, that "reviews" their devices, and just link to those from HN.

They'd be shorter reading at least.

> I wouldn’t be surprised if the news stories and pundit hot takes about jet black iPhone scratches and scuffs outnumber those about the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 literally exploding and hurting people.

Haha, probably so.

The Note 7 recall resulted in a $20B market cap drop for Samsung, about 15%. I'd bet good money at poor odds that 'scuffgate' will not have anywhere close to the same impact.

He's specifically talking about pundit hot takes though. Would you take that bet?

tl;dr please?? It's too much to read for me!

Why downvotes :(

Jet Black is pretty. The camera on the 7 Plus is nice. Gotta love those Asians.

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