The iPhone is on autopilot.
Wednesday marked the tenth time we’ve been through this song and dance. There’s a new iPhone. The camera gets better. The processor gets faster. The design changes every other year on a “tick-tock” cycle, with the “tock” model refining, iterating, and perfecting on what came the year before.
But the iPhone 7 is the most iterative update of all.
For the third year in a row, Apple is peddling the same look while its competitors like Samsung have out-designed it. (Apple would argue against this, pointing to the new “jet black” colour and tweaked antenna lines on the back as evidence that the design has in fact changed. I disagree.)
The camera got a nice boost in performance, and the Plus model has two lenses so you can enable optical zoom and other effects. The home button doesn’t press in anymore, replaced by a pressure-sensitive sensor. It’s water-resistant. The headphone jack is gone, and the company is now peddling a $159 pair of wireless AirPods to go along with your $649 phone.
After spending a limited amount of time with the iPhone 7 following Apple’s keynote today, it seems like another great device, but it’s also a sign that Apple has shifted from wowing us with a new, fresh look every other year to just improving the key areas people care about most, like the camera, battery life, speed (thanks to new faster internals), and new colours.
These minor improvements may seem boring to tech bloggers, but they’re what hundreds of millions of people consider when they think about buying a new phone.
While it’s easy to get caught up with design, it’s also important to look beyond that. This year’s iPhone is better than last year’s, and much, much better than 2014’s. While it bothers me that the design seems to be lagging behind the competition — to the point where I’m considering hanging onto my two-year-old iPhone 6 Plus another year — that shouldn’t be taken as a sign that Apple has squeezed all the innovation it can out of the iPhone.
There’s more than enough in the iPhone 7 to love. And the iPhone business is a once-in-a-lifetime miracle for Apple, a gift that will keep on giving, despite the recent decline in sales growth. A third year of the same design may be disappointing, but there’s no sign it will stop the iPhone from being a hit.
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