Up close with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus

Here we are in a post-headphone jack world. I don’t know about you, but I expected thing to feel different, like that part in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy sees color for the first time. But there you have it. These things take time. And we’ll see whether other companies follow suit – though the company certainly has a pretty strong track record for ushering out other technologies.

That shift is really the key aesthetic differentiator here – the kind you have to turn the phone around to see. The other thing that immediately sets the handset apart from its predecessor at first glance is the new “Jet Black” finish – a sort of piano gloss that’s every bit as shiny in-person as the company led us to believe from the Bill Graham Civic Center stage earlier today.

iPhone 7

It’s pretty nice, actually, managing the so-rare feat of looking classy whilst reflecting everything in sight – and yes, it’s every bit the fingerprint magnet you’re currently imagining. Personally, I’d opted for the decidedly less creatively-named “black,” which is a matte finish from which no light can possibly escape, and honestly, it might be my favorite look the iPhone has sported thus far.

The first thing you’ll likely do when you get your hands on the new phone is fiddle around with the new home button. It’ll take some getting used to. It’s not a bad sensation, but it’s certainly different. And getting haptic feedback courtesy of the Taptic Engine with a press is decidedly less satisfying that press an honest-to-goodness physical button. And unlike the trackpad, the technology hasn’t approximated the feel of the real thing.

There are three haptic levels you can toggle through in the settings menu, with #3 serving as the closest to the real thing – but still not the same. But hey, plenty of us never thought we’d be cool with typing on a screen, and this is a decidedly less intense adjustment. It’s also one of those tradeoffs that probably brings more good than bad, with the button less prone to breaking (a relatively common complaint as far as hardware failures go) and helping the handset achieve its long-awaited IP67rating , protecting it from water spray, should you get caught in a rom-com style sudden downpour.

That, along with an increased battery life may well be the two strongest additions to the new handset – though Apple isn’t really leading with either, as they’re not quite as sexy as other aspects. Speaking of, Apple also took care to improve the audio – an often sadly overlooked aspect of handset, as manufacturers are generally far more focused on the on-going display resolution arms race.

iPhone 7

The company’s added stereo speakers to the iPhone that sound a fair deal better and loud than past models – though, we’ll have to check them in a setting that’s not swarming with loud Facebook Liveing bloggers to really say for sure. The display updates, on the other hand, are fairly minor. The phone gets brighter and has a wider color range, but you would be hard pressed to pick up on that at first glance.

Performance has been improved, courtesy of the A10 Fusion, another in-house chip, this time sporting a four-core CPU. Again, probably not the kind of thing you’ll notice immediately, though the company was showing off some pretty solid mobile gaming demos after the event.

iPhone 7

The camera has the same 12 megapixel sensor as its predecessor, but the camera’s speed has been improved, and optical stabilization should help you get better shots. The Plus sports a much bigger change on that front, adding a second megapixel camera for wide angle and telephoto shots, along the lines of what was introduced with last night’s unfortunately timed LG V20 event. That paired with a new Portrait feature bring some pretty impressive imagery – and offer a compelling reason beyond size to go for the Plus.

All in all, the iPhone 7 doesn’t feel like a quantum leap over its predecessor, but there are certainly some welcome changes on-board that help make it a more well-rounded handset, including water resistance, a large battery and improved sound quality. There will be some more growing pains on this handset than other upgrades, including the end of the headphone jack and a shift in the home button.

iPhone 7

Those elements aside, the handset is definitely a step forward for the company. The handsets go up for pre-order this Friday with retail availability on the 16th.