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Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Juha Saarinen: New iPhones play on Apple's design strengths

The new iPhone 7 models are out, and Apple again showed why it matters to be able to control everything in smartphone design, from the case to the chips inside it, and the software the device runs.

Yes, it's fair to say that in some areas, Apple is catching up with the competition, but it does so on its own terms.

For instance, Huawei's already sending out "hey, we were first with the dual-camera on phones!" releases, pointing to the imaging unit it co-developed with Leica on the P9 device.

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There is indeed a new dual 12 Mpixel camera system on the new iPhone 7 Plus but it doesn't work like the one on the P9: Apple put a wide-angle lens on one camera, and a telephoto lens on the other. On the P9, one camera captures colour images, and the other black and white pictures.

Both approaches have their advantages but Apple's provides a small, two times optical zoom and an improved quality digital zoom for the dual camera system, which will be truly useful for many photographers.

Schiller summed it up well with by saying the new iPhone 7 cameras won't replace their large-sensor digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cousins, "but it will be the best camera many people will ever have had."

More so, it'll be the best camera they've ever had that they carry with them all time. That's really what matters.

A fair bit of digital trickery is needed for the camera, and Apple has added an image signal processor to its all-new A10 system on a chip. Being able to design custom silicon like the A10 which has two high-performance and two high-efficiency computing cores is a major strength for Apple.

Watch: Apple unveils iPhone 7


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Most other device vendors are at the mercy of chip suppliers like Qualcomm, whereas Apple can add and remove features as it wishes. This is no doubt why Huawei and Samsung try to build their own chips as well, so as to have greater control over the hardware in their phones.

Now, it wouldn't be an Apple product launch without some controversy: dropping the headphone jack wasn't ever going to be popular even though you get a better 3D touch Taptic Engine for improved screen buzzing, and stereo speakers instead.

So while Schiller tried hard to convince the world that losing the 3.5mm jack was down to "courage", the wireless AirPod earbuds that need to be charged and are easy to lose, and cost NZ$269 separately could be a hard sell for Apple.

There is a sweetener with the AirPods too: Apple's devised a new wireless technology driven by the W1 chip on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus that it promises has better audio than Bluetooth, and uses less battery. The W1 tech will be available in Beats headphones as well.

If you still want to use wired headphones, Apple has included EarPods and a 3.5mm adapter dongle, both with Lightning connectors, with the iPhone 7.

Apple has finally stopped the 16GB silliness and the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will start at 32GB ($1,119 and $1,429 respectively). You can get up to 256GB storage for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, but that'll cost $1,599 and $1,899 respectively... yes, Apple still charges a premium.

You do get an improved Retina HD display though, which is brighter and has many more colours for greater realism so the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus offer a good deal more bang for your buck if you can afford them.

And that Jet Black case? Yep, it looks gorgeous but is it going to be a fingerprint magnet?

Image gallery - shots from this morning's Apple media launch:


Watch makeover

I've been running Apple's new watchOS 3 operating system for a while now, and it's a big improvement over the older variants. It's faster to load apps, easier to use on a small display thanks to the interface tweaks but... watchOS 3 needed new hardware.

That was launched today as well, with the Watch being upgraded, and split into two lines: one's the all new and water resistant Watch Series 2, and the first-generation Series 1.

It's not quite right to say first-generation because Apple upgraded the Series 1 with the new S2 chip set that uses a dual core processor, which should make it much quicker than the current Watch range.

Series 1 won't get a global positioning system (GPS) like the Series 2 does, which to be frank should've been there right from the beginning in a premium wearable that's designed to measure physical activity and exercise.

Another missing feature is the water resistance up to 50 metres, that the Series 2 Watches get. Yes, you can finally go for a swim with your Watch - a feature Kiwis especially will appreciate.

Apple has also teamed up with Nike for sports band and French fashion house Hermès for leather straps, but only the former ones will be for sale in NZ. If you want a Hermès Watch, factor in a plane trip to Sydney or Melbourne to the price of the device.

I think the Series 2 Watch to lust for is the new ceramic case model. Except the ceramic Series 2 will cost $2,079 when it goes on sale in NZ which is more than an iPhone 7 Plus with 256 GB.

That's a boatload of cash, but it looks like Apple's created a new market segment for premium digital wearables: Garmin for instance recently launched the Fenix Chronos smartwatch that costs an eye-watering NZ$2,499 with a titanium band for instance.

Money and new hardware aside, the Watch feature I'd love to see the most is much improved battery life. Once a week charging should be the target for Apple because it'd make monitoring of activity and rest/sleeping that much more accurate and convenient.

Watch: Carpool karaoke with Tim Cook:


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- NZ Herald

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Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Juha Saarinen is a technology journalist and writer living in Auckland. Apart from contributing to the New Zealand Herald over the years, he has written for the Guardian, Wired, PC World, Computerworld and ITnews Australia, covering networking, hardware, software, enterprise IT as well as the business and social aspects of computing. A firm believer in the principle that trying stuff out makes you understand things better, he spends way too much time wondering why things just don’t work.

Read more by Juha Saarinen

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