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

Juha Saarinen: Apple's fresh hot chips

The new iPhone 7 is peeled a part. Photo / Chipworks
The new iPhone 7 is peeled a part. Photo / Chipworks

iFixit and their friends Chipworks have as always done a great job of totally taking apart the new waterproof iPhones, down to the chip level.

A surprising amount of chips from Intel, the electronics giant usually seen as having missed the mobility train, are assembled into the new iPhones, Chipworks found. There's 256GB storage now for the top end models, and 3GB of RAM in the iPhone 7 Plus, and 2GB in the smaller iPhone 7 for storing and processing large files.

Extra memory notwithstanding, the new three-billion transistor A10 Fusion Apple designed chip with two low-power and two performance cores, performs just as well in in the iPhone 7 as it does in the iPhone 7 Plus.

As long as the iPhone 7 doesn't get too hot, that is.

Its smaller case dissipates less heat than the iPhone 7 Plus's large enclosure, and as a result, the 7 tends to throttle down earlier.

Long story short, if you like mobile gaming, the iPhone 7 Plus is the device for you - the larger screen also makes for a nicer gaming experience.

Geekbench 4.0 scored the A10 Fusion at 3,473 for single-core, and 5,603 for multi-core on iOS 10.0.1.

My guess is that the 12.9-inch iPad Pro will be upgraded first, and get a wide-colour gamut screen as well.

That's faster than the iPad Pro 12.9-inch and 9.7-inch, not to mention the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus; none of the devices that are built with Apple's previous A9 silicon ever feel slow though, and should keep you happy for two more years at least.

It is also faster than the 2,745/5,219 Geekbench 4 score a 2016 MacBook with 8GB RAM manages, which tells you the A10 Fusion is no slouch.

That said, the GFXBench Metal games benchmark saw the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus race ahead with quite some margin, with over 50 per cent better frames rates in some tests. So yes, demanding games might warrant an iPhone upgrade (if you have deep pockets).

The new, powerful A10 chip. Photo / Chipworks
The new, powerful A10 chip. Photo / Chipworks

Added to the hardware mix, there's also an nearfield communications (NFC) chip which will become more useful when Apple Pay lands in New Zealand with ANZ next month.

It's a reasonably safe bet that the A10 Fusion chip will make it into an updated iPad Pro fairly soon, running at a faster clock frequency to wring out additional performance. My guess is that the 12.9-inch iPad Pro will be upgraded first, and get a wide-colour gamut screen as well.

Revealing rip it up

The iFixit teardown revealed what Apple replaced the 3.5mm phono jack with: a new, large Taptic Engine for the Home button which isn't an actual button. The Taptic Engine buzzes the Home button area, simulating the feeling of when you depress a real mechanical and it's very realistic.

Making it even more of an engineering tour de force, the Home "button" features the Touch ID fingerprint scanner. This is able to read recorded fingerprints fast and accurately, despite the Taptic Engine buzzing the Home button at the same time.

The non-mechanical, immovable Home button means there's one thing less to wear out on the iPhone 7, and it helps with the waterproofing of the device as well.

Apple has a bit more work to do with the iPhone 7 Home button though: with iOS 10, you press the Home button and don't swipe the screen to unlock an iPhone.

This works, but it's too easy to invoke Siri currently, instead of unlocking iPhone. There is a way to return to the old behaviour, when you rest your finger on the Home button to wake up the iPhone: it's hidden under General/Accessibility part of Settings.

The non-mechanical, immovable Home button means there's one thing less to wear out on the iPhone 7, and it helps with the waterproofing of the device as well. But, the Home button is capacitive, which means only your naked finger can trigger it. Poking at it with pens or gloved fingers won't work on the iPhone 7 as it did on iPhone 6.

What about the second "speaker grille" though at the bottom of the device where the 3.5mm jack uses to be? Well, that grille had lots of people fooled into thinking it hid a second speaker, because the iPhone 7 is now stereo sound capable.

That grille hides a barometric sensor that works out the air pressure around you, to determine the height you're at. Yes, it's waterproof too.

The stereo sound is achieved with the top earpiece speaker instead. This works pretty well, with decent channel separation and loudness. You're not ever going to use the iPhone 7 as a party boombox, but the sound is heaps better than the iPhone 6s, with the 7 Plus being the best thanks to its larger size.

If the goal is to simplify the iPhone 7 design, make it more robust and sealed against dust and moisture, doing away with the SIM card would be a natural thing to do.

Apple has apparently fixed those notorious wireless Bluetooth device pairing problems, with the W1 chip that goes into headsets. That's great news, but there's very little detail yet as to how the W1 chip works, how it speaks to iPhones, and if it'll make things sound better.

What's next for the iPhone?

What's left for Apple then, to add in the iPhone 8 or 9? One thing that I expected to appear for the iPhone 7 was wireless charging. This seemed like a natural feature to add if you remove the 3.5mm phono jack, making it impossible to charge and listen to music via the Lightning port at the same time, unless you buy another adapter.

Wireless charging is available for the Watch, but maybe Apple thought using pads that have to be in contact with devices isn't right for iPhones? I'm sure we'll find out soon.
The built-in Apple SIM (subscriber identity module) that's available for iPads and which lets you buy plans and switch providers in the Settings app didn't make it to the iPhone 7 either.

Again, if the goal is to simplify the iPhone 7 design, make it more robust and sealed against dust and moisture, doing away with the SIM card would be a natural thing to do, but no, not this time. Maybe the telcos put their collective foot down on this?

Dumping the SIM tray and rearranging stuff inside the case might create enough space to have three cameras on the next iPhone too, with a further lens.

- NZ Herald

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