You might call the new Apple iPhone 7 a bit shallow.

The Cupertino tech giant announced the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus today, but only the second larger model--the version with a 5.5-inch screen--has two lenses for the camera. There's a new mode called Portrait that uses Shallow Depth of Field, a pro photographer technique that puts a slight blur behind the subject matter.

For anyone who has used a smartphone, you know there's a big difference in the focus capability because a digital camera like the Nikon D800 can capture a portrait with the person in focus and the background out of focus.

For the first time, it's possible to take photos that have more of a professional look, like something you'd put in a frame. In several examples at the Apple Event today in San Francisco, the photos had a sharp and professional look. Because the iPhone 7 Plus has two lenses, one telephoto and one wide angle, you can also zoom in without excessive blur or a distorted look. In one sample, the zoom looked about the same as a digital camera with a telephoto lens (although not as good as a pro camera).

In a surprising twist, Apple didn't really ditch the analog headphone jack, even though everyone expected them to do that. You can still use wired headphones and earbuds. You connect up using the Lightning port using a 3.5mm adapter included in the box, which means all of the fuss wasn't really worth it at all.

The big change is that Apple also announced wireless earbuds called the AirPods. They use a new W1 chip to produce a wireless audio connection--it's not Bluetooth but it's similar. Sensors detect when you are wearing the earbuds. Motion sensors let you double-tap to access Siri. When you speak, beam-forming microphones reduce noise around you. (Coffee-shop chats might be possible, we shall see.) The AirPods last five hours per charge. It's not a given that they will sound as good as other wireless models like the Phiaton BT 220 NC models I've tested extensively.

Apple also announced a new chip in the iPhone 7 called the A10 Fusion, which uses four processing cores. Two of the cores are for speed--they are 120x faster than the original iPhone--and the second two cores run at one-fifth the power of the two primary cores. It means tasks like email and texting can run on the slower cores to save battery life. Graphics are also 50% faster than the previous gen chip, which could improve frame rates for high-end mobile games. One of them, F1 2016, uses a wide color gamut, the new stereo speakers, and runs smooth and fast.

Apple said the A10 Fusion is the most powerful mobile chip ever made. The new processor core design means the iPhone 7 will last about two hours longer (or 13 hours of talk time) than the iPhone 6s, which is a big jump and helpful for business travelers trying to stay connected in an airport or at a hotel.

For the first time, Apple has added stereo speakers to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. It means audio will sound more authentic (the way the artist intended it) when you play music from the phone itself and skip the new earbuds. That's been a trend lately as smartphone speakers have started sounding as good or even better than some lower-end external Bluetooth speakers, especially on Motorola phones.

Overall, the iPhone 7 is a good leap forward--it's faster, lasts longer, has a better camera, comes with dual speakers, and still allows you to use wired headphones and earbuds. However, it's not a major leap forward. The phones are the same size as the previous versions (4.7 and 5.5 inches); the iPhone 7 (at 4.87 ounces) is lighter than the iPhone 6s. The iPhone 7 costs the same (at $649) as the iPhone 6s, but Apple has doubled the storage size allotments (they are now 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB).

I really wanted to see thinner, lighter models. The Moto Z is one of my favorite Android phones and it's only 4.79 ounces and .20-inches in depth. Both of those stats beat the iPhone 7. The Moto Z also uses a modular design so you can add a projector case, speakers, and extra battery packs. Plus, at $624, it's a bit cheaper.

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will ship on September 16. The AirPods will cost $159 and will be available in late October.

Published on: Sep 7, 2016
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