iPhone 7

First Month with iPhone 7

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I've had my Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus for over a month now so I figured I would share my thoughts so far. This is not a review. If you want an in-depth review then swing a dead cat out on the internet and you will hit several dozen of them. I stood in line on release day for the original iPhone back in 2007 and have owned one ever since. I went from the original iPhone to iPhone 4, then iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s (work provided iPhone) and now the iPhone 7 Plus. Out of all the iPhones I have owned I am by far enjoying the iPhone 7 Plus the most. Here is why:

  • This is my first iPhone purchased with Apple Upgrade Program. So, since I don't have to worry about a few scratches and scuffs hurting the resell value I am carrying it with no case. It feels spectacular in the hand. The high polished surface of the Jet Black finish has just enough grip to it that it stays in my hand and looks stunning but is still slim and sleek enough to easily slide in and out of my dress pants front right pocket. That enormous screen all but disappears in my pocket so it's like there is no penalty for opting for the larger phone. It is a joy to carry every day.
  • Loving the extra waterproofing. I am able to take it to the beach and out on long bikes rides without having to worry about a rain shower ruining the phone.
  • The ear piece of the phone is now a second speaker providing stereo sound and much more volume, making it a much more effective stand alone way to listen to podcasts or make a conference call.
  • The camera on this iPhone is amazing. I'm not one to take a ton of pictures, but the pictures I do take come out looking like professional shots (and I am no professional-not even close). With 3 kids and most of my family living out of state I need a camera that can take really nice shots with no effort, so that when I do get the family together I know my iPhone have us covered.
  • I'm not missing the physical home button at all (see my previous post for more on that)
  • I only slightly miss the headphone jack. My daughter takes drum lessons and I have to hook up my iPhone to studio sound equipment every week so I must use the Apple adapter. I also need the adapter for one of our cars which doesn't have Bluetooth and for the headphones I like to use on airplanes. But the adapter is small, cheap and it works just fine. The rest of the time I use Bluetooth headphones. In my opinion this trade was worth it in order to get the extra waterproofing and to make way for future improvements to the iPhone. I want the iPhone to lead in adopting future technology and sometimes you have to leave old tech behind.
  • The phone is lightning fast, even noticeably faster than my 12.9" iPad Pro

Those are the big hitters for my first month with the iPhone 7 Plus. For me what makes this iPhone the best iPhone I've ever owned is all the things I just talked about rolled into one. There is no ONE feature that makes this a must have iPhone. If you are on the fence about whether you should upgrade I'm not sure what to tell you. If you don't have a driving reason to upgrade then you probably shouldn't. But if you really want to upgrade I don't think you will be disappointed.

Why no 3.5mm Jack on the New MacBook Pros?

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The day after Apple had their event to show off the new MacBook Pro design I had several people asking me about what the heck Apple was doing. For those of you that have been lucky enough to avoid all the drama...Apple released the new iPhone 7 a little over a month ago and for the first time ever the iPhone did NOT have a 3.5mm audio jack for headphones. The reason? Apple needed the extra volume (and by volume I mean space). The iPhone has been getting thinner and thinner and that old analog jack takes up valuable space. So Apple eliminated the headphone jack and released a new version of their wired Ear Pods that has a lightning connector instead of a 3.5mm connector.

Some people took this change very personally, but honestly it had to be done eventually. So whether you are a fan of this move by Apple or not, it is done. But last week when Apple introduced the new MacBook Pros and they still had the 3.5mm headphone jack and they didn't have a lightning port so you could plug in the new lightning Ear Pods, it caused some confusion. Why would Apple do this? In my opinion it is quite simple. Apple's long game is wireless. The lighting headphones are a stop gap. Otherwise, if Apple really intended for the future of digital audio to be through the lightning port they would have included a lightning port on the new MacBook Pros. I suspect very soon (maybe even the next iPhone) we will see the iPhone also remove the lightning port on the iPhone. What?!? How would you connect your iPhone to your computer? Do people really still do that ? How would you charge the iPhone? The answer is that the long game of Apple is wireless. I suspect they will soon move the iPhone to induction charging (similar to how it is done with the Apple watch). The iPhone will also take the Apple Watch's lead with respect to syncing as well. The Apple Watch connects wirelessly to your iPhone for all syncing so why can't the iPhone do the same thing. After all, more and more of your data is in the cloud anyway and not on your computer. Seriously who plugs their iPhone into their computer on a regular basis?

Showering With the iPhone 7

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Believe it or not, this is a "thing" now. People are pretty excited about being able to take their new iPhone 7 into the bathtub or shower with them. I hate to admit it, but I have done it now too. I was shaving this weekend and was listening to a podcast via my iPhone 7 and then got into the shower. Rather than turning off the podcast or turning the volume WAY up so I could hear the audio over the roar of the flaming hot water I thought, what the heck. So I took my iPhone 7 Plus into the shower and set it down on the shelf that runs along the back length of the shower wall at about hip height. All went well for a few minutes, but then the audio got really muffled. You see, water had found its way into the new speaker (which is built into the top earpiece slit of the phone...this is new on the iPhone 7). It was also quite challenging to even turn off the podcast as the touch controls on the screen don't really work when the screen is in contact with water (the water is conductive just like your finger, and it is that conductivity that the iPhone uses to detect a touch on the screen). I eventually turned off the podcast and finished my shower in silence.

So what happened? Speakers need air to function properly since it is the air that is actually transmitting sound from the source to your ears (this is why in the vacuum of space there is no sound, despite what Hollywood tells you in the movies). So when water gets involved inside the speaker it changes how well that speaker transmits the sounds from the vibrating magnets into the air and then into your ears. Pesky water. I couldn't immediately tell if it was the water that had accumulated on the flat surface of the screen near the speaker slit that was causing the problem or if water had actually made its way down into the speaker itself. Either way, the audio quality was suffering. Actually, I can tell you which it was. The water had made its way all the way into the speaker. Because even after I dried the surface of the phone off the speaker was not putting out full sound for several hours. But in the end the iPhone was no worse for wear. It eventually fully dried out and functioned as normal. It looks like Apple didn't build in a water ejecting function into the iPhone 7 speaker like they did with the new Series 2 Apple Watch. Just because the iPhone 7 is water resistant doesn't mean it will work well for all purposes near water. Even if the speaker didn't stop working for me in the shower I can't say I would want to take it into the shower on a regular basis. The iPhone, especially when wet, be very slippery. It only takes one slip and the iPhone would be hitting the tile floor of my shower (not good).

All that being said, there are some real benefits of the new water resistant nature of the iPhone 7. Before the iPhone 7 many people would not even risk taking their iPhone into the bathroom at all. Now those people can safely take their phones in while they shave or apply makeup and rest assured that even if they dropped the phone in the sink or just splash it that it will survive the encounter. The iPhone is now safe to take to take to the beach or the poolside now too. And of course, as I mentioned in my last post the iPhone 7 can now be taken outside even when heavy rain is threatening.

So you have given your iPhone 7 a good soaking for one reason or another. Is there anything you need to be cautious about after doing this? Turns out there is. Apple has a page dedicated to talking about this, but here are the main points:

  • Wait at least 5 hours after the iPhone gets wet before charging (to allow the lightning port to completely dry out)
  • Don't open the SIM card tray until the outside of the iPhone is completely dry
  • If water gets into the microphone or one of the speakers, turn the iPhone so that speaker or microphone is pointing down to allow the water to drain
  • Always use a lint free soft cloth to dry your iPhone to avoid scratching the iPhone or accumulating cruft into the lightning port

Other than that, enjoy the new water resistant nature of your iPhone 7 without going too crazy. Remember, the iPhone 7 is water resistant but water damage IS NOT covered under Apple's warranty.

Morning Ride

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I saw this Apple ad for iPhone 7 the other day and absolutely loved it. Being a bit of a cycling nut this ad really speaks to me. For example, this past weekend I went for a morning ride just like I normally do except this time I didn't have to put my iPhone in a Ziplock bag before putting it in my jersey pocket. Since I have an iPhone 7 there is no longer any concern about sweat or rain getting into the phone a ruining it. I also ride in the 500-mile Bike Across Kansas (BAK) ride as often as I can, and we ride through some pretty atrocious conditions. In fact, some of my most memorable rides on BAK were in truly nasty weather conditions. There is just something about an extreme physical challenge...

What's the Difference Between Unlocked and SIM Free?

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There were a lot of news stories out this past week covering the fact that Apple started selling variants of the iPhone 7 as "SIM Free." Most of the news sites are just simply reporting that these "SIM free" versions of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are now available, but they don't really explain the difference between unlocked and SIM free.

The Physical Difference

If you buy an iPhone, either through a carrier or even through Apple's Upgrade Program, the iPhone is still delivered to you with a SIM card already installed. This means you have to make a choice of carrier when you purchase the phone. Now, when you unbox that beautiful new iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus it is ready to activate on the network of the carrier you chose at the time of purchase. So that it the physical difference between unlocked and SIM free. Unlocked comes with a SIM card installed (when buying the phone brand new) and SIM free phone come without a SIM card (you must supply your own SIM card and install it before the phone can fully function). Both a carrier unlocked phone and a SIM free phone can be used on other carriers as they are both not locked to a single carrier (at least from a network perspective). In other words, the carrier has not locked either the unlocked phone or the SIM free phone to their network so it is free to be used on another carrier's network. But just because you can take your unlocked or SIM free phone to another network doesn't mean it will actually work on another cell carrier's network.

The Band Differences

Beyond just the difference of the unlocked iPhone 7 having a SIM card and the SIM free iPhone 7 coming without any SIM card there are other differences as well. In the case of the iPhone 7 the other major difference between unlocked and SIM free is the supported LTE bands. I could literally write several thousand words trying to explain all the differences between the unlocked iPhone 7 and the SIM free, but I won't. Instead, I will just summarize it this way. The SIM free version of the iPhone sold by Apple are essentially the same iPhones as the ones you get when you get an iPhone 7 for the Sprint or the Verizon networks (they just come without a SIM card and are not pre-configured to work on a specific network). In other words, it is an iPhone that comes with a Qualcomm CDMA modem. CDMA is a cellular technology that is used by Verizon and Sprint, while AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. So if you buy an iPhone 7 to specifically use on AT&T or T-Mobile it comes with an Intel modem that uses GSM technology.

So what does buying a SIM free iPhone 7 mean if you want to use it on AT&T, T-Mobile or over seas? An iPhone 7 bought specifically for AT&T or T-Mobile (which means is has the Intel modem and only supports GSM) will NOT work on other U.S. cell carrier networks. But a SIM free iPhone (which has the Qualcomm CDMA modem) will work on all the major U.S. cell carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon) because the Qualcomm modem (while primarily a CDMA modem) will also support GSM. From an international perspective you are probably ok with any iPhone 7 you purchase. Most foreign cell networks use GSM as their cellular technology so all variants of the iPhone 7 support this. But there are always outliers so check Apple's compatibility website for any countries you may visit before you decide.

Purchasing Differences

It is important to note that the only way you can purchase a SIM free iPhone 7 in the U.S. is by purchasing it directly from Apple (either online or in one of their Apple Stores). Cell carriers and 3rd party re-sellers like Best Buy are not selling the SIM free variant of the iPhone 7. The SIM free iPhone 7 also does not come with any financing options like you can get with Apple's Upgrade Program or through carrier financing. So if you want a SIM free iPhone 7 then you are going to need to buy it directly from Apple and you will have to pay the full price up front.

So Who is a SIM Free iPhone For?

In summary, the SIM free iPhone 7 is mostly for people who plan to use their iPhone on more than one U.S. cell carrier network (because it works with them all) and for people who do a lot of foreign travel (because again, it gives them the most compatibility). But this is a very small percentage of the population. For most people, just getting an unlocked iPhone 7 through Apple's upgrade program or even an iPhone 7 directly from a U.S. cell carrier is going to serve them just fine. Hopefully this post helped you. It was driving me crazy reading all of the news articles about the SIM free iPhone 7 and having NONE of them explain what the difference between unlocked and SIM free really meant.

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