Latest news: A YouTube video has surfaced claiming (erroneously as it happens) that if you drill a hole in the bottom of the iPhone 7 where the 3.5mm audio socket used to be, it will reveal a hidden socket you can then use to plug in standard headphones. The video has gone viral, and garnered 88,000 dislikes on the popular video-sharing platform, some from people who say they have followed the instructions in the video and completely destroyed their iPhone 7.
It’s unclear just how many of these are genuine comments and how many are people having a bit of fun, but suffice to say, we don’t recommend you follow the instructions in the video. Apple really has taken away the 3.5mm headphone jack; it isn’t lurking there underneath the replacement “speaker” grille. If you don’t trust me, take a look at iFixit’s iPhone 7 teardown, where you can see, literally, what lies within Apple’s latest smartphone.
In the meantime, here’s our original review of the (fully intact) iPhone 7 to enjoy.
Apple iPhone 7 review: In full
Have we all got over our collective shock at the iPhone 7’s lack of 3.5mm headphone jack? Sure? Then, perhaps, we can begin assessing the phone’s true worth. And that’s important, because, much as I love a controversy – and the removal of the headphone jack is a doozy – the iPhone 7 has several other important features. Really, it does.
There’s still a little residual shock at Apple’s big decision. Removing a socket that has been around since the days of the Sony Walkman and before is a big, big step – and not completely necessary either.
Apple called the decision “courageous”, a move that would save space in the chassis and bring other advantages to the table. It’s done now, but I’m not convinced. You have to question how much space is really saved by not including the headphone socket – other smartphone manufacturers seem to cope fine – and the inconvenience visited on those who still want to listen via wired headphones is unarguable.
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Simply put, you won’t be able to charge and listen at the same time without purchasing a £35 adapter, or a £49 dock. No two ways about it, that’s a pain.
Still, Apple isn’t being completely bloody-minded about it. In an unexpected act of largesse, it’s including an adapter in the box, and no, this isn’t terribly inconvenient to use. It’s a couple of inches long, and once you’ve connected it to the end of your headphone cable, it will stay there. No fuss, no hassle, and it’s much less easy to lose than you might think.
And if you’ve already invested in a decent pair of wireless headphones, nothing changes for you. The iPhone 7 still has Bluetooth, although it uses the standard SBC Bluetooth codec as opposed to the more exotic, less lossless aptX codec.
And there are advantages to connecting your headphones to the Lightning socket, which are evident in products such as the JBL Reflect Aware: active noise-cancelling headphones that don’t need a cumbersome power source, because all the processing takes place aboard the phone.
It’s when you come to replace your trusty cans that you may come to regret Apple’s decision to remove the headphone socket (and yours in buying an iPhone 7 in the first place). Why? Because there will be less choice for you, and at least initially, Lightning-enabled headphones will be more expensive.
Bye-bye home button
So, there are positives and negatives about the removal of the headphone socket. The next big change, however, is all good: the replacement of the physical home button with a Force Touch one.
Apple has had a bit of an obsession over the years with removing mechanical parts from its products – think back to the iPod, where it moved from a physical scroll wheel to one that didn’t move at all. As phones move closer towards full edge-to-edge displays, the physical home button became a headache for Apple. Removing it should make it easier, at some indeterminate point in the future, to shrink it or build it into the display in some way.
There’s another, bigger benefit, though, one that helps both users and Apple alike. Any moving part, no matter how well-engineered, will always be a point of failure. Mechanical things tend to break down more often than parts that don’t move, for reasons that should be obvious.
Over time, they attract dust, grease from your fingers, fluff from the inside of your pocket, and all kinds of unpleasant dirty stuff. Removing mechanical parts improves the reliability of iPhones, which means fewer breakdowns for users, and fewer warranty replacements for Apple.
So what is this new home “button” like to use? In short, it’s excellent. Thanks in large part to Apple’s “taptic engine” haptic feedback technology, which the company uses in both the Apple Watch and the latest MacBook touchpads, it’s responsive and feels uncannily like a real button when you push down on it. It’s far more effective than the OnePlus 3’s touch-sensitive home-button-cum-fingerprint reader, which doesn’t have localised haptics like the iPhone 7.
There are a couple of caveats here, though. First, when the phone is sitting on a flat surface, the buzz is reduced in effectiveness. It still works, but with a slightly less intense haptic nudge.
Second, it doesn’t work with gloves, which is an interesting glitch with winter fast approaching. Given the screen isn’t glove-friendly anyway, you might wonder what the problem is. However, it is possible to use conductive gloves with the screen, and those gloves don’t work with the home button either. I tested this out with a pair of mine and, sure enough, the home button failed to work.
This is a problem – at least until I can secure a pair of gloves that do work with the home button (apparently, some do) – because there’s no way of getting to the PIN pad otherwise. You can activate the screen, look at the widgets and access the camera, but you can’t get to the PIN pad without pressing the home button. I’m sure Apple will come up with a solution for this issue given time, but for now, it looks as if I’m going to have to put up with cold fingers, and I’m not happy.
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