With a few hours to go for the presentation of the iPhone 8/8 Plus and the iPhone X we know pretty much everything about the technology of the iPhone 7. I’d like to make some reflections about its design and how it could evolve in the new iPhones.
Since the first iPhone the front hasn’t changed much.
Everything defers to the display, conceived in Jony Ive’s words as an “infinity pool” that can light up when requested.
A single button, the home button occupies the space below the display. Its evolution went trough two milestones. In 2013 with the iPhone 5s the home button embedded the Touch ID, a fingerprint scanner, the logo that looked like the edges of the app icons disappeared and a circular metal ring which includes a capacitive sensor surrounded the button. In 2016 with the introduction of the iPhone 7 the home button is not a physical button anymore. It is instead an advanced solid-state button designed to be durable, responsive, and pressure sensitive. Working in tandem with the new Taptic Engine, it gives you precise tactile feedback as you press.
The upper part is the place for the sensors, the FaceTime camera and the new upper speaker for stereo sound.
The two bezels we’ve talked about are symmetrical. A little reduction in height was realized with the iPhone 5 but controversies have been going on with the excessive screen-bezels ratio. Apple has proved to be non sensitive to these critics for two reasons. The Touch ID works like a charm and that is the right spot to place it, just at the reach of the thumb. The upper part instead hasn’t been resized for symmetry’s sake. The design team managed to remain out of the bezel’s war…until now: the upcoming iPhone 8 is rumored to be bezelsess.
As for the body in general the iPhone 7 is an evolution of the 2014 iPhone 6, aluminum and glass with rounded corners (so called 2.5D glass) and a flat ips screen with square corners. This form factor has been compared to a soap bar and considered just as slippery. Apart from this exaggeration the grip has decreased compared to the sharp edges of the iPhone 4 and 5 but I’ve never dropped the phone so far. The pros is that the swipe from the edges of the screen are much smoother allowing the distinction between hardware and software to fade and this is a goal Jony Ive publicly declared in a promotional video. The swipe starts on an inactive curved glass surface and continues in the actual display. The only obstacle for the complete seamlessness is a little, barely noticeable plastic frame between the screen and the chassis, this used to be very intrusive at the time of the iPhone 4, I thought it was to protect the screen from the impact with the ground because it was raised compared to the display’s surface.
Despite the identical structure some details have changed the aesthetic perception of the phone in a substantial way:
- The plastic antennas that run trough the back are gone. Unfortunately the aluminum is not radio transparent and therefore some antennas lines are necessary. I hated the intrusive ones of the iPhone 6 and 6s. With the iPhone 7 they made the lines that run on the edges sufficient for a proper performance. And as they are in an oblique surfaces you only see a part of them from many views.
- The camera protruded for the first time with the iPhone 6. That was a big defeat for a pure design but the circumstances made it a necessary trade-off: a bigger device should be thinner to avoid being clumsy and for a physical reason the lenses of the camera should maintain a certain distance between themselves. The camera was surrounded by a metal like material that looked attached to the chassis without too many concerns. The iPhone 7, instead, enclosed the protruding camera in the chassis itself. This was possible by redesigning the aluminum extrusion to make a unibody back piece which included the housing for the camera.
- The introduction of the matte black color together with a perfected tint of the plastic made the antennas practically dissappear.
- Another difference is that the headphone jack is gone. This choice upset many users but for nothing I think. In the box you find a lightning EarPods and a lightning to headphone jack adapter. Moreover with the introduction of the Apple AirPods the future is…finally…wireless and incredibly more comfortable! Now the bottom view is simmetrical and look more solid.
As I didn’t like the iPhone 6/6s design ( at least the iPhone 6s had a lot of new functionalities and hardware improvements) my appreciation for the iPhone 7 may come as a surprise. It’s not the perfect phone, I still use it alongside an iPhone SE because I sometimes need a phone that’s small enough to be operated with one hand, but it’s one of the best phones i’ve ever had, if not the best. After one year I still admire its sleek design and the technologies and functionalities that help me doing so many beautiful and important things.
I’m looking forward to see the new iPhone X to understand how they solved the tricky bezels riddle. From the leaks we’ve had so far from trusted sources the new iPhone X will be slightly bigger of the iPhone 7 but with a bigger display than the iPhone 7 Plus!
There will be no home button anymore and this will be substituted by a 3d advanced facial recognition. This is a slippery path for Apple because Touch ID has been proving an excellent unlocking and security tool since 2013 and we’ve seen how easy is to deceive the Android’s solutions. What if we wear sunglasses or a scarf? Will the Touch ID be placed on the back near the Apple logo or completely eliminated?
As you can see another big change is the lost of simmetry, the screen will continue at the sides of the central upper part which will house the FaceTime camera and the sensors for the face recognition. The two lateral part, named “ears” will dinamically display informations like time, battery percentage, cellular reception and so on but might be used for full screen apps.
It was the time to change and it was the time to reduce the bezels. There are many ways to do this. Android phones simply moved the fingerprint button on the back in an uncomfortable position and generally preferred displays with rounded corners. Will Apple surprise us once more? The magnificent dream of a touch ID under the screen seems gone, too difficult to implement. That area will probably be occupied by a dynamic dock similar to the one we’ve seen with iOS 11 for iPad. But I’m sure there’s something more beyond the leaks and rumors that we will discover only today.
We will know everything in a few hours, I’ll leave you the link below so that you can follow the keynote live at 7 PM CET (Central european time).
Live Apple keynote at Apple Official Website
Watch the keynote live and leave a comment below about the new iPhones!