Does It Come In Black?

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General Partner @ GV (formerly Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻
yesterday

Does It Come In Black?

Some thoughts on iPhone 7 (versus iPhone 7 Plus)

I was in a bind. Because I was seven minutes late in pre-ordering the new iPhone, the ship date of the iPhone 7 Plus in “Jet Black” had already slipped to two weeks beyond launch.¹ But I’ve never not gotten a new iPhone on launch day. What’s a “fanboy” to do? Wait? Please.

Instead, I did the only logical thing: I ordered a different model. One that I didn’t really want, but one that was available on day one.²

And that’s how I found myself with a “Black” (read: matte black) iPhone 7. It’s a device I’ve been using daily for just over three weeks now. Which means, of course, the Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus finally found its way to me.³ And so as I get ready to make the switch over to using the device I always intended to use, full time, I thought I’d jot down some thoughts on the iPhone 7.⁴

This isn’t meant to be a review — I don’t really do that anymore — but rather, some quick-ish thoughts about what it was like to use the smaller iPhone after two-plus years of using the larger variety.

First and foremost, going to the smaller iPhone from the Plus sizes makes the former feel comically small.⁵ I recall when the first Plus model launched and having the exact opposite reaction: the iPhone 6 Plus seemed comically large. So large, that I honestly didn’t think I could use it as my regular device on a daily basis. But time heals all perception wounds. And, in fact, can invert them, as I’ve learned.

Within a few days back in the 4.7-inch iPhone camp, it felt normal again. I missed the larger screen in some cases (usually when reading), but I also liked the way the smaller iPhone felt in-hand. And I especially liked the way it felt in-pocket. While there’s a lot to like about the larger iPhone, and you do get used to using the larger size, unless you regularly sport overalls, it still sits awkwardly in your pants pocket. I’m going to miss the pocketability.

So why go back to big? Two reasons. And, perhaps, surprisingly, neither is about the screen size.

Camera

The first reason, in my mind, is the camera. I’m saying this before I’ve really had a chance to put the new iPhone 7 Plus camera through the paces, of course. But even if the dual-lens is only a minor upgrade over the single-lens on the iPhone 7, given how many pictures I take — the iPhone is the only camera I carry around these days — it’s still worth it for me to have the best iPhone camera possible. And that means using the iPhone 7 Plus.

Battery

But there’s a second, even more important reason to stick with the big guy, for me. And again, it’s not the screen (which, again, is nice — particularly while reading — but I’m totally fine with the 4.7-inch screen too). It’s the battery.

Even though this iPhone 7 I’ve been using is brand new, I’m still noticing quite the difference in how long my phone can last in a given day, even when compared to my year-old iPhone 6s Plus. Apple says the battery life on the 7 is improved versus what it was on the 6s, and I’m sure that’s true. But it still falls short of what last year’s Plus model offered. And given how much I use my iPhone on a given day, I live for battery life.

Perhaps the official iPhone battery case launched last year erases this concern for many 4.7-inch iPhone users. But if I’m going to add that bulk to my iPhone, I feel like I might as well just go with the Plus, and get the bigger screen and better camera, to boot.

Speed

As for the speed of the iPhone 7 itself, it’s amazing. Granted, I rarely had issues with the speed of the iPhone 6s, but there were places here and there where I’d notice it lagging a bit. One example: using the “Structure” tool in Instagram. Last year’s iPhones would hiccup a bit when you started playing with that setting. But the slider moves as if a knife through hot butter on the iPhone 7.

I know the iPhone 7 Plus has 1GB more of RAM than its smaller brethren, but in my (limited) usage of the 7 Plus so far, I haven’t noticed it running any faster (or slower, of course). Most reports peg the extra RAM for the extra processing needed for the camera, so that makes sense.

Black vs. Jet Black

Lastly, I thought I’d mention my take on “Black” vs. “Jet Black”. The question of our time. I honestly think I like Black more. Don’t get me wrong, Jet Black looks amazing when you take it out of the box. But unless you plan to carry around a cleaning cloth with you at all times, it will never look that way again.

As has been noted by basically everyone, Jet Black is a crime scene investigator’s dream come true. It’s a fingerprinting machine.⁶ I haven’t been using the iPhone 7 Plus enough to notice any “micro-abrasions” yet — but I honestly don’t think I’ll care about those. As someone who likes cleanliness though, I definitely notice the smudges on the Jet Black iPhone. And yes, they sort of bother me.

Probably not enough to regularly rock a case, but still.

Black, on the other hand, looks fantastic at all times. It looks like the iPhone Bruce Wayne would want Batman to use. So much better than “Space Gray” which was neither particularly spacey nor particularly gray.

So there you go. If I had to do it over after three-plus weeks with a Black iPhone 7 and a couple weeks with a Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus, I think I’d go with a (matte) Black iPhone 7 Plus. Best of both worlds.

For now, I’ll “suffer” through carrying around a cleaning cloth. If nothing else, the sleek “Jet Black” is a good conversation starter when people see it.

One more thing…

Oh, one more thing. The lack of headphone jack? Yeah, not a big deal for me, at all. I carry around my old headphones with the Lightning adapter Apple includes in the iPhone 7 box. If I need to plug the headphones into an old plug (usually on my MacBook — which is something like 10% of my headphone usage), I remove the adapter. If not, I leave it on and plug the headphones into the Lightning port on the iPhone (90% of my usage).

Here’s where you’ll mention CHARGING AND LISTENING TO MUSIC. And I’ll respond with some snark about that being a tech person issue. But honestly, it’s a temporary issue regardless. Bluetooth headphones + wireless charging is clearly the way forward on both fronts. Give Apple a year…

¹ Seven minutes late, mind you, because I was signing up for Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program. While Apple touts it heavily — on stage at their keynotes, no less — it’s a decidedly un-Apple like process and product. Honestly, if you’re on the fence about this, as I was, I wouldn’t do it right now. Apple has a lot of kinks to work out here…

² Did I say “logical”? Yeah, highly illogical.

³ It actually shipped about a week early — even in spite of some severe weather delay — nice work, Apple.

⁴ Which I had intended to return — but megan quinn is being kind enough to take it off my hands…

⁵ And so I can’t even imagine what it’s like to use the 4-inch iPhone now — the size of the “SE” model. If the 4.7-inch once feels comically small, the 4-inch one must feel preposterous. Then again, that size use to feel large too, compared to the 3.5-inch original model…

⁶ I know of no such machine, but let’s go with it — you know what I mean.

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    M.G. Siegler

    General Partner @ GV (formerly Google Ventures). In past lives I wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon. A man of few words. Except when writing. 🍻

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