Japan Display Inc. or JDI is one of the few display manufacturers who supply smartphone displays to Apple. JDI also has the world’s largest production capacity of LTPS (Low Temperature Poly-Silicon) LCDs, an important fact considering LTPS is required if multitouch performance is important.
JDI announced a 5.5-inch LCD that’s bendable. JDI is calling the technology FULL ACTIVE FLEX. Bendable displays have up until now been limited to OLED technology. OLED is still more bendable than JDI’s bendable LCD, but JDI’s LCD bends enough that it could work as the curved display in the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Bendable LCDs have the potential to be considerably more affordable than OLED because of the vast manufacturing infrastructure; the LCD industry will need to transition from glass substrates to plastic substrates for that to happen though.
LCD is liquid crystals sandwiched by two glass substrates. Although Corning has come out with bendable glass (Willow Glass), JDI replaced glass with plastic. Plastic bends, of course, but it is also more resistant to cracking and shattering than glass.
Apple, Samsung, and others who make smartphones use an extra layer of cover glass to protect the display underneath. The use of a cover glass like Corning’s Gorilla Glass protects the display and at times can add to a more seamless design, but it makes the smartphone thicker and more expensive. I like the idea of durable, bendable plastic LCDs not needing an extra layer of protection.
JDI plans to enter mass manufacturing in 2018.
Source: Japan Display Inc.
The LG Signature OLED TV W series is a 4K OLED TV with HDR, but so thin and light it attaches to the wall using magnets.
The OLED TV itself has a dimension of 67.8×38.9×0.2 inches. Yes, that’s just 0.2 inches (0.51 cm) thick. 76.7 inches worth of OLEDs only weighs 27.1 pounds (12.3 kg). The AV Box weighs more: 28.0 pounds.
I think LG should have done what Sony did: get rid of the speakers. (Perhaps that sonic technology was too thick?) What’s the use of a 0.2-inch thick OLED TV when the AV Box protrudes out 8.2 inches. For customers who want the absolute minimal, thinnest OLED TV there are plenty of in-wall speaker solutions to completely hide everything except for the display.
The Dell UP3218K is a 32-inch 8K desktop monitor. 8K translated into pixels is 7680×4320; that equals to four 3840×2160 put together in a 2×2 matrix.
The UP3218K presents a professional look with thin bezels (9.7-mm) and a simple but solid stand. The stand allows you to pivot, tilt, swivel, and adjust the height.
Dell will sell the UP3218K on March 23 for US$5000.
Sources: The Verge, PCWorld
The Sony A1 series — the series name for the US versions is A1E — is a 4K Ultra HD (UHD) OLED Smart Android TV with High Dynamic Range (HDR).
Minimal, is the perfect word to describe Sony’s A1: an OLED display panel, protected by a cover glass, encased in a metal frame. Sony’s Acoustic Surface generates sound by vibrating the screen, in lieu of traditional speakers. A stand props up the beautiful display.
Initial reports seem to suggest the Sony A1 is easily the brightest OLED on the market, and indicate LG Display as the OLED panel supplier.
Android. I think it would have been better to leave out an operating system. The SoC, RAM, storage, etc. will all be in need of upgrading in the next two to three years. I would not want to be forced to upgrade my TV in a couple of years just because the computer parts are getting old. Leave the OS stuff to external boxes; they are cheap and better ones come out frequently.
The OLED TV market is getting some competition and that should make OLED TVs better, more affordable, and soon.
Sources: Trusted Reviews, c|net
When I first heard of Norton Core, a secure wireless router from Symantec, I brushed it off: another boring router. But when I bumped into it again and saw what it looked like, I did a double take. The design caught my attention: “An anti-virus company made this?” Apparently yes.
Norton Core is a secure wireless router making use of machine learning and Symantec’s global intelligence network to defend your home WiFi and all the devices connected to it against malware, viruses, and hackers.
With 4×4 MU-MIMO and 802.11ac, Symantec claims a maximum throughput of 2.5Gbps. Range is extended by incorporating phased-array antenna design and beamforming.
Symantec Core’s security measures starts at the network level through deep packet inspection, intrusion prevention, in addition to comprehensive data encryption, and real-time software updates.
You can preorder the Core for US$200 (a discount from $280, limited to US customers), which includes a one-year complimentary subscription to Norton Core Security Plus that provides security protection for up to 20 PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets, protection for unlimited IoT devices, and comprehensive parental controls.
I think the Symantec Norton Core will have a warm welcome. Many of the new wireless routers focus on ease of use and configuration with extended ranges, but none has touted security as its number one feature like the Norton Core. And it’s gorgeous too. I just hope it’s not made of cheap plastic. Expected shipping is Summer 2017.
The LG Gram 14 blends ultra-thin design with high-end performance. Weighing in at just 2.16 pounds (980 grams) the Gram 14 keeps the lead for lightest laptop for its size class based on diagonal screen size.
But LG didn’t sacrifice battery life to get thin, the company claims 21 hours on a single charge according to The Verge. (Others are reporting a more conservative 17 hours.) Considering the prior model had poor battery life of around 5-6 hours, a claim of 21 hours is remarkable. Even if real world tests come out at 33% less we are looking at 14 hours, which is still impressive.
The Gram 14 sports a full metal body, constructed out of a nano carbon magnesium alloy, a first for a LG product. A thinner yet durable casing would have allowed LG to squeeze in a larger battery.
LG Display’s new display technology enables the IPS LCD to achieve higher brightness and resolution while reducing component weight. The small bezels around the display enable a 14-inch LCD in a typical 13.3-inch chassis. (I’m looking at you Apple, with those chubby bezels.) But there are compromises: the webcam is located on the bottom of the screen, instead of on top.
A fingerprint sensor is built into the touchpad, and the full-sized keyboard is backlit. The fingerprint sensor-integrated touchpad is the type of technology advancement that makes sense to me. Instead of developing an entire TouchBar iOS system to get TouchID working on a MacBook Pro, the more simple and seamless approach resulting in a more unified user experience would have been to do what LG did here. (Yes, there’s more to the TouchBar than TouchID, but the other buttons are just glorified touch buttons that already exist on the screen that are easily accessible with the mouse pointer.)
Another power-saving move might have been to keep the 14-inch display’s pixel format at 1920×1080. More pixels do have a material impact on the visual experience, but at the cost of battery life. I would have preferred a pixel-doubled retina display and given up on a few hours on battery life, but the battery life LG is claiming is quite impressive for such a thin laptop. Pricing is expected to start at US$850.
Sources: The Verge, TechRadar, Liliputing
The HP Envy Curved AIO 34 sports a 34-inch curved IPS LCD with a 3440×1440 pixel format. Unlike previous versions of the Envy AIO and Apple’s iMac AIOs the Envy 34 puts the guts of the computer into a rectangular base, like Microsoft’s Surface Studio. This change in design makes for a neater experience without having to endure a mess of cables dangling from the monitor.
The 34-inch display sports thin bezels and is only 16.9-mm thick. There’s also a pop-up webcam. I particularly like that the webcam pops up when you need it and is hidden when you don’t. The built-in IR camera and microphone turn on and off with the camera. We live in a world where our own governments will at times for good reasons and at other times for no good reason at all turn on our webcams without letting us know and take a look.
The rectangular base looks like a soundbar, because there’s an integrated Bang & Olufsen-branded soundbar with directional audio and a built-in audio dial. I’m all for mechanical switches and dials, but with direct access to audio controls on the keyboard — which looks very nice by the way — I’m not sure how much we’ll get out of the integrated volume dial. Also integrated into the base is Qi wireless charging, which can come in quite handy and can help to keep your desk nice and tidy.
Price starts at US$1730 and will be available January 11, 2017 on HP.com. The more powerful model with a Core i7, 16GB RAM, and 256GB SSD/1TB HDD will be priced at $1999 and be available in February.
Sources: PCWorld, SlashGear, TechRadar
[ MacRumors ] Tim Hardwick:
On Tuesday, the Chinese-language Economic Daily News (EDN) claimed the next iteration of the wearable device will be manufactured by Taiwan-based Quanta, which was also responsible for the production of Apple’s first and second-generation smartwatch.
Citing market watchers with knowledge of Quanta’s plans, the paper said improving battery life is the manufacturer’s “main task”, but beside general performance improvements, the device’s other hardware would not see much change.
The new Series 2 Apple Watch with WatchOS 3.1 gets up to about two days without a charge according to John Gruber. That’s a 100% improvement over the original. Another leap like that could happen with the Series 3 with improvements in battery technology, processor miniaturization, OLED display power consumption, etc.
Extending the battery life on the Apple Watch is probably priority one at Apple, and for good reason, but I’d like to see more attention given to sunlight readability of the display. Sure upping the brightness to 1000 nits helps, but there are less brute force ways to make it easier to see what’s on the Apple Watch when the sun is out. It will also help with battery life.
I’m glad Apple isn’t changing the exterior design; classic watch designs should stand the test of time.
The Lenovo Smart Assistant resembles Amazon’s Echo in more than looks: it’s a tall cylindrical shaped bluetooth speaker, and is powered by Amazon’s very own Alexa. The Smart Assistant is skinnier and taller than the Echo. Lenovo priced the Smart Assistant at US$129, which is $50 lower than the $179 Amazon Echo. Lenovo also softened up the bottom a bit with textile-like visual appearance that comes in soft gray, green, and orange (more like salmon). The Smart Assistant will fit more snugly into home interiors.
The top half is all business with eight 360-degree far-field microphone with acoustic echo cancellation and noise suppression. The Smart Assistant can hear you summon it from 16 feet away. The speaker combines a 5-watt tweeter and a 10-watt woofer. But Lenovo’s offering a special version with Harmon Kardon premium audio for $50 more, in all black.
The top outer ring rotates, which is how you control the volume. And from initial reports on the net the Smart Assistant can pump out enough decibels for everyone in the room to hear, unless you live in an absurdly large mansion in which case you’ll have a real human assistant at your beck and call.
Is the Lenovo Smart Assistant going to make my life better? My life is stuffed with complications; that’s why I look for high-quality dependable devices that combine important functions. Combining a portable bluetooth speaker and digital assistant seems like a good idea, especially if you don’t have to take out your smartphone.
But do you really need one? If so, is the Lenovo Smart Assistant of high quality? Let’s tackle the first question. If you already have a modern smartphone you most likely already have a digital assistant. Have an iPhone? Go to Settings –> Siri –> Allow “Hey Siri”. Just make sure your iPhone is plugged in, a requirement Apple should get rid of. And if you’re on Android, it’s a bit more complicated but you can go to Settings –> Language and Input –> Voice Input –> Enhanced Google Services (enable and then click on the settings button to the right) –> “OK Google” Detection –> and then enable “From Google Search App”, “From Any Screen”, and “When Locked”. There, you have your own Alexa-like digital assistant right in the palm of your hand. Say “Hey Siri” or “OK Google” and ask away.
The second question. I like — no need — high-quality products. I do my research and get the highest quality product I can afford, or if there is something so much better but I can’t afford it I’ll save up for it for as long as I need to. That high-quality thing whatever it is will last a long time and will be out of the growing landfills.
I also don’t like shopping; if I had it my way I would shop for something once in my life. Take socks for instance. During the summer I wear Darn Tough socks, which come with a lifetime warranty. If these socks tear I just send them in and they’ll fix them or replace them. I don’t shop for summer socks anymore. Same goes for my backpack. I know it’s a lot tougher with high-tech gadgets, but I’m back to using my 2009 17-inch MacBook Pro as my daily go-to computer. I’ll just need to do a bit of upgrading (RAM and SSD). So is the Lenovo Smart Assistant high quality?
While I was watching some videos online I took a close look at that chrome-like outer ring on the Smart Assistant and noticed some rough spots. The chrome layer doesn’t look like a thick layer, but a thin layer covering cheap plastic. I’m fairly sure that ring isn’t going to feel anything like the ring on the Nest Thermostat. (The special Harmon Kardon edition might have better materials, and the sound should be better.) That’s just one little thing, but I think it’s the little things that count. If you can’t get the little things right then what does that tell you about the whole thing?
The Lenovo Smart Assistant at $129 looks like a bargain at first glance, but take a good look at the materials, how they feel. How does it sound? How well does it work? I recommend sticking to the digital assistant already on your smartphone. But if you really want a standalone digital assistant check out the special Harmon Kardon edition or the original: Amazon’s Echo.
Sources: Engadget, c|net, Ars Technica
[ Goal Zero ] Goal Zero’s 32005 Lighthouse Micro Flash Lantern is tiny, but bright. The four-LED lantern outputs up to 150 lumens on the highest setting lasting 7 hours, and 170 hours on the lowest setting. No cables are required for charging; just plug in the convenient pop-out USB plug. This IPX6-rated weatherproof lantern can also be used as a 120-lumen flashlight.
The Goal Zero 32005 Lighthouse Micro Flash Lantern is small enough to take it everywhere you go. US$24.99
[ Samsung ] The Samsung CH711 quantum dot curved monitor uses quantum dots to enhance color purity. Samsung has been incorporating quantum dots in lieu of LEDs in its high-end TVs and now the company is bringing quantum dots to its high-end monitors. Technical specifications of the CH711 quantum dot curved monitor are as follows:
Expected to be showcased during CES with availability in early 2017.
[ Bloomberg ] Pavel Alpeyev and Takashi Amano:
Now OLED is the big goal. The technology has been included on top-end smartphones for years, including almost all of Samsung Electronics Co.’s high-end phones. While LCDs rely on a backlight panel, OLED pixels can glow on their own, resulting in thinner displays, better battery life and improved contrast. OLED screens can also be made on flexible plastic, allowing for a wider variety of shapes and applications.
Better battery life. Let’s talk about that for a minute. Yes, OLED displays can get battery life if the content is on the darker side, things like videos. But if you like white backgrounds on your phone and you’re mostly on non-video apps, then no, OLED displays will get worse battery life than LCDs. Aside from that caveat OLED technology is superior.
John Gruber mentions OLED display’s poor color reproduction:
[…] the thing about this story that has never sat right with me is that OLED displays reproduce colors poorly. Colors look terrible on my Google Pixel, and I don’t think they look good on Apple Watch, either. I’d hate to see a Pixel-caliber display on an iPhone.
Yes, getting colors right on OLED smartphones has been a tricky thing to master for Samsung. But in the last couple of years Samsung has achieved better color accuracy than even the best LCDs. DisplayMate president Raymond Soniera:
The Galaxy S7 matches or breaks new records in smartphone display performance for: Highest Absolute Color Accuracy […]
My guess is Apple’s going OLED for the next iPhone; OLED is superior to LCD in every way. Apple, just make sure to darken the UI a bit.
Apple likes to simplify things. And to do that Apple gets rid of the old for the new. Look at the connectivity options on the new MacBook Pro’s: you don’t have any. USB-C is it. Apple is embracing simplicity and throwing out the old: SD slot, USB-A, DisplayPort, HDMI. Some of these ports are not old per se, but USB-C is the new kid on the block and it can do power, data, and video, all in a small, reversible connection.
I understand what Apple is doing. I also understand that our world, our minds, have a tendency to want familiarity. We don’t like change. We want our USB-A ports, because we have a lot of external peripherals that use that connection: USB hard drives, USB flash drives, USB keyboards and mice, etc. In order to use what we already have with the new USB-C-only MacBook Pro we need to spend our hard earned money on dongles or USB hubs. Apple’s goal of simplicity in the design of the MacBook Pro will result in a convoluted mess of dongles and cables for those who buy the new simplified MacBook Pro. It’s quite ironic. But when the dust settles. When peripheral companies come out with USB-A hard drives, USB-A monitors, flash drives, keyboards, mice, etc. our cables will be more unified and interchangeable. But it would have required a lot of our money, a lot of complexity, a lot of time (researching what to buy, buying, and returning stuff that didn’t work, etc.), a lot of patience, a lot of getting rid of old peripherals, etc. Apple is pushing against our desire to sit still and getting us closer to simpler future where we only have one type of cable for power, data, and video: USB-C. It’s uncomfortable now, but I understand Apple’s desire to simplify and take us closer to a simpler future even if that means a little discomfort and a big mess of cables and dongles for the time being.
But here’s what I don’t understand. Apple is willing to pull us kicking and screaming into a simpler future, but at the same time introduce complications into our user experience of Apple products. Before there was a singular MacBook experience for the most part, now there are two distinct MacBook Pro experiences: one with and one without the TouchBar. You’ll need a lot of money to afford and experience the MacBook Pro with the TouchBar. For the rest of us without that kind of disposable income our user experience will remain the same: keyboard including function keys and a trackpad.
One great user experience on the Mac has been consistency. The user interface and the user experience was consistent across all Macs: iMacs, MacBooks, Mac minis, Mac Pros, etc. All the input devices — keyboards, trackpads, mice — worked on all of them. What you saw on the screen were all consistent too. Just because the Mac mini was cheaper didn’t mean you had a different UI/UX experience than on a much more expensive Mac Pro. Of course, user experience has always been a little different from Mac to Mac: a SSD-equipped Mac with maxed our RAM will run much faster and more smoothly than a hard drive-based Mac with minimal RAM. But even then all Macs had the same user interface and if similarly equipped with CPU, GPU, RAM, storage, etc. would essentially be the same user experience. Not anymore: richer people will get to experience a different, better user experience. You won’t be able to add a TouchBar to your iMac or your Mac Pro or your older MacBook Pros. Or your new 2016 13-inch TouchBar-less MacBook Pro.
For all the work done to simplify our cable future toward USB-C, Apple has fragmented the user experience of the Mac with the addition of the more expensive 2016 MacBook Pro with TouchBar. Mixed messages from Apple is rare, but the 2016 MacBook Pro with TouchBar is an oxymoronic message.
[ The Verge ] The Xiaomi Mi Mix is a 6.4-inch smartphone with a 91.3% screen-to-body ratio. The display takes up almost the entire front face and is literally — and this is not marketing mumbo jumbo — edge-to-edge for the top, left, and right edges. Right at the edges the display curves, much like the recently showcased Sharp Corner R concept smartphone that uses Sharp’s Free-Form Display technology.
French designer Philippe Starck was recruited as design lead for the Mi Mix. We recently saw Apple use ceramic in its Apple Watch Edition. Now we see ceramic used on a smartphone; the Mi Mix’s rear and side buttons are made of ceramic. Philippe Starck shares his fascinating design philosophy of the Mi Mix in this YouTube video.
I’ve always thought it ugly to see sensor holes on the front of iPhones and Android smartphones, especially the ones with white faces because those black holes are so pronounced and often lack symmetry. The Xiaomi Mi Mix won’t be completely devoid of black sensor holes — the bottom lip has a camera — but the 91.3% glass front looks more beautiful than any other smartphone I’ve seen. So where did all those ugly black hole sensors go?
The proximity sensor has been replaced by Norway-based Elliptic Lab‘s INNER BEAUTY, software that uses ultrasound to determine proximity. A piezoelectric speaker uses the metal frame to generate sound, allowing the deletion of the earpiece hole we traditionally see as a wide slit on the top lip of smartphones. We will have to see how well the proximity software and the piezoelectric speaker work, but kudos to Xiaomi and Starck for pushing the boundaries of minimal design with technology.
The Xiaomi Mi Mix is not just beautiful, it is also powerful:
Despite the Xiaomi Mi Mix being a concept phone, it will launch on November 4th in China for ¥3,499 or about $500.
[ DisplayMate ] Raymond Soneira, President of DisplayMate, ran a battery of tests to find out how good the iPhone 7’s display is. Here’s my summary:
The iPhone 7’s display is better in almost every category than the iPhone 6’s display. In Soneira’s words the iPhone 7’s display “… is by far the best performing mobile LCD display that we have ever tested, and it breaks many display performance records.” But he also notes OLED display superiority in the areas of thinness, lightness, smaller bezel, flexibility, response time, viewing angles, always-on mode, and power management.
Here’s the list Phil Schiller put up while declaring the iPhone 7’s display the best on any smartphone:
Brightness: Let’s start from the top. The iPhone 7’s display is 25% brighter than the display found in the iPhone 6s. So how bright is it? According to AnandTech, max brightness in nits:
So, if the iPhone 7’s display brightness is 25% brighter:
That’s pretty bright. We’ll see what AnandTech, DisplayMate and other publications say when they get their hands on the iPhone 7 and measure max brightness.
Wide Color Gamut: Apple put a “(P3)” after “wide color display” on the iPhone 7 specifications page. What’s P3? I had to look it up. According to Wikipedia, “DCI-P3 or DCI/P3 is a common color space for digital movie projection from the US-American film industry.” (DCI stands for Digital Cinema Initiatives, a joint venture composed of major motion picture studios to establish a standard architecture for digital cinema systems.) DCI-P3 covers 85.5% in CIE 1931 or 86.9% in CIE 1976. What does that mean? DCI-P3 covers about the same color space as Adobe RGB, which is wider than Rec. 709. Rec.709 is often associated with sRGB and DCI-P3 covers about 25% more color — especially with red and green — than sRGB. The second bullet point — “Wide color gamut” — and the third bullet point — “Cinema standard” — mean pretty much the same thing: the wide color gamut is the cinema standard DCI-P3. I guess budding filmmakers can use an iPhone 7 and not worry about inaccurate colors.
Color Management: With the release of iOS 9.3 Apple integrated OS X’s ColorSync color management technology into iOS. The first product to make use of ColorSync was the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. ColorSync’s job is to make sure colors are accurately reproduced on the iPhone 7.
3D Touch: Not much needs to be said about 3D Touch, but I don’t know of any other smartphone brand that has implemented three dimensional touch on their displays.
So is Phil Schiller right? Is the iPhone 7 display the best? That depends on how we want to define best, but when it comes to a wider color gamut and making sure those colors are color managed for accuracy the iPhone 7 might actually be the best. But that’s a fairly narrow definition. I’m going to wait for some benchmark results.
[ TIME ] Shigeru Miyamoto:
Of course there are other mobile devices we’ll be bringing the game to later. But with the Apple devices, their hardware design is such that there’s not much you have to do from a compatibility standpoint across multiple different devices. It’s very streamlined. And I think just from a philosophical standpoint, there are elements of their design that are similar to ours. So that’s why we’re bringing it to iPhone first.
The iPhones you can buy from Apple as of today and in the near future are:
The iPhone 6s and 7 both feature 4.7-inch displays with a pixel format of 1334×750. The iPhone 7 Plus and the 6s Plus feature 5.5-inch displays with 1920×1080. The iPhone SE sports a 4-inch display with a 1136×640 pixel format. Three pixel formats for five models. Though all five models have roughly 16:9 aspect ratios. From a pixel format or resolution (ppi) perspective the iPhone series is not very streamlined.
And the iPhone 7 series sport a wide color gamut display so colors will look differently than the ones you’ll see on the iPhone 6 series and on the iPhone SE. You can 3D Touch all the aforementioned iPhones except the SE. In terms of display hardware the iPhones are quite fragmented, aspect ratio being the exception. Of course iPhones exist alongside Android smartphones, where fragmentation is more pronounced in terms different display hardware and capabilities. Relative to Android smartphones iPhones are indeed streamlined.
The one thing that is definitely streamlined and consistent across all five iPhone models: iOS 10, and maybe that’s the most important. All five models can run iOS 10, which will be launched in a few days on September 13.
Miyamoto mentions a similar design philosophy between Nintendo and Apple — I’m guessing simplicity in design? — as another reason why Nintendo decided to bring Super Mario Run first to the iPhone.
[ Buzzfeed ] The 3.5-mm headphone jack is universal and has been for quite some time. Look at a laptop, desktop computer, smartphone, tablet, car, airplane, alarm clock, receivers, computer speakers, conference systems, headphones, etc. What you’ll find is that
anything everything that can output sound has a 3.5-mm headphone jack. And Apple killed it on the iPhone 7.
Apple is very good at killing off stuff. I remember when Steve Jobs came back and a couple of years later introduced the iMac. Everyone who used a computer used a 3.5-inch floppy disk at the time. But Jobs killed off the 3.5-inch floppy disk. The future was writable CD-ROM. Fast forward 18 years and Apple has been eliminating the SuperDrive, a rewritable CD/DVD drive, from MacBooks. Yes, Apple has no qualms about killing off old stuff to embrace the future.
There are good reasons to kill off old stuff. The 3.5-inch floppy disk had a 1.44MB (that’s megabyte) of storage while the CD-ROM had 700MB. The SuperDrive? A DVD can store about 4.7GB (or 9.4GB double-sided). Compare that to a 32GB USB drive you can buy for $15. The USB drive is not only faster but smaller and more durable. It’s pretty obvious the DVD needs to die. CDs were better than floppies. USB drives are better than DVDs. But what about the 3.5-mm headphone jack? What’s better than the 3.5-mm headphone jack?
Before we talk about what might be better, let’s first talk about what Apple thinks is wrong with the universal 3.5-mm headphone jack. Dan Riccio, SVP of Hardware Engineering at Apple thinks its old, takes up space, and dumb:
We’ve got this 50-year-old connector — just a hole filled with air — and it’s just sitting there taking up space, really valuable space.
I understand space is tight in an iPhone. But Apple created this problem by continually making the iPhone thinner and lighter. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have problems that were the result of Apple putting too high of a premium on thinness and lightness; read iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Unresponsive Touchscreen and Class Action Lawsuit Against Apple for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Unresponsive Touchscreen. The iPhone 7 is also the result of Apple continuing to put too high a premium on thinness and lightness. If the iPhone 7 was designed a little thicker there wouldn’t be a problem with a tiny 3.5-mm headphone jack taking up really valuable space. That space became really valuable because Apple took space away in the name of thinness and lightness. Think about it: if the iPhone 7 was a little thicker there would still be a 3.5-mm headphone jack. If the iPhone 7 was a little thicker there wouldn’t be an insanely ugly camera bump.
The 3.5-mm headphone jack made it difficult to meet IP67 water resistance (not waterproof) according to Apple. That’s probably true, but making a smartphone with a 3.5-mm headphone jack water resistant does not require killing it off. Other smartphone brands have been able to design waterproof smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are waterproof (IP68) and still manages to have a 3.5-mm headphone jack. The 3.5-mm headphone jack sporting Sony Xperia Z5 series of smartphones are all IP68 rated.
Apple seems to think its proprietary Lightning port is a better audio connectivity solution. Let’s think about this for a second. Let’s say you’re flying Singapore Air to South Korea. If you’re anything like me I immediately start watching all the movies I haven’t seen. Let’s also say you just bought an iPhone 7 and because you wanted to go all in with Apple’s future vision of audio connectivity went ahead and bought the incredibly overpriced AirPods (US$159). Yeeah, you’re in the future now. You want to watch all those movies, but there’s a problem: there’s no way to connect your future-is-now super awesome AirPods. So when the stewardess comes around with the 3.5-inch headphones you raise your hand and take a set. That’s just one example.
Apple’s ultimate vision for the future of audio connectivity is no wires at all. I get that. I don’t like having a lot of wires, but the 3.5-mm headphone jack was universal, reliable, and affordable. If Apple really wanted to make some space inside the thin iPhone 7 chassis I think the Lightning port, which takes up way more space than the 3.5-mm headphone jack, should have been eliminated too. Why? There’s already a wireless charging standard and you can sync via WiFi. The always required to have with you USB-to-Lightning cable and power block could have been eliminated from our lives. And the elimination of the Lightning port might have enabled the design to be not only water resistant but waterproof.
[ Apple ] Here are a few takeaways from today’s iPhone 7 announcement by Apple.
Optical Image Stabilization
This definitely deserves a finally. Finally, the regular non Plus version of the iPhone 7 also gets optical image stabilization. It sure did take Apple a while. With the non Plus version of the iPhone 7 you should be able to get better shots off even if you’re hands are a little jittery, and a bit better photos when there’s not a lot of light.
The lenses are getting faster — allows 50% more light into the camera sensor than the iPhone 6s according to Apple — but it’s not the fastest the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge sports a faster aperture of f/1.7. The smaller the number the better it is at gathering light. Aperture isn’t everything, but it’s one of the most important part of making a solid camera. Note: The second camera — the telephoto camera — in the iPhone 7 Plus sports an aperture of f/2.8.
Quad-LED True Tone Flash
The flash is 50% brighter than the one in the iPhone 6s. The color temperature of the flash adjusts depending on the color temperature of the environment. Now this is something professional camera brands like Canon, Nikon, Sony, Samsung, etc. should take note of: develop a flash that senses the color temperature of the environment and uses that exact color temperature for the flash, and sell it for under a gazillion dollars.
12 Megapixel Image Sensor
Apple didn’t say if the image sensor is larger than the one in the iPhone 6s or the 6s Plus, but that might actually be the case because the camera bump is way larger. Make the iPhone thin and don’t mind the camera bump. Who made this decision? In my opinion it was the wrong decision.
More pixels don’t mean better photos unless the pixels on the image sensor are better at capturing light. They need to be better because the smaller those pixels the worse they are if you keep the technology the same. I’m guessing Apple is using software — algorithms to be more specific — to make up for the hardware deficit by going for more megapixels.
Image Signal Processor (ISP)
The Apple-designed ISP is built into the A10 Fusion chip. The ISP enables the iPhone 7 and the 7 Plus to make 100 billion operations every time you take a shot. What are those operations? Faster focus, improved local tone mapping, adjusting white balance, and a bit of machine learning.
On the iPhone 7 Plus there are two cameras. Both are 12 megapixel cameras, but one is wide-angle (the one in the iPhone 7) and the other is a telephoto camera. Apple is using the two cameras to enable 2x optical zoom and up to 10x digital zoom. In a future update there will be a digitally created bokeh feature in Portrait mode.
I think it’s safe to say the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus cameras will be one of the best cameras on a smartphone. But the thing I’m not sure about is the machine learning, ISP-based digital manipulation of photos. I have a bad taste in my mouth.
A friend of mine was telling me about another friend who is an amazing photographer. He showed me his Instagram account. He had a beautiful landscape photo with the night sky lit up with stars. Wait, I wouldn’t call it a photo; it was more a rendering or a compilation. My friend explained to me the landscape part of the photo was taken separately from the night sky, and then merged together in Photoshop.
This is how I decide whether or not a photograph is a photograph, and it’s pretty simple: if I were there can my eyes see it? If the answer is yes, then it’s a photograph. If not, then not. Clearly the iPhone 7 isn’t doing what this friend of a friend is doing, but I’m not sure the photos coming out of the iPhone 7 and the 7 Plus will feel as organic. If the photos coming out of a Leica camera are on the organic end of the spectrum the multi-photo Photoshop’ed photos would be on the other end. I hope the iPhone 7 photos will not tend toward the Photoshop’ed end.
The Apple Watch Series 2 sports a display with 1000 nits, the brightest display Apple has ever shipped. Now you can more easily see what’s on the display in bright environments.