An Android devotee reviews the iPhone 7

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What is the best smartphone? Does it even matter?

These are the questions I wanted to answer as I peeled back the plastic film on my new iPhone 7 a device “ve been meaning to” replace my potentially explosive Galaxy Note7 after I’d expended years as a devoted Android user. I believed this would be straightforward, but Apple’s world is odder than I expected. This review is a journey of disloyalty, laser-enriched cat turd and smartphone butts.

So, yeah: I ran places I didn’t expect to go with the iPhone 7 and found little to its implementation of easy answers. Let’s dive in.

Apple does not approve this message

First things first: This assessment was not written employing a review division provided by Apple. I bought this iPhone 7 utilizing an upgrade available on my family’s Verizon account( newly freed up after I returned my Note7 ), and I’ve been using it as my primary handset for about 16 days.

I wasn’t an Apple virgin. My first smartphone was an iPhone 4. I got it in February 2011, and I treated it like an Apple-stamped Faberg egg on the icy walk from the store to my apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Few people I knew had smartphones then, and I was persuaded someone would snatch it. My gloveless hand encompassed the Apple logo to keep anyone from noticing.

Nearly six years later, that device is worth about 40 bucks on eBay and most Americans own a smartphone. In the time between then and now, I’ve employed several different Android devices as my everyday telephones and never appeared back at iOS, even if my friends nagged me about how annoying my “green” bubbles were in iMessage.

My old Android homescreen cleverly inserted via screenshot onto the iPhone 7.

Image: Damon Beres/ Mashable

It wasn’t my plan to betray Google’s mobile platform for iOS. I’ve always enjoyed Android it’s customizable and “open, ” fostering competition between handset manufacturers and app developers that leads to better products for consumers. If you’re happy sacrificing camera quality for a workable, budget-friendly Android phone, there’s a device for you. If you want to pour hundreds of dollars into a curved telephone that’ll run a Nintendo 64 emulator on a high-def screen, you can induce that happen.

Meanwhile, I chafe at Apple’s closed system and aggressive pricing models for the iPhone, which have always seemed to limit options for consumers in service of the tech giant’s bottom line.

But there was a perfect storm in September. I bought a Note7 the week it released, loved it, and then came to fear it after reports circulated that it could, you know, combust while charging on my bedside table, immolating my fiance and me at 3:07 a.m. Then Apple announced the iPhone 7. Fed up with Samsung’s approach to the Note7 crisis which is still unfolding I decided now was the time to try iOS again.

A strong first impression

There’s one thing I can say for sure: The iPhone 7 is a beautiful piece of technology that, especially in its black variants, will attain “youre feeling” as if you’re employing a device that was promised decades ago in a science-fiction zine.

Forgive me, but its butt appears fantastic

People have said these things about the iPhone for years, but the kudo is earned this time around. The iPhone 7 is a thin, cohesive device that especially without a headphone jack appears and feels like a little miracle.

There’s nothing I hate more than the dongle( the annoying plastic bit you need to hook into the iPhone 7 if you want to use traditional headphones ), but an absent headphone jack brings a cool sense of symmetry to the device.

Forgive me, but its butt looks fantastic, especially compared to the gap-filled mess in my Samsung Galaxy Note 5, which I’d been using between returning my Note7 and the iPhone’s delivery.

The tasty rear-end of the iPhone 7.

Image: Damon Beres/ Mashable

The asymmetrical, hole-filled monstrosity that is the Samsung Galaxy Note 5. I lost my S Pen long ago, otherwise the rightmost void would be plugged.

Image: Damon Beres/ Mashable

I’ve use many Android phones over the years( several iterations of Samsung’s Galaxy line, recent HTC and Moto phones, the OnePlus 3) and none of them have felt perfect.

The iPhone 7 feelings perfect

Yeah, the iPhone 7 feelings perfect. But it’s also not a substantial step forward for anything apart from design and aesthetics perhaps the least meaningful criteria for anyone looking to upgrade their handset. It’s worth wiping away the drool and recognizing that the compact design attains these devices difficult to recycle and repair, as is also the case with other smartphones, so if you care much about the planet or the afterlife of your pricy electronics, you might sit this one out.

Still, there are plenty of valid reasons you might be looking to upgrade. And if you’re an Android user, you might find that stepping into Apple’s walled garden is easier( and more desirable) than you’d think.

What I love about the iPhone 7

There are a few things, actually! But, apart from the appear and feeling of the device , none of them are exclusive to the iPhone 7.

First and foremost: I’m preoccupied with iMessage, the vomiting hot mess of texting apps. It has legitimately transformed how I communicate with my friends. Your mileage may vary, of course: Most people I speak with on a daily basis are iPhone users, and a number of them have updated to iOS 10.

Thus, I get to handwrite messages like “I eat all the feta, ” which I send with the “balloon” screen effect.( Because why wouldn’t you ?)

I sure did.

Image: Damon Beres/ Mashable

I suppose it’s telling that iMessage is my favorite thing about the iPhone 7( apart from its tush ). This is a software feature , not a hardware upgrade, and you can get it on any recent iPhone. It just happens to be the case that, in daily employ, this is what I’ve experienced as the most substantial upgrade from the Android phones I’ve been using all these years.

I’m obsessed with iMessage, the vomiting hot mess of texting apps

Talking to my iPhone-owning friends and family feels quicker, more natural and more fun than it ever did on Android a platform that, frankly, has never offered enviable texting options. iMessage got a lot of new features in iOS 10 which comes loaded onto the iPhone 7 so you can send handwritten messages, GIFs and other special effects to your friends.

It’s juvenile, kind of is like a holdover from the “Buddy Information” window in AOL Instant Messenger and, ugh, it’s delicious. With the handwriting feature, I’ve probably expended more time writing in cursive in the past two weeks than in the entire previous 15 years combined, and there’s nothing better than delivering dreadful news with an ironic “laser” screen effect.

I’m also really into Apple Pay. Again, this is by no means specific features that’s exclusive to the iPhone 7, but it’s an area where the device notably improves my life to whatever extent shaving a few seconds off of shameless consumerism can improve one’s life, anyway. The uneven rollout of new chip credit cards has transformed many checkouts into a time-consuming mess you insert the chip, something is wrong with you, you swipe the card, the cashier makes a button and tells you to insert the chip again, repeat ad nauseum.

The iPhone 7 has basically stimulated me better at irritating my friends and wasting my money

Apple Pay a somewhat quicker and, in my experience, more common alternative to Android Pay cuts all of that garbage out. You only double tap your home button, hold your phone near the reader, and you’re done. The iPhone buzzes, a nice notification pops up, and it’s great. As with anything on so personal a device, your mileage will differ, but Apple Pay feels like it’s everywhere in New York City, so it works for me.

So, the iPhone 7 has basically built me better at annoying my friends and wasting my fund. Those are good things from Apple’s perspective: “Ecosystems” are important. Enjoying Apple Pay and iMessage entails I’m more likely to stick with this device and upgrade to another iPhone in the future.

But these aren’t actually reasons for anyone to buy the iPhone 7, which, from a hardware standpoint, doesn’t feel so different than any other phone I’ve use. It has a nice camera, an unbelievably sharp showing, it runs apps quickly and it has all the storage space I need. These exact things could be said of any high-end phone in 2016.

The only meaningful hardware difference that any normal person would notice, apart from the headphone jack thing, is the transformation of the home button. It’s actually not a button, per se: It’s a panel that vibrates to give you feedback.( Try “pressing” it when the power’s off and you’ll find it doesn’t budge .) After thinking about this for too long and forcing my very unimpressed fiance and her mommy to “guess the difference” I have decided that I like how it feels and that no one should ever speak about it again.

Though, speaking of buttons, I do want to point out that I absolutely do not miss Android’s “back” function. What it are available at convenience it wholly made up for in complete and utter annoyance . I would constantly tap the back button accidentally especially on Samsung devices, where it was a touch-sensitive region of the bottom bezel. Good riddance to that.

I kind of dislike the iPhone 7, too

There’s a lot I like about this device. I’ll probably keep it until it coincidentally poops out three days before the iPhone 8 comes out. But, especially compared to Android, there are a number of things that drive me crazy.

First and most obvious: The headphone dongle is a sinister, greedy proposition from Apple that will make your life worse no matter how much nicer the iPhone 7’s rear-end is as a result. It appears stupid, you will worry about losing it and it exists solely to give Apple more control over how you use the device.

It is dangly white hubris, a wasteful piece of plastic that will fall out of our pockets, into sewers and down the throats of fish. I detest it, and you should too.

Image: Damon Beres/ Mashable

Speaking of being locked into Apple’s world, I dearly miss the customization offered on Android devices. My preference was to keep most my apps tucked away in the “app drawer, ” allowing for a clean, functional home screen with minimal widgets. The notion was to provide at-a-glance access to my favorite apps and avoid digital clutter.

It looked like this 😛 TAGEND

Pretty nice, right? The second screen had the same layout but different apps, with the weather widget replaced by a Google search bar. Some of these icons were customized employing a theme from the Samsung store. The bottom line is that this screen looked exactly how I wanted it to.

Apple doesn’t let you shove anything into a “drawer” on iPhone , nor can you customize icons. You could arrange everything such that you merely ever had two rows of apps on a devoted screen, but it would take a lot of frustrating dragging and falling. Everything would also be pinned to the top of the screen , not the bottom. It’s more endeavour than it’s worth.

So, my iPhone screen looks like this. It’s not really coordinated, and there’s nothing for my eyes to land on. The world maintains spinning, but I’m annoyed whenever I spend more than a few seconds tracking down my calendar app.

What else? Many recent Android devices have an LED light above the screen that will help you understand what notifications await you at a glance you might ensure a yellow light if you’ve received a new message on Snapchat, for example. I miss that on the iPhone 7, which is just a stylish, useless void when the screen is off.

I’m bothered a little bit by the ring/ silent switch on the side of the iPhone a staple that’s been there from the beginning. Most Android phones I’ve used don’t really have anything like this: You merely hold the volume button down until the thing vibrates if you want to set the phone to, you know, vibrate, and you press it once more if you want to silence the thing altogether. I always expect that flipping the switch will also stillness game or YouTube audio, which is not the case, and then I startle my cats with an outburst of sound from some random video someone sends me.


Conclusion: This, like many others, is a good phone

I’ve discovered that the iPhone 7 is probably the right device for me, because it is appropriate to my life better than the Android devices I’ve employed. It does occasionally drive me crazy.

So many people have asked me whether they should upgrade to an iPhone 7 based on a variety of factors like “my current iPhone is slow” or “I’ve had this phone for two years.” I’m in an odd stance as a tech journalist in that I preoccupy about the devices that corporations heap onto consumers. That’s why I’ve had so many telephones over the years, but it’s not a path I’d recommend to most.

For one, smartphones are expensive, and getting on an upgrade treadmill merely encourages companies to push out incremental updates every year. The iPhone 7 is astonishingly similar to last year’s iPhone 6S a device I used for a short period of time as my work telephone at a previous undertaking and functionally it’s not so different from Apple’s other recent handsets.

These telephones don’t evaporate when we’re done with them. You can sell or donate them, but recycling them is difficult I’m a bad consumer who justifies upgrades based partially on my job and my own particular interests, but I don’t know that everyone should get in the habit of draining their bank account for a new device every year, if merely because that’s not so nice for the Earth in general.

What I can say is that my transition from Android to iOS was amazingly easy, which gives me hope that these two forces-out can continue to compete with each other in meaningful routes. If you are an Android user interested in jumping ship to Apple, I say go for it: All of these high-end telephones essentially do the same thing, but you might find that the iPhone is a better fit for your life.

That’s worth considering. As much as I’d caution against the urge to change devices all the time, there’s utterly no denying that your smartphone is likely the most important piece of technology you can buy today. You should have one that feels right.

And if that’s an iPhone filled with laser message effects and irritating dongles more power to you.

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